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The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday renewed a deal with a private company running its softball fields and delayed for a month a decision on whether to ease restrictions on backyard chickens.
The 4-1 softball vote, with Supervisor A.S. "Art" Warren opposing, clears the way for David "Butch" Tiller to continue operating the county's softball leagues despite an audit that found some shortcomings earlier this year.
County officials have said that although the contractor hasn't done a perfect job, the agreement kept softball fields open when the county couldn't afford to keep running them. In 2010, the county slashed its park budget and contracted with Tiller's Softball Nation to operate the softball fields.
Tiller's company, known as Tiller and Associates, or Softball Nation, will pay the county $30,000 a year and spend up to $15,000 a year on improvements to the county's fields at Warbro and Iron Bridge parks. The company will also oversee the county's weekday recreational leagues in exchange for the right to hold weekend tournaments that make the deal profitable.
During the past three years, Tiller paid the county $65,000 a year. Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Director Michael S. Golden said the agreement with Tiller has saved the county nearly $900,000 in the past three years.
A county audit of its contract with Tiller this year found lax recordkeeping that included poor accounting for collecting fees charged to players who live outside Chesterfield County. The audit also found other unmet requirements, such as insurance that wasn't up to standards.
Some residents have criticized the arrangement because of their concerns about field conditions and alcohol consumption at games.
County resident Brenda Stewart opposed the lease with Tiller's company during a public hearing Wednesday.
"I've concluded that the document before you remains a flawed document with inadequate protection for taxpayers' investment in these facilities and inadequate compensation," Stewart said.
Supervisors said it was Stewart's initial efforts questioning the contract that led to many new safeguards in the new lease.
No other companies responded to the county's two requests for proposals for the new lease, which runs through Dec. 31, 2018, to provide softball services.
The county can charge an extra $2,500 during any year that Tiller doesn't comply with at least 80 percent of items on a maintenance checklist. The new contract also includes an incentives clause that reduces rent by $2,500 in any year that adult softball participation increases at least 5 percent. The county's director of parks earlier this year estimated that adult softball participation is down about 30 percent.
The county held a public hearing Wednesday on whether to allow backyard chickens as long as certain coop sizes and distances from neighboring yards are met. Supervisor Daniel A. Gecker requested a 30-day delay to the decision so the board can study more on what the exact sizes and distances should be. The board voted unanimously to approve his request.
County residents since 2002 have had to pay a $300 application fee and receive special permission from the Board of Supervisors unless they lived on a larger lot in an agricultural district. Eight residents spoke during a public hearing on the matter, all in support of allowing backyard chickens.
"I think there are more than a few people keeping chickens under the radar in this county who would like nothing better than to be in compliance with the law," Virginia Summers told the board.
The chicken debate was renewed earlier this year when a Midlothian family requested a permit to keep its three hens after a neighbor complained. That same month, the Richmond City Council passed an ordinance allowing people to keep up to four backyard chickens.
In other news, the county:
Approved a $1.5 million contract with Altairis Technology Partners as a consultant for replacing the public safety radio communications system. Voters in November approved a $49 million bond package for the upgrade. Other governments in the region will use the same consultant to make sure the radio systems can operate seamlessly together.
Received a clean audit for its financial year that ended June 30, 2013.
Held a closed session to discuss the acquisition of property for a public purpose.
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