Columbia Mayor In Favor of Town's Disincorporation

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Columbia, a town of fewer than 100 people in Fluvanna County, may be destined for extinction, technically speaking.

Mayor John Hammond says the town may soon be disincorporated, and it comes down to two factors: money and manpower. Columbia currently doesn't have enough staff or funds to do vital things like properly inspect buildings or hire a town attorney. He feels it's time to let the county take the reins.

Today, the city of Columbia, which is more than 200 years old, is a shadow of its former glory. And Hammond says with an annual budget of only around $1,500, there's not much the Town Council can do about it.

“If you look around, our streetscapes need updating. The only services that we really provide the citizens of the town are use of the Town Hall, which is behind us. We pay insurance on the town hall, and we keep the lights on - the streetlights. That's about it,” Hammond said.

Major floods in 1969, 1972, and 1985 wiped out several properties in the town, and several more still sit in the James River floodplain. A joint task force with the county was formed last year to find a solution, and decided to apply for two grants, one from the state and one from the federal government. "The community development block grant would actually either improve or move folks to better housing,” Hammond said. “The FEMA grant would remove buildings that are not inhabited, abandoned buildings."

But the state grant was already rejected, and they haven't heard back on the other.

Hammond says Columbia's council can only ask the county for so much. "At a certain point when it becomes pricey for the county, they're going to bill us for that, and we just don't have the funds to handle that or do that,” he said.

If that happens, the town may lose its official status anyway, so Hammond says they should preempt the inevitable. "I really don't understand why folks would be against this,” he said. “It seems to be a win-win for the town and the county."

Disincorporating wouldn’t cost Columbia its name, just its status, and Hammond says it would have another major benefit: reducing taxes for residents. Currently, they pay a town real estate tax that adds around 10 percent on top of what they're already paying to the county.

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