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Letter: Inappropriate Recommendation

To the Editor:

There they go again. At their December 2011 Council meeting, the MVCCA passed a resolution (by a vote of 14-0, barely 1/4 of the 55 MVCCA member associations) urging the County to amend its laws to make the County, rather than the homeowner, responsible for sewer line repairs under a public street. The resolution originated from the MVCCA's Consumer Affairs Committee, chaired by MVCCA veteran Queenie Cox, in response to a homeowner's complaint concerning the amount of money they had to pay to repair their sewer line under the public street in front of their house. The operations of this committee are quite mysterious because, unlike other MVCCA committees, its minutes never reveal how many member associations "attend" the committee's "meetings." I used quotes in the last sentence because the committee's "meetings" are typically by teleconference. In 2011, the committee "met" eight times. Four of those meetings were by teleconference. There were no meetings in April, July, and October (as well as in August when no MVCCA committees meet) and only three meetings were at a physical location where members of the public can actually attend in person.

The only 2011 meeting of the committee at which attendance was taken was a joint meeting with the Environment & Recreation (E&R) committee in June 2011. According to the E&R committee minutes, Ms. Cox was the only attendee from the Consumer Affairs committee. Who knows if committee meetings even comply with the MVCCA quorum requirement (five member associations represented - Article XI, Paragraph 6)? When the meetings are by teleconference, a call in number is given in the MVCCA Record. I wonder how many members of the public know how to find the MVCCA Record on the internet? If the membership roll is taken, why doesn't Ms. Cox report it in the MVCCA Record as does every other MVCCA committee chairman?

Before the committee passed the resolution (there is no public record of who voted in committee nor how many voted), Supervisor Hyland's office informed the committee that the County Wastewater Division estimated the annual cost for this change to be $15,500,000 to $18,500,000, comparable to one penny of the real estate tax ($18.7 million) for the 2011 County budget according to the County website. The committee was also informed that property owners can buy insurance from Dominion to pay for some of the possible costs. None of this convinced this mysterious committee to refrain from urging the County to change its laws by an amount that would require addition of a budget item of at least $15.5 million, all because one property owner wasn't prepared for one of the responsibilities of property ownership. None of this convinced the 14 member associations represented at the Council meeting to oppose this ill-advised resolution.

This is an example, and unfortunately not a rare example, of an MVCCA resolution that deserves utterly zero deference by Supervisor Hyland and the rest of the Board of Supervisors. It is also an example of the inappropriate way the MVCCA often conducts business.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon