Town Conceals Cost of Job Search for New Manager

Cape Charles Wave

October 6, 2014

When Cape Charles Town Council approved a $10,000 employee wage study by Springsted Inc. last February, the Wave publicized the action — and a number of readers reacted negatively to the town’s decision. (CLICK to read letter from David Gay: “Town Paying $10,000 for Free Information.”)

Apparently wishing to avoid further bad publicity, when Town Council decided to hire the same firm again — this time to search for a new town manager — they did it behind closed doors. The official minutes following the July 31, 2014, executive session (CLICK) refer only to a motion “to hire Springsted Inc. per their proposal for executive search services for the Town Manager position as discussed.” The “as discussed” part will forever remain secret, as no minutes are recorded for executive sessions. There will be no explanation, for example, why Town Council chose Springsted or whether any other headhunter was even considered. [Read more…]


Cape Charles Area Finally Gets a Vet

Dr. Nathan Higgins with a young patient.

Dr. Higgins with a young patient.


October 6, 2014

There are two questions that I generally get when I meet someone new. It’s either, “Do you have family here?” or “What brought you to the Eastern Shore?”

The first one is easy; no, we don’t have family here. The second is much more complicated and multi-faceted. From the moment we stepped on the Shore in April 2013, we found the contrast to our usual hustle and bustle to be so refreshing. Northampton County was filled with unobstructed charm along with caring people who took the time to get to know us.

We saw an exciting small town community that was growing steadily while keeping a safe, family atmosphere. But we were astounded to hear that there was no veterinary clinic in the county, and to learn how far people were traveling for pet care. [Read more…]


Money Wasted on Empty School Could Go to EMS

School closed in 2008 but maintenance costs are sizable.

School closed in 2008 but maintenance costs are $110,000 per year.

October 6, 2014


Confusion and lack of vision seem to be the normal operating tools of the government in Northampton County, an obvious observation from the September 29 meeting. Why pay a reported $220,000 to DJG Architects for a report on what to do with an old rundown, outdated, energy-hog building that consumes $110,000 yearly just sitting there doing nothing? Which universe has common sense evaporated into?

The DJG report could easily have been performed for $5,000-$8,000 in this day of computerization. Being a retired building contractor, I understand this is one way architects make high salaries when dealing with government bodies, but just why does the Board of Supervisors lack the ability to think this through on their own in the first place?

And what decision was made by the Board of Supervisors at this meeting concerning the Machipongo School? Let it sit there a while longer was the decision.

We don’t know what to do? We have plenty of taxpayer money to spend, they must think. Let’s just keep spending $9,166 a month to let the building sit and deteriorate. This is a welcome sign to Shore visitors and perspective investors of the collapsing economy and the declining Northampton County population. Letting the building sit vacant costs $2,291 per week, in one of the poorest and least educated counties in Virginia.  Just how is the public being served by these kinds of decisions and activities?

A large part of the EMS issue now under consideration could have been solved with that $220,000. Garages are needed to keep the EMS trucks tucked away so the equipment is out of the inclement weather. If approached creatively, not simply squandering money because it’s the taxpayers’, and friends are making a profit (which is public fraud in some people’s eyes), four separate commercial metal buildings with concrete slabs could have been constructed in Northampton County for approximately $100,000 total! Look at the Randy Custis Memorial Ball Park. Ask Phil Custis how his first metal structure was built for $7.50 a square foot. If the BOS had allocated that $222,000 correctly towards the EMS issue, it would have left $120,000 as an emergency EMS fund to be intelligently used as needed. And it’s the EMS staff that know their needs best. Continuing to jointly use Volunteer Fire Department buildings, as in Nassawadox and Melfa, is an excellent way to buddy up on community needs as opposed to increasing costly and additional ill-conceived bureaucracy and tax burden. [Read more…]


Goodbye Sullivan’s, Hello Long & Foster

Out with the old, in with the new. (Composite photo)

Out with the old, in with the new. (Composite photo)


October 6, 2014

Last week former mayor Dora Sullivan closed her office supply store at 109 Mason Avenue, which had been the informal “town hall” for eight years. She had announced her retirement concurrent with stepping down as mayor last July, but kept the shop open until it could be sold or rented.

Meanwhile, Realtors Lynn Gray and Melanie Brown had closed their Eastern Shore of Virginia real estate office just up the street and joined Long & Foster in Onancock. That’s when L&F listings started appearing on For Sale signs in Cape Charles.

Business must be good, because Long & Foster now has leased the Sullivan’s storefront. No more trips to Onancock will be necessary. [Read more…]


Urban Chickens Part of ‘Good Food’ Movement

Mattawoman Creek Farms in Eastville is Community Supported Agriculture.

Mattawoman Creek Farms in Eastville is Community Supported Agriculture.


October 6, 2014

During the past few months, the Town of Cape Charles has endeavored to create a policy which would allow homeowners to raise a few urban chickens in their backyards, while at the same time, residents out in the County are readying pitchforks and torches for Economic Development Director Charles McSwain, as he is viewed as the main driver in the move to change zoning — something that many see as a threat to their rural lifestyle.

The urban chicken movement is part of the “good food” movement — the interest and enthusiasm for organic, local, and sustainably grown food. As critics of the new zoning have pointed out, you can’t have sustainably grown food without proper environmental setbacks. The nostalgic yearning for a return to “good food” and a rural lifestyle, though disconnected by boundaries, intersects around one issue: the fundamental decline of the family farm in America.

The number of American farmers has been steadily declining, from just over 6 million in 1900 to only about 2 million now. Most American farmers are over 50 (the average is 57.3), and this demographic leads to a scenario where one quarter (almost 500,000) farmers will retire by 2030. This is even more detrimental to rural areas like the Eastern Shore. As farmland goes untilled, this leads to a further consolidation; that is, a transition away from working farms into estates or residential developments, which in turn leads to sprawl, congestion, and adverse environmental effects. For many, the way forward is to get more young farmers back in the game. However, this is easier said than done.

This issue is not lost on the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted in a recent speech, “The future of agriculture is bright and will present the next generation with incredible opportunities to pursue. Young people should continue to engage in policy that affects them, but they shouldn’t be limited by it.”

Note: Young or New farmer does not necessarily mean young in age. The show “Green Acres,” in which New York City attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas leaves Park Avenue to pursue his dream of becoming a farmer (much to the chagrin of his glamorous Hungarian wife (Eva Gabor)), epitomizes the Young Farmer Movement.

Even as the USDA acknowledges the need for young farmers, current federal and state agricultural policies are lagging when it comes to support and opportunities. USDA data lists that only 22 percent of beginning farmers turn a profit their first year. A report from the ‘The National Young Farmers Coalition” found that 73 percent of young farmers must work a second job just to pay the bills. The obstacles facing beginning farmers include farmland that is priced at residential developer rates rather than at “agricultural value” (costs much higher than most young farmers can afford), large startup costs, and few banks willing to make loans on what they consider a risky investment. [Read more…]