Fraser, Chiasson

Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser, left, is being challenged for the seat by former Town Councilwoman Beverly Chiasson in this year's election. The election, originally slated for May 5, is now set for May 19.

Incumbent Purcellvile Mayor Kwasi Fraser is being challenged in next week's contest by former Town Councilwoman Beverly Chiasson. After two delays, the official election date has been set for June 4. Both candidates recently responded to a Times-Mirror questionnaire. Here are their responses:

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Kwasi Fraser

What do you view as the two biggest problems or challenges facing Purcellville? What are your plans to address them? 

K.F: The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge facing the residents and business community of Purcellville. I will continue to partner with our elected officials and business community to identify and to secure funds to prudently support our small businesses and our citizens in need. During the past few months, we have not charged meals’ taxes, we created a shopping voucher program, and we instituted no late penalties and collections for utility bills. In addition, we partnered with a biotech company called Biobot in collaboration with MIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital about an innovative way to test for the virus. Going forward, our Town Council will work with the Economic Development Advisory Committee to fairly and transparently allocate portions of the $891,932 in state funds for small business economic development and emergency preparedness.

The second biggest challenge is the pressure for high density residential development to address our utility enterprise debt that is scheduled to increase by $1.3 million in 2023. To combat said pressure, I remain committed to pursuing strategies of using the over $125 million in assets owned by the Town to generate revenue, such as the $600,000 from selective cut forestry management, the projected $700,000 from nutrient credits, and the potential for delivering water and sewer to a Western Loudoun County aquatic and recreational center or other high utility users that will not compromise neither our water resources nor our small town character and charm.

How do you aim to ensure that Purcellville is a business-friendly town? 

K.F: Over the past two years, we welcomed over 160 businesses and achieved a net increase in commercial occupancy.  Between 2017 and 2020, we reduced storefront vacancies by 35.  I’ll continue to commit to being predictable, fair, honest, and consistent with interacting with our businesses.  I’ll advance the work of our Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) to engage our small and large businesses and industry experts to find ways to increase the economic prosperity of Purcellville.  In addition, our town operations will further its effort to streamline its processes to ease the engagement and interaction with the business community ranging from business establishment to ongoing operations.  We will continue to market Purcellville as the economic hub of Western Loudoun County and to pursue synergistic commerce opportunities with our neighboring towns and villages.  In addition, we will leverage the fiber optic cables being deployed in our right of ways to bring reliable and affordable broadband connectivity throughout our town for businesses and residents.  Finally, we will continue to reduce our debt burden which we have reduced by $7.6 million during my term as mayor.

Do you believe there are areas where the Town of Purcellville can expand with regards to new developments or commercial projects? Or are you firmly against any new proposals to increase the size of the town? 

K.F: I will remain true to my word of not annexing any of those parcels for high-density residential growth. As the mayor, I rejected two applications for annexations that would have resulted in significant strain on our water resources and transportation infrastructure and compromised our small town charm.  With over ten financial institutions, two major grocery stores, and a multitude of restaurants and retail establishments, I will encourage internal economic development with businesses that will complement our current small businesses and not cannibalize them. This will be driven by the strategy to extract value from the $125 million in assets we have been blessed with and not pursue any annexations for high-density residential development. I will also work with the county and state to accelerate the Route 690 and Route 7 interchange and the 287 Berlin Turnpike intersection projects to resolve much of our traffic congestion issues caused by the massive growth of the past.

My opponent refuses to acknowledge that there are over 450 acres of adjacent parcels that her team may be looking to annex into the town for massive residential growth, which I have no doubt she will pursue based on her prior record and her failure to articulate any specific solution plans throughout this current campaign cycle.

Whom do you feel is to blame for the mishandling of the situation with Chief McAlister that cost the town more than $1 million?* Speak to how you view her firing and eventual rehiring and the investigations that stemmed from that situation.

K.F: As Purcellville's mayor, I am prohibited from discussing much of the details of this matter. The investigations you mention were closed before the 2018 election, and they were not a campaign issue then and shouldn't be now. The presenting of misinformation and attempt to place blame and mishandling, along with the inaccurate dollar amount stated, represent a biased "gotcha" tactic not rooted in factual information. Clear-thinking citizens know that my current focus remains on the health of Purcellville and the most critical issues.

What are your ideas for managing town water and sewer rates while also limiting debt? 

K.F: Under my leadership, we recognized that high density residential growth annexation would threaten Purcellville’s small town character and burden our water resource and transportation infrastructure.  As such, I developed strategies for monetizing the over $125 million in assets owned by our town.  Unlike my opponent and her slate of candidates, we have solutions to extract value from the assets in order to lower rates and to reduce our debt.  Some of our solutions that have passed the ideation phase are as follows:

-Power Purchase agreement with Dominion Power to reduce our electricity expense

-Nutrient and carbon sequestration credits for $700,000 to $1,000,000 in revenue

-Use the over 100,000 gallons per day of reclaimed water for construction and agricultural projects in and around town

-Work with the County to advance development of an aquatic and recreational center in Western Loudoun that will connect to water and sewer.  Our high school students and our community need such a center.

-Select cut forestry management for over $600,000 in revenue

-Pursue ways to lower our Capital Improvement Program costs and operational costs by over 10%

-Secure long term lower interest loans from the USDA for future Capital improvement projects

-Improve our techniques for estimating long term cost in determining rate changes. For example, the estimated cost of a Capital Improvement project that may or may not materialize five to ten years in the future should not have equal weight as nearer term projects in changing current water and sewer rates

If you support monetizing town assets, what is one project you would like to see completed in the next two years? How could it be done? If you are not in support of monetizing town assets, why? 

K.F: I will continue to work with our Economic Development Advisory Committee, industry experts, residents, business community, and the County to identify opportunities to extract revenue from the over $125 million of assets owned by our Town.  With a management culture that has been focused on development and growth, it has been a challenge to embrace innovation. However, our success with transforming a dilapidated maintenance facility owned by the Town into a community makerspace and manufacturing center without using taxpayers’ dollars has been encouraging and inspiring.  Recently, this manufacturing center received a donation of 1,000 feet of plastic from Coca Cola to manufacture shields for our war against COVID-19.  Another success that my opponent continues to ignore was the tripling of the annual revenue from Fireman’s Field and the Bush Tabernacle in less than a year.  The model worked, but the management partners could not agree and decided to end their relationship.  

Looking toward the future, I will work with our team to advance the nutrient and carbon sequestration project that will result in $700,000 to $1,000,000 in net revenue to the Town in less than two years.  We were able to lock in the higher rate for the sale of nutrient credits and are awaiting final approval from the DEQ so we may issue an RFP for a partner via a revenue share arrangement to capture the above net revenue.  A member of my opponent’s team of candidates continues to mislead the public by stating that we are limited as to the amount of revenue we can obtain from the Aberdeen property.  The truth is that when our 2017 debt restructuring saved us over $8 million in increased payments, we removed the restriction on the amount of revenue we may obtain from assets owned by our town.

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Beverly Chiasson

What do you view as the two biggest problems or challenges facing Purcellville? What are your plans to address them? 

B.C. Purcellville’s finances and the impacts of COVID on our Town are the two top priorities that will now be facing Purcellville. In many ways they are tied together and yet in many ways they have unique challenges.

Since 2018 the budget presentation from our consultants have stated Purcellville must generate revenue or raise rates. This message has been consistent yet ignored. The recent presentation indicates a 4% increase is required just to pay for daily operation’s cost and current debt. In addition, $3.5 million will be required annually for future CIP and debt. Purcellville has been able to subsidizes these funds from the Mayfair community $12 million water and sewer availabilities. Purcellville must have clean water and we must return clean water to our streams. That is not an option.

While I was on Council, we set up contracts with the cell carriers to rent space on our water tower. This initiative continues to be a very valuable source of revenue to our water fund.

Our Council also initiated a timbering program at the reservoir. This program generated approximately $250,000 in a two-year period. We will continue to actively seek all opportunities to generate revenue for these enterprise funds with the guidance of our staff.

We can no longer afford to invest in monetization projects that do not have a guaranteed return on investment. The risks and costs have and will continue to drain these funds.

Purcellville must actively seek and assist any new business opportunities in areas within our Town limits. For the past couple of years Panera Bread has been anxious to come to Purcellville in the Catoctin Corner shopping center. Recently they were met with roadblocks from our Mayor. Opportunities such as this must not be discouraged as they fulfil a need and bring in revenue for our utility and general funds.

COVID-19 has and will continue to impact our residents, businesses and community for many months to come. Purcellville has become dependent upon the meals tax and sales tax generated by our business community. This revenue will be severely impacted. We must be ready to adjust the budget accordingly.

Purcellville must develop a strong relationship with our business community. Their success is ours. Our elected officials and staff should be ready to assist and guide them as we prepare to open our Town back up.

How do you aim to ensure that Purcellville is a business-friendly town?

B.C. While I was on Council from 1992 to 2004 the Town took an active role in attending and working with the Purcellville Business Association. Our Town Manager and at least one elective official would attend their monthly meetings. This provided opportunities to talk with our business leaders, listen to their concerns and to provide information that may impact their operations. If elected I intend to have a senior member of staff and at least one elected official attend the PBA meetings once again.

We must ensure that our planning and zoning regulations guide new opportunities to success, both for our Town’s appearance and the business itself. Overly restrictive requirements often discourage new opportunities or expanding a business in Purcellville. The Town and business community must be partners in the success of the Town.

Purcellville currently has an Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC). This committee’s function, over the past few years, has been focused on monetization efforts. I would propose we return it to its original intent which was to assist our current businesses and attract new commercial opportunities. I would like to see a mix of residents and business leaders serve on this committee.

The EDAC committee should provide input into the future Comprehensive Plan. Their involvement will offer guidance to the Town’s non-residential needs both now and into the future.

Do you believe there are areas where the Town of Purcellville can expand with regards to new developments or commercial projects? Or are you firmly against any new proposals to increase the size the of the town? 

B.C. Looking at a map there are limited opportunities for any expansion of Purcellville through annexation. Most of the land adjacent to the Town limits have existing features (Golf Course) or has been built out by-right over the years. Any consideration for annexation must be approved by not only the Purcellville Town Council but also The Loudoun County BOS.

I am not in favor of any new residential development and/or the expansion of retail commercial outside of our existing incorporated limits.

So, what is left? Recently Tony Buffington, Loudoun County Blue Ridge Supervisor noted he has gained approval to place a Western Aquatics Center into the six-year CIP (A project envisioned to be similar to Leesburg’s IDA Lee Recreational Center). If the land chosen for this project had to be annexed for water and sewer hookup, I would entertain that opportunity. What if a new library is needed for Western Loudoun County? I would consider expanding the Town borders if that was the only option. However, I would prefer keeping our beautiful historic library.

Saying no to any annexation, in perpetuity, will eliminate opportunities that the Town and County may need for future facilities. Over the years the Town has performed boundary line adjustments and annexations to accommodate new schools and a municipal waste water plant.

I have often heard town citizens say they would like to have additional amenities such as an assisted living for seniors and a quaint hotel for winery and town guests. These opportunities could be considered if they were in the best interest of the Town. I’m a firm believer all opportunities should be made public so the citizens can appreciate why they were considered or denied.

Whom do you feel is to blame for the mishandling of the situation with Chief McAlister that cost the town more than $1 million?* Speak to how you view her firing and eventual rehiring and the investigations that stemmed from that situation.

B.C. The Mayor and those on Council that forced the retirement of our previous Town Manager, Rob Lohr, are directly responsible for mishandling of the situation with Chief McAlister. In the days leading up Rob Lohr’s “retirement” Mayor Fraser and my paths crossed in front of Town Hall on a couple of occasions. Each time I reminded the Mayor that if he forced Rob out, he would soon regret that decision.

The Mayor had the opportunity to promote Danny Davis, Assistant Town Manager, as the interim Town Manager. This would have been the logical step. However, instead he promoted the Director of Public Works, Alex Vanegas.

On July 27th a number of employees from the Purcellville Police Department approached Vanegas, with complaints. This should have been a red flag to all as it came within days after Rob’s retirement.

From the beginning the Mayor should have insisted Vanegas seek guidance from the County or the State regarding this investigation.

The potential consequences were to great not to.

On November 1st, 2017 the Mayor invited the uniformed police officers to gather for a public photo following the Council’s vote of no confidence for Chief McAlister. This should not have been a public photo opportunity. This was a sad day for all. The Mayor should not have involved our police department in this photograph. This photograph continues to be published in articles regarding the failed investigations. I’m sure it was awkward for those officers to report back to Chief McAlister following the investigation and her return to service.

The Wilson Elser reports paint a clear picture that the Georgia Nuckoll’s investigation was flawed from the beginning. However, there were many flaws during this process. I provided examples to the interim Town Manager of where Nuckoll’s was using social media to disparage current employees. Confidential information regarding results of polygraphs somehow ended up in the [now defunct] Loudoun Tribune [newspaper] articles.

This part of Purcellville’s history was preventable. For a small town to absorb over a $1 million expense in legal fees is an impact we won’t soon forget.

What are your ideas for managing town water and sewer rates while also limiting debt? 

B.C. Purcellville must consider all opportunities to reduce costs. Two years ago, we eliminated a program that allowed vetted employees access to the Town reservoir property. This was a perk for the employees but it was a cost savings for the Town. While the employees visited the reservoir, they documented any signs of trespassing or problems with the property etc. Since this program was eliminated, we now pay employees during the working hours and overtime to scout the property out for any vandalism, poaching, and trespassing, etc.

Purcellville must look at opportunities that would fulfill a need in Purcellville such as restaurants and assisted living facilities to provide initial and continuing revenue to our water and sewer funds. Most of these opportunities should be able to be fulfilled with properties intown.

We must be willing to work with business and landowners on redevelopment of properties to ensure they provide a small-town look while expanding future opportunities within town. Both are possible when you have Town leaders, property owners, citizens and staff all willing to come to the table to make it work.

As the Town has evolved so has the needs of the community. Purcellville once had an abattoir. That building now houses Tree of Life and several other businesses. We must be willing to evolve while keeping our small-town charm.

If you support monetizing town assets, what is one project you would like to see completed in the next two years? How could it be done? If you are not in support of monetizing town assets, why? 

B.C. When on Council we implemented revenue generating programs in our water fund. The cell antennas on our water tower was one of them.

Monetization programs must come with a guarantee return on investment and be low risk. The initial expense must be minimal as our funds cannot absorb significant costs.

The Mayor’s 2017 monetization proposals included:

1. Bulk Water Sale

2. Fireman’s Field

3. Increased Revenue from Wireless towers

These revenue generating efforts, as of today, have not materialized. The Hirst well was shut down when Ecoli was detected after draw down tests to implement bulk water sales. This impacted a significant water source.

The current initiatives, such as the restoration of the home on the Aberdeen property for a wedding venue, would require a significant investment from the Town’s water fund. Once the home had been restored the Town would be competing with the private industry and drawing visitors away from Purcellville downtown. The Town has invested in a proposal for the sale of nutrient credits however the State no longer allows municipalities to benefit from these credits.

Over the years Purcellville has been able to generate revenue from some of their assets but that must be balanced with the costs to implement. In October 2017 Mayor Fraser noted that the County received $20,000 in revenue but spent $120,000 on Fireman’s Field every two years. This was a win for the Town. In this case a successful program should have been valued at reducing costs as opposed to generating revenue. When we tried to monetize Fireman’s Field, we disrupted the valuable relationship we had with the County and youth sports.

If elected I will not discount any reasonable proposal to generate revenue. However, all proposals must be endorsed by our experienced staff.

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More information about next week's elections can be found at Loudoun.gov/Vote.

*The document linked within the question does not include settlements related to the lawsuits.

(4) comments

HappyInHamilton

So you go with the current mayor and keep the status quo or with Beverly and get a new Panera in town. How come no one mentions what to do with the old Rite Aid or WK Hearth spaces?

pvilleresident

Should look at selling to Loudoun Water, maybe our water and sewer rates will be more reasonable. We get robbed bi-monthly.

LoCo Bob

Mr. Mayor, The Firing of the Chief/Investigation debacle is relevant. 1. You voted for Vanegas over Davis, if you had to do it all over again would you pick Vanegas? 2. It is the job of the Mayor and TC to supervise the Town Manager. Did you adequately supervise Vanegas?

Avoiding taking responsibility is not the trait of a good leader.

Frank

"Whom do you feel is to blame?" No. "Who do you feel is to blame?" "Who" is the subject in a clause with "is" as the verb. If you were groping someone, then it would be "Whom do you feel?" But this is a case of "Who...is to blame?" The person being blamed is the subject. Are we supposed to ask whom is the editor and whom was the writer's English teacher?

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