VIRGINIA BEACH, Va - It appears the tide could be turning against "The Tide" going toVirginia Beach. It all played out before Norfolk City Council asmembers grilled Michael Townes who is HRT's President after theNorfolk Light rail project. This, after learning the project isbehind schedule and over budget by as much as 40-milliondollars.
"They wanted to see this project through so badly, theycouldn't see the truth," says John Moss who is the Chairman of theVirginia beach Tax Payer Alliance. "This was a bad project andnever should have been funded and the truth is baring that out,"says Moss.
Moss goes further suggesting the fixing of numbers, "There istremendous pressure on that organization to say and do anything toqualify for federal funds just to make this project work," Mosssays. Moss has sent a letter to the Inspector General of theFederal Department of Transportation calling on an investigationinto HRT President Michael Townes accusing him of "willfullyunderstating the real cost of light rail in order to get federalfunds." Moss added, "The HRT Executive Director's not beingsupervised and the Board doesn't know what's going on, but theyshould have known."
Moss is speaking about the HRT Chair Jim Wood who is also aVirginia Beach City Councilman, "I'm very frustrated by this, and Iam incensed. That's a good word for this. I'm very frustrated. Veryfrustrated by this," Woods says. Woods knows this hurts Beachmomentum efforts for light rail, at a time when Virginia Beach isabout to fork over $40 million dollars to Norfolk Southern for thetracks that will carry Light Rail. "In respect to the Virginia
Beach Transit Extension Study this does give us a black eye.It hurts all of us," Wood says.
Wood provided WAVY.com with emails he wrote to Michael Townesfor information. On September 18th, Woods writes, "How close tobudget are we?
Estimated cost to complete? I would like to wrap my headaround this project."
Wood claims no response from Townes, so he emailed back toTownes on November 9th, "It has been about 2 months since Irequested this info. Please give me an update ASAP.
Wood says he got an answer one month later on December 10th-notby Townes but by another staffer. The sad answer, the new costoverrun of $40-50 million dollars.
Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms told ten on your side hecan't do business with HRT's current leadership headed by MichaelTownes. Councilman Bill Desteph says at this point he will onlysupport a public referendum to support Light Rail costs beforesupporting it. For Moss, "This is a rail to nowhere except it's ablack hole for tax payers."
Councilman Jim Wood would not go so far to say Michael Townesmust go because Wood is on the board. What we do know Townes willbe the topic in executive session when the HRT board meets todiscuss Townes tomorrow.
Hampton fire crews battled a residential structure fire early Friday morning.
Norfolk Police are investigating an assault on a man Thursday night.
Tributes from those who knew Nelson Mandela began pouring in from across the globe, including words from two Hampton Roads leaders.