Live chat with John Barr, President of the Washington County Commissioners

February 14, 2007

Our chat will start at 1:30 pm and end at 2:30 pm today.

Questions or comments can be submitted by clicking here before and during the chat. Or send an email to:

Daniel: Less than 10% of the Rural legacy Areas in the county have been permanently protected and most of that protection was purchased with state funds. Do you believe that more county funds should be used to permanently protect the Rural Legacy Areas?

John Barr: I do believe that additional funds are necessary in an effort to protect the Rural Legacy areas of the county. However, I think much of these funds will need to come from either transfer fees or the TDRs (Transferable Development Rights). This is an area where more discussion and insight by an appointed study committee making recommendations to the full board of commissioners for their evaluation and implementation is needed.

Bette: This community once valued our farming heritage, now most of our farm ground has gone to developers, how can you help this situation?


John Barr: I take exception to the stated fact that most of the agricultural ground in Washington County has been previously purchased by developers. It is my intention to work as a member of the full board of county commissioners towards a comprehensive plan of planned growth areas, particularly in the Urban Growth Areas. In the more rural farming communities, it is difficult for me to envision individual remote small subdivisions being served by inadequate roads, water and septic difficulties, and lacking public facilities. (i.e. gas, electric)

Ruth: During the campaign last fall you were quoted as saying you could bring understanding and common sense to the county government. How are you doing that?

John Barr: As a businessman, I've learned many years ago several areas of self discipline. They include being one that sets the example in time management, being respectful of others' feelings, team player, and willing to negotiate, particularly when it involves the betterment of the citizens and employees of Washington County.

They also include running county government as if it were my own personal business, taking all issues very seriously and of utmost concern.

Efficiencies of government agencies and the cooperation of county and municipalities are of particular interest and importance to all the citizens of Washington County.

Bette: Will you support the Ag Specialist position in the budget this year?

John Barr: Yes, I would continue to support the Ag Specialist position. It is currently funded for one half of the '07 budget cycle, which runs July '06 through June of '07. I am in favor of fully-funding for the '08 budget cycle. However, please keep in mind that the position has not been filled to date. Much discussion has occurred, and needs to continue as to the qualifications, expectations, and duties in an effort to fill this vacant position. Over the course of the previous administration, deliberation has centered around this position being under the relm of economic development. The actual office location and field position would better be housed at the Ag Center Extension offices.

Moderator: Also, in your announcement, you said, "Our rural heritage is at risk with the impending growth." Can the county help find a way to make farming more profitable?

John Barr: Being a gentleman farmer myself, I realize firsthand the importance, dedication, extreme hard work and long hours that farming life entails. Profitability of farming, particularly on the small and family-owned scale, is increasingly being pressured by both land values, uncertainty in market pricing of agricultural products on a national scale. On a governmental level, tax assessments for active and working farms need to be held at a constant value and/or reduced assessment. Secondly, a joint effort of state, local, along with agricultural extension services are needed to assist the farming community in a number of areas. Co-ops could help in purchasing of such items as fuels, electricity, feed, fertilizers and other such items. Also, government could and should take a more active role in promoting the development of both high-tech and bio-tech organically produced secondary fuels.

Jim: The County needs to find $75 million for school construction, in the next two years. The School Excise Tax is now expected to be $11 mil. less than was previously planned.

The APFO exempts "Elderly Housing" developments from paying the School Excise Tax.

More than 1,050 of those housing units have already been approved. The developer gets the exemption but isn't required to pass the savings on to the home buyer.

Why should the developer or the buyer get an exemption while other elderly and childless couples throughout the county continue to pay school taxes?

John Barr: Please keep in mind that both the current APFO (Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance) , along with the current excise tax were established by the previous administration.

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