“Small town America thinking big”—Purcellville mayor delivers State of the Town address
Speaking in the council chambers at Town Hall, he began with the town’s vision: “Purcellville – your small town, where history and progress intersect and people prosper.” He praised the council with listening to the voice of the people and formally announced the state of the town to be “vibrant and adding value every day.”
“We are energized and committed to implementing strategies to further reduce our debt burden, increase none tax revenue, and not compromise the character of our town,” the mayor said.
Before looking forward, the address looked back at 2016. Acknowledging it's still a major problem, Mayor Fraser said efforts to lower sewer and water rates were ongoing and there was a commitment to look at ways of reducing costs, such as encouraging businesses that use a lot of water – a veteran's clinic, for example -- to come to the town and “level the bill for everyone.”
The desire of the council to be more accountable was hailed a success thanks to the launch of a financial transparency and accountability online portal, designed to let the community understand where money has been spent and why.
Purcellville currently has $125 million dollars in town-owned assets.
“Extracting value from underperforming assets” said the mayor, has been a focus over the last year and will continue this year.
With the water plant accounting for $40 million of the town’s $60 million debt, the mayor discussed how using wastewater that can be touched, but not consumed, could generate revenue.
Additionally, selective cutting of 300 acres is part of an environmental strategy to increase revenue from lumber.
Key accomplishments in 2016 were highlighted, including no new debt being added to the deficit for the third year in a row, and debt obligations were either met or reduced.
Mayor Fraser talked about “having the pulse of communities,” mentioning the importance of outreach meetings with homeowners associations.
He also noted the town was praised for leading the region when it came to snow removal.
Examining the business climate, The Catoctin Corner development was singled out for comment, and the mayor quashed rumors it would include a Walmart. Instead, light commercial and a gas station are proposed for the site.
When asked by the mayor, Councilmember Kelli Grim confirmed that the long-awaited comprehensive plan will be completed by the beginning of summer. The last plan of its kind was approved in 2005, with a few updates made in 2010. The mayor spoke about the importance of “not developing for the sake of it.”
He went on to pledge bringing high speed broadband to all of Purcellville, saying the town “needs it.” Many local residents are still on copper as opposed to fiber optics.
Purcellville’s SWOT Analysis 2016 – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats -- included many of the themes running through the address: the value of town-owned assets, high water and sewer rates and increasing non-tax revenue.
In addition, low unemployment came under strengths and “the threat on the horizon” of reduced state funding was briefly touched upon.
Two specific initiatives for 2017 were highlighted as opportunities.
“Filling our commercial vacancies” is to be a main priority for the year ahead, Fraser said. The vacancy rate for commercial properties in Purcellville stands at 9 percent.
The second area of focus was how to generate revenue at the 189-acre Aberdeen property with a lab promoting agricultural technology, such as using drones to video and monitor crops, which is one idea under consideration.
“I believe we can do even better than last year,” the mayor told those gathered, as the address drew to a close. “It will take participation from everyone.” Town residents will be encouraged to participate in shaping the future via an online surveying system.
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