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December 12, 2007
Westmoreland County Citizens Association advises local government of its existence
WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Virginia (STPNS) -- At a meeting last Monday members of the Westmoreland County Citizens Association introduced themselves to the county?s Planning Commission. One week later representatives from the group returned to make their existence known to the Westmoreland Board of Supervisors.
Members of the recently formed organization packed the December 10 meeting room as the president they selected, Kennon Morris, delivered the introductory comments to the Board.
Morris shared the organization?s mission statement that describes the association as ?a diverse group of citizens representing all five districts of Westmoreland.?
The group of private citizens that meets at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the fire house in Montross will gather at 7:00 o?clock next Monday, Morris noted, a change that was made due to the difficult of conducting a meeting on Christmas Eve.
The purpose of the organization, as explained in the Association?s mission statement, is to help keep people informed and to demonstrate ?a constructive interest in the decisions being made by our locally elected and paid government officials.?
The interest and improved level of interest from the local citizens will facilitate development of ?a positive mutual relationship with the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, School Board and administrative staffs,? the mission statement notes.
Such a relationship will, accordingly, help to ensure that ?issues are being discussed openly and [are] acted upon in the best interest of the taxpayers of Westmoreland County.?
The letter of introduction prepared and approved by the Association members cites proactive intentions and a wish to keep itself informed of all county business.
?This organization wants to develop an open, mutual working relationship with all county officials with regards to plans and issues of the county,? the document relates.
?This association hopes to foster an open, collaborative atmosphere to get the best feedback from elected officials and the input from county citizens on the important issues facing the county now and in the future.
?This association would hope the county would consider our organization as an advance resource for citizen input on issues prior to governmental decision making. [Our] intent is not to alter the required process of public hearings but, as citizens, to have more input into decision making of our elected and paid governing body.?
The document of introduction read by Morris into the Supervisors? December 10 meeting record advised of the Association?s ?firm core belief that a majority of people have lost trust in our local government.
?This problem can only be corrected by more citizens being involved with our local government on the issues before us as a county.
?The Westmoreland County Citizens Association is here for the county as a new, positive and constructive way of making this possible,? Morris told the Board.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Darryl Fisher listened and then took issue with the Association?s assertion that people have lost confidence in their local government.
According to Fisher, the county?s elected officials receive their report card from constituents at four-year intervals. Fisher noted that in the November 2007 local election, no one ran against him. He further noted that no Association members from his own District 1 were attending the December 10 meeting as members of the Citizens Association.
Chairman Fisher concluded, for those reasons, that the people in Westmoreland County?s District 1 are satisfied with the way Fisher has represented them since being elected to the office in 1991.
When Morris expressed the Association members? desire for the Board of Supervisors to schedule evening meetings, at least at quarterly intervals, instead of conducting business during the weekday working hours when most people cannot attend, Fisher defended the current meeting schedule and maintained that meetings with controversial subjects are already scheduled at times when people can attend.
The Association suggested evening Board of Supervisors meetings as a means of restoring the public?s confidence in the local government.
Chairman Fisher remained undaunted as he repeatedly cited the absence of opposition in the November 2007 District 1 Board of Supervisors race as ?a stamp of approval for what I?ve done.
?I take it personal,? he said.
?We?re going to be in front of you,? Morris commented. ?We hope we get the trust back. We want to fix it,? the Association?s president explained.
In other comments, Morris related that the Association was formed approximately three months ago when citizens began exchanging views about a proposal to create a network of greenways along designated Westmoreland County roads.
Morris said the Association has held three meetings and that each time it meets, its membership increases dramatically. He estimated that the group now has at least one hundred members. He encouraged the county?s public officials to attend Association meetings.
?Come join the group,? he stated. ?We want your input and we want to work with you.?
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