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Waynesboro still has issues with do-nothing, government-on-the-cheap thinking

Chris Graham
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People I talk to around Waynesboro are excited that Northrop Grumman is bringing a few hundred $90,000-a-year jobs to the local economy.

One thing we can hope the people who come to town for those jobs do is help us get rid of the mindset of the do-nothings on City Council who still want to do government-on-the-cheap.

“I believe the cost is too much,” was the reasoning given by Vice Mayor Jim Wood last week to explain why he wasn’t on board with the purchase of a building on Broad Street that city officials have targeted as the new home for the city Registrar’s Office.

City Council went on to vote 3-2 to authorize City Manager Mike Hamp to execute a purchase agreement for the 501 W. Broad St. building.

Wood and Ward C City Councilman Kenny Lee were the two in the 3-2 vote.

To his credit, at least Wood put his backwards thinking on the record; Lee couldn’t be bothered to offer his thoughts on why he opposed the purchase.

Wood’s backwards thinking is that the purchase price is $232,300 over the assessed value for the property, which he said is “a little bit on the too much side.”

This is from a supposedly free-market Republican who apparently doesn’t understand the impact of, for example, location – the West Broad building is a block away from the city municipal building, and it’s not like there are other buildings in the vicinity that could accommodate the needs of the Registrar’s Office – on the value of that particular building.

Its most recent use is by a credit union; to another financial institution, maybe the value is closer to the $430,000 range that it has been assessed at.

For the city government, which needs to find a permanent location for the Registrar’s Office, and this is about as good a location as you’re going to get, the $662,100 price that the city negotiated may end up being as fair as you’re going to get.

“The cost to facilitate the building construction and accommodation of the registrar at a future location would be demonstrably more expensive than this purchase,” City Councilman Terry Short said at last week’s meeting, pointing out the obvious – the city is either going to have to buy a building, and there aren’t many out there that meet the needs, or it would have to buy land and build a brand-new building, which wouldn’t be cheap.

Wood is perfectly OK with a third option – literally doing nothing.

The Registrar’s Office was relocated from the Gorsuch Building to the lower floor of the Waynesboro Public Library in August 2022. The move was necessary to free up more space for the Waynesboro Circuit Court to improve security.

The move to the library was considered temporary as it limits the library’s use of its own building.

Wood doesn’t care.


“The library has generously made concessions to accommodate the Registrar’s Office which has been inconvenient at times,” Wood said. “Sometimes we all must make concessions until a better option is available, and I’m not convinced that the purchase of this building at the cost and terms provided are the best option.”

The good news for the present and future of Waynesboro is, Wood’s backward views, and whatever motivated Lee to try to block this move, didn’t win the day.

The city, in spite of the do-nothing posturing of Wood, and the silence of Lee, is moving forward with the purchase.

The next thing we need to move forward on is putting this government-on-the-cheap impulse that the Woods, Lees and the voters who put them in office on the sidelines.

Waynesboro is 30 years late trying to address the myriad economic, education and social problems that resulted from the decisions of Du Pont and General Electric to send the local jobs that they used to have here overseas.

Too many so-called leaders like Jim Wood and Kenny Lee fiddled while the city’s fortunes were allowed to decline.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].