Gregson says PSA needs to accept responsibility for actions

By Allen Worrell Editor

November 27, 2013

Citizen Stephen Gregson says the Carroll County Public Service Authority (PSA) needs to accept responsibility for its actions instead of blaming him for the Authority having to repay $266,000 in federal grant money.

The Carroll County PSA is appealing a decision by federal funding agency Rural Development demanding the Authority to repay $266,167 in federal grant money, which was paid in full by the Authority on Oct. 23 of this year.

Gregson has questioned the PSA on it procedures to extend service from the new Fancy Gap sewer system to Joy Ranch Road – something Gregson has called “over the mountain and seven miles away as the crow flies” from the original project area.

Vernon Orrell, Acting Adminstrative Officer of the Virginia State Office of Rural Development, told The Carroll News in an email that the federal funding agency provided a $2 million loan and a $2.373 million grant to the Carroll County PSA to find the Fancy Gap sewer project, which was closed on in December of 2011. According to Orrell, a preliminary engineering report and environmental report were required and submitted as part of the application for this funding. Orrell also said those documents describe the project as consisting of the installation of gravity sewer line, force main, and pump stations to serve the area at Interstate 77’s Exit 8 interchange, and also included providing public sewer to much of the Fancy Gap community.

“Rural Development was notified by email on August 22, 2013, from a concerned local citizen, that a sewer line extension may have been installed in and around the Joy Ranch Road area of the county as part of the Fancy Gap Sewer Project,” Orrell wrote in the email. “At that time, a full review was made of the matter and it was determined that Rural Development funding for the Fancy Gap Project had been incorrectly used for the Joy Ranch Road extension.”

Orrell went on to write that on September 5, Rural Development sent a demand letter with appeal rights to Carroll County PSA Chairman Dr. Tom Littrell for repayment of the Joy Ranch Road Extension amounting to $266,167.20.

“Full payment of this amount was received by Rural Development on October 23, 2013,” Orrell wrote in the email. “In consideration for the full payment of the funds, we now determine this matter closed. No further action is required by the Carroll County Public Service Authority on the Joy Ranch Road sewer project as it relates to Rural Development funding.”

In a letter to The Carroll News, Gregson responded to what he called attacks on him by the Carroll County PSA.

“Apparently the PSA is now blaming me for their having to reimburse the federal government for the PSA mishandling of the Fancy Gap sewer and water project. What they need to be doing, instead, is to stop twisting the facts, to accept responsibility for their errors, to acknowledge that these errors may cost the county $280,000 (pending appeal), to look for changes that might prevent such errors from occurring in the future and, most important of all, apologize for their devious efforts to hide this cost from the taxpayers at a time when their chairman was campaigning for reelection,” Gregson wrote, referring to Littrell’s recent re-election to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors.

Gregson wrote that the letter from Rural Development demanding reimbursement was sent in September, but was never made public by the Carroll County PSA. Gregson said Littrell even wrote a letter to the public stating that the PSA bid the project as allowed and authorized by Rural Development, and was authorized to move forward with the project, adding that PSA member David Hutchins also stated his support for Littrell.

“Little did the citizens know of what was going on behind closed doors; there was no open mention at any of the PSA or Board of Supervisors meeting of any issues with USDA-RD,” Gregson wrote. “Nothing was disclosed to the public, a clear violation of the Code of Ethics requirement that ‘Members shall publicly share substantive information that is relevant to a matter under consideration by the Board of Supervisors or boards, commissions, authorities, and committees, which they may have received from sources outside of the public decision making process.’ Would these costly errors have been avoided if Supervisors did not appoint themselves to serve on the PSA (as Littrell had promised, during a previous campaign)? What if the County Administrator was not both Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and Executive Director of the PSA? Effective government needs checks and balances and a variety of people to make decisions.”

To blame a citizen for the consequences of the PSA’s errors is unacceptable, Gregson wrote.

“The PSA owes the citizens of Carroll a complete and mindful apology along with a full independent investigation holding those responsible for restitution,” Gregson wrote. “In the end, I pray that Carroll taxpayers will not be burdened with having to pay for the mistakes of officials with their own agendas.”