In his fifth state of the town address, Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser provided an upbeat look at the year ahead in front a crowd of about 40 people at town hall Feb. 11.
“The collective efforts of your town council, operational team, committees, commissions and boards, and you as our citizens as well as the business community have brought us to this moment of declaration that the state of our town is strong and thriving. Undoubtedly, our varied accomplishments reflect our abilities to deliver what we promise, to create and to preserve value, and to manage our assets,” Fraser said.
Fraser wasted no time addressing the investigations that overshadowed the town council's work for much of 2018. He said that while it was a year of personnel investigations, the town staff continued to provide a high level of service to the community.
The mayor said Town Council was also transparent with the financial costs involved with the investigations – totaling nearly $1 million – and provided the public with the final report by the outside investigative team Wilson Elser and former police chief Timothy Longo.
The report cleared Chief of Police Cynthia McAlister of wrongdoing, and she was reinstated to her job in August.
Fraser said in the third quarter of 2018 the newly elected Town Council met to confirm the town's vision and mission. Council members established core values promising to show accountability, integrity, honesty, fairness and respect.
“Team work with purpose. It's a collective effort to get things done and done right,” Fraser said.
On the topic of operations, Fraser said there were a few challenges in town in 2018.
The original Fireman's Field recreation contract between former NFL player and local resident Shaun Alexander and the town, which began Jan. 1, 2018, went through several revisions after there were problems providing an affordable sporting venue to the community.
In the spring, the county agreed to resume management of Fireman's Field. Under a new contract, Alexander is currently overseeing Bush Tabernacle, with the Purcellville Teen Center as a subcontractor running the day-to-day operations.
“I tell my kids and those who I mentor, failure is not a bad thing if you can learn from it, but what is important is to recover and learn from it,” Fraser said.
Fraser noted Town Council will be searching in 2019 for locations for a new police department due to the “woefully inadequate” current facility on Hirst Road.
Seventy-one businesses opened in 2018, Fraser said, including 40 storefronts and 31 at-home businesses. There were also 225 new jobs.
“We are business-friendly here in Purcellville,” Fraser said.
In the area of parks and recreation, Fraser said council is looking at ways to connect the town's trails to the W&OD trail.
The arts community continues to grow, he said, and the town has helped promote several initiatives including an art tour, art displays and the Cabin Fever Film Festival in January.
Fraser said Purcellville was able to secure $3.5 million from federal, state and county funds.
Financially, the town's investments increased to $14.5 million, according to the mayor. “As we sleep our money is working for us in the bank,” Fraser said.
Looking at debts, the mayor acknowledged a “key challenge” will be to pay off utility debt.
He said town officials are considering connecting the towns of Hillsboro and Hamilton to Purcellville's wastewater treatment plant to “help a neighboring town.”
“Our state-of-the-art wastewater treatment could support a neighboring town in need.”
He is also looking at ways to utilize the 189-acre Aberdeen property – possibly with hemp, hops or horses.
“We need to extract value from that,” he said.
Fraser said he will be on Capitol Hill in March for the annual National League of Cities lobbying day, and he aims to talk with federal lawmakers about bringing back money to Purcellville so the burden is not on the taxpayers.
He ended the address expressing confidence in the town.
“Purcellville will continue to experience challenges that test us, and I'm confident we will persevere. As a main of faith, I'm reminded the fires in this life are not meant to consume us. Challenges are opportunities for ways to make us better,” Fraser said.