Right up to the Line

Boundary Talks Take Belligerent Turn

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Last week’s Essex Board of Supervisors work session featured a contentious moment between County Administrator Michael Lombardo and North Election District Supervisor Sidney Johnson.

The disagreement occurred while Lombardo was reporting on the difficulties he has experienced attempting to resolve a boundary issue with King and Queen County.

Abdul and Angela Islam were previously informed by the local voter registration office that their property along Mount Landing Road is actually in King and Queen and they would have to vote in that county. The Islams have been paying taxes to Essex County.

“It’s a little uncertain as to what is the correct boundary,” Lombardo told the supervisors. “It really is a voting issue and not a tax issue. I think there is a solution if we can get King and Queen to come to the table.”

Lombardo noted that if a survey of the area is to be performed it would involve an expense.

“That would be substantial money,” he said.

Sidney Johnson

Sidney Johnson

Meanwhile, Johnson said he had spoken with King and Queen Supervisor Sherin Alsop about the matter.

“I am of the understanding that King and Queen is very much interested in working with us,” he remarked. “We have citizens who have been paying taxes in Essex County for 25-plus years and we need to get answers.”

That was when Lombardo told Johnson he was overstepping his duties. He said Johnson’s involvement would create problems in resolving the matter.

“I’m working on this,” Lombardo told Johnson.

“I have a citizen…who has approached me, who is very much concerned, who may possibly be taxed in King and Queen and Essex,” Johnson said. “I have been elected by the citizens and am a spokesperson for the citizens of the North District.”

Suddenly, both Lombardo and Johnson began arguing while attempting to talk over one another.

“Don’t over talk me,” Johnson told Lombardo. “I didn’t interrupt you when you were talking so don’t interrupt me when I’m talking. Give me the respect, I deserve the respect, and I demand the respect.”

When Lombardo attempted to respond, Board of Supervisors chairman Robert Akers banged his gavel to gain control of the proceedings.

“Let’s bring things back to order or I’ll ask you both to leave,” Akers told Lombardo and Johnson.

“The right approach is for our county administrator to work with their county administrator, which I believe is vacant, to get this on their agenda,” Akers remarked. “We need to have that discussion so they can provide the direction to get this matter resolved.”

Johnson said he has addressed the issue with Lombardo “time and time again” with no results.

“We want to see this resolve and the directive has been for Michael to work with the staff of King and Queen to get this resolved,” Akers stated. “We need a directive from the Board of King and Queen to direct their staff to work with our staff so this can happen.”

Abdul Islam told the supervisors that he and his wife have spoken with Alsop about the issue.

“We’ve talked with Sherin Alsop and they have no stake in this game so that’s why we don’t understand what the holdup is,” he said.

“This was supposed to have been taken care of last year,” Angela Islam remarked.

“We are concerned that we will have to vote in King and Queen County and why?” Abdul Islam said. “We’ve paying taxes, our children have gone to school in Essex County and we’ve enjoyed it. We were blind sided last year when we were told about this…. I don’t want to vote in King and Queen County, I want to vote in Essex County.”

Mrs. Islam noted that her property is deeded in Essex County.

She said she spoke with a King and Queen official about the matter.

“She said they don’t have a dog in this fight. They could care less, but they were not going to pay for it,” she remarked. “If I have to put my property in King and Queen County how do I know that my property’s value will not fall?”

Central District Supervisor John Magruder noted that the redistricting that placed the Islams property in King and Queen was done federally.

“It’s just a matter of taking care of it and signing off on it,” Mrs. Islam said. “It’s my understanding that King and Queen agrees that I can stay in Essex. But, they don’t want to pay for it.”

“King and Queen needs to agree,” Magruder said. “If they put it in writing that they are willing to work with us then we can talk about what it’s going to cost. They have to agree because the feds say (the property) is in Essex County.”

“If we can get King and Queen to agree to this, then it’s just a matter of drawing up a resolution,” Lombardo told the Islams. “We’ve been trying for over a year to get their staff to come to the table to talk about this. We need someone to agree on the coordinates that go into the resolution.”

Mrs. Islam said she and her husband are mostly frustrated by not being informed about the status of the issue.

“What I believe is that it was not a priority and here we are 12 to 24 months later with nothing resolved,” she said. “I want it resolved.”

“I don’t disagree that there is going to be some cost to this, but I feel it is going to be negligible,” Akers said. “But, we can’t agree to a number we don’t know yet.”

“This needs to be resolved and I appreciate Michael taking the initiative to getting this resolved,” Johnson remarked. “This board needs to give Michael all the necessary support to make this happen.”

“This issue has been dragging out way too long,” Johnson said. “We need to take a stand. The folks who are suffering are our citizens.”

Akers suggested that the supervisors draft a letter requesting King and Queen address the matter.

“At this point the only objection King and Queen has is the financial component of this because they are not receiving any revenue from it,” Johnson said. “The issue as to why they are not coming to the table is they don’t want to pay for it and I want to be proven wrong.”

Lombardo asked that he continue to attempt to get the issue resolved before a letter is sent to King and Queen.

“At least let me get this out the door and see if they respond,” Lombardo said.

He also noted that there are multiple properties deeded in Essex that are now considered to be in King and Queen.

“I don’t know how or why this got muddled in the past,” Lombardo said. “We’re talking decades or longer.”

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