Thursday, July 30, 2020

Goochland is open for business



Those of us who live “in the Gooch” know that our county is a special place. We have wonderful people, beautiful country, and easy access to other places via Interstate 64 and state Route 288. Our schools are excellent, tax rates low, and local government that lives within its means.

Many Goochlanders lamenting that growth, both residential and commercial, signals the end of our rural culture. However, most new construction is concentrated east of Manakin Road, enabled by public utilities—water and sewer. In fact, the county’s 2035 comprehensive land use plan (https://www.goochlandva.us/Search?searchPhrase=2035%20Comprehensive%20Plan%20) indicates that about 85 percent of Goochland will remain rural for the foreseeable future.

The remaining 15 percent, mostly contained in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, much in the West Creek Business Park, is destined for development. The county’s goal is to derive 30 percent of tax revenue from business, the remainder from residential property tax. Currently, the split is about 80/20 non-business/commercial. Thanks to Jonathan Lyle for catching an error in the initial posting.

In recent years two apartment communities; an Audi dealership; a rehabilitation hospital; medical office buildings; Drive Shack; Hardywood Park Craft Brewing; Tractor Supply; a hotel, and high-density residential subdivisions have sprouted east of Manakin Road. Mixed use enclaves in the heart of the Centerville Village, and on the “Oak Hill” site north of Rt. 6 in West Creek are on the horizon.
So far, economic development has been a bit scattershot—the county was grateful for any kind of investment, especially in the TCSD. That is changing.

Casey Verberg and Sara Worley, economic development coordinators for Goochland County, have created a detailed database of existing businesses, and available properties. The women work with state and regional economic development agencies to put Goochland on the radar screen of site selection scouts, and make sure the county is not overlooked by prospects investigating moving facilities to Virginia.

At May meeting of the Goochland Economic Development Authority, Verberg introduced via Zoom, representatives from the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development (OED), which has been retained to perform an industry cluster analysis for Goochland. This agency works to fulfill the land grant mission of Tech helping localities capitalize on resources to improve their economies.


Verberg said the cost of the project is approximately $15,000, about half charged by private firms.

Dr. Sarah Lyon-Hill of the Tech OED explained that an industry cluster is comprised of businesses that interact with each other. For instance, an automotive cluster includes auto manufacturers and related suppliers. The analysis will combine secondary data collected from public and private sources with local knowledge to create a final document and strategy to recruit new companies to come to Goochland. It will list the county’s strengths, potential growth, and competitive advantages compared to similar localities. Public focus groups, which OED has used in similar projects, will not be used here.

Data collection, said Zach Jackson, Tech OED analyst, will use proprietary software to understand where strengths of Goochland’s labor force and other resources lie. Federal databases will supply an understanding of the “overall direction” of county demographics, including regional labor force assets. The study would likely concentrate on greater Richmond, within a certain proximity of Goochland. The analysis will use projected trends supplemented by national and statewide market research from industry specific perspectives.

Lyon-Hill said that they examine existing industry clusters to ascertain how Goochland works and functions with its neighbors. County ED staff and EDA members will provide local knowledge and gather feedback from local businesses and major landowners.

The EDA will receive periodic feedback from Lyon-Hill and Jackson during the analysis. A final report, expected in September will include trends, both backward and forward looking specific to Goochland’s unique assets.

Verberg said that at least two EDA members will be involved in the process. The final report will include specifics about expansion possibilities for local businesses and a list of companies that do not currently operate in Virginia. Results will be used to craft marketing messages touting the advantages of locating in Goochland for targeted companies.

Feedback from discussions with major employers in the county will be part of the analysis. Major land and business owners, said Verberg, including those in West Creek, have asked what kind of businesses the county wants to attract.

Verberg said that Goochland has no interest in heavy smokestack manufacturing but otherwise has no specific wish list, yet. She is hopeful that the cluster analysis will identify enterprises that complement existing businesses and find new ones that need what we have to offer.








Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Instruction in the time of Covid



Elected officials learn soon after taking office that no matter how hard they work, not everyone will be pleased with their efforts.

A case in point is school boards. Those elected to the Goochland School Board last fall probably anticipated working to continue the upward trajectory of excellence of our school division to realize the potential of every learner.

Then the black swan of Covid pooped on the world.

With little notice schools were ordered closed in mid-March, initially for a few weeks, then for the remainder of the school year. Goochland school administrators swiftly crafted, almost out of thin air, ways to continue learning. This was complicated by the absence of internet access in many parts of the county. It was not perfect, and many families were frustrated by the dearth of broadband access.
As 2020 inched along, hopes that the virus would be in the rear-view mirror by summer were dashed as the number of cases rose.  

Goochland’s school will start in August as scheduled, but instruction will be quite different from last year. School administration worked long and hard to devise an in person learning schedule that prioritized health and safety with as much flexibility as possible. Like every school division in the country, options ranging from full time in person instruction to virtual distant learning were considered.

Following many hours of discussion and consideration at an afternoon retreat, at its July 14 monthly meeting, the Goochland School Board unanimously approved a hybrid plan with some in person instruction and virtual learning. The plan may be viewed at http://goochlandschools.org/2020/07/15/school-reopening-plan/ .

To achieve social distancing, students will be divided into “cohorts” to be determined by early August. They will attend in person classes, by cohort, only two days per week, either Monday and Tuesday, or Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will be used to deep clean all facilities according to CDC guidelines, and for teachers to plan and provide supplemental support for distant learners. Start and end times have changed.

Health plans were crafted according to CDC guidelines with input from the local health department. Students and staff must wear face coverings at all times. Parents are charged with ensuring that students have no temperatures or other Covid symptoms before leaving home.
Transportation will be a challenge. Buses, whose usual capacity of 60 students, will carry about 20 students to ensure adequate separation.

The plan was devised with maximum flexibility to allow students and families to navigate instruction options.  (See http://goochlandschools.org/2020/07/16/gcps-reopening-2020-2021-frequently-asked-questions/ for answers to questions about specific parts of the plan) Some students may switch from all virtual learning to in person classes.

Pandemic conditions will be constantly monitored. The instruction plan could change as the situation improves or worsens. Parents are encouraged to contact school officials with any questions.
The coming school year will be challenging. May it prove to be an anomaly, that next year will be closer to normal.










Monday, July 13, 2020

Evening session July 7



For the first time since March, the Goochland Board of Supervisors held an evening public hearing session that was open to the public, as opposed to livestreamed meetings.

During citizen comment, time set aside for comments about subjects not on the agenda, Wendy Hobbs, President of the Goochland NAACP lambasted the board for its failure to make a statement condemning circumstances surrounding the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and racism. She took most of the board to task for failing to attend the peaceful rally held at the county administration building on June 6. Don Sharpe District 4 did attend. Hobbs’s remarks included chastising the entire bord for its failure to participate in a more than 200-person peaceful march on June 19 to mark Juneteenth, the true celebration of the end of slavery. Go to https://www.goochlandva.us/943/Video-of-Past-BOS-Meetings at about the 1 hour mark to hear these remarks in their entirety.

Rev. Adlai C. Allen, Pastor of Chief Cornerstone Baptist Church, read a public proclamation signed by pastors of many Goochland Churches and the Goochland Christian Churches Association, dated June 22, denouncing racism in all its forms as a destructive force that harms individuals and divides communities.  (This follows Hobbs’ statement on the recording.)

Larry Hine, who is building a home on Cedar Plains Road, contended that there is an “Amazon Prime infection” in Goochland County. He said that between two and twenty contract Amazon delivery vehicles drive through his private property every day. The Sheriff’s office has responded to trespassing complaints at least five times. He said that Amazon uses an “uber” model for independent contractors based on Google Earth routes, which do not differentiate between public and private roads.  He contended that the drivers do not get paid if they deviate from the proscribed route. He said this is dangerous and asked the county to contact Amazon to tell them to stop trespassing.

Public hearings:

Benedictine Society of Virginia- Amendments to a 2011 conditional use permit to allow construction of additional buildings at its site at 12829 River Road, just east of Rt. 288 to accommodate additional students from St. Gertrude high School, a monastery, and allocate an additional 10,000 gallons per day of water was approved. Staff said that there is more than 125 k gallons per day of available water capacity. The total number of students, staff, and monks remains below the numbers approved in the original CUP. A road bond, established in 2011, part of the original CUP, will be used in the near future to offset the cost of improvements to the intersection of Route 6 and River Road, which are expected to be completed this year.

GCJ Holdings, LLC- A CUP application to operate a campground and place of public assembly at 1978 Cardell Road, north of Randolph Elementary School was approved for five years. The site was formerly Camp Little Hawk, operated by the Boys and Girls Club of Richmond.
The event venue would be limited to 75 guests, with the usual prohibition against fireworks, amplified music, requirement to obtain an ABC license when alcohol is served: and ending events by 9 p.m. on Sunday, 10 p.m. on other days. A schedule of events must be submitted to the county zoning administrator.

No more than 24 guests may stay overnight at the campground. A maximum of five campsites including those for RVs may be used. No guests may stay on the site for more than 30 days. Guests must be informed in writing of conditions that include no trespassing; no discharge of firearms or hunting; no amplified sound outdoors and no music after 10 p.m. The applicant must obtain approval from the Virginia Department of Health before RVs are allowed to stay overnight.

Salem Baptist Church Electronic message board- The supervisors approved a CUP to place an electronic message board on the site of Salem Baptist Church, 465 Broad Street Road, west of Centerville. This will be the first such sign approved since these were included in the zoning ordinance rewrite. (Similar signage for Reynolds Community College is on state property and exempt from local regulations.)

As filed, the CUP application requested special exceptions to allow the sign to be lit around the clock and to change the message every five seconds. County regulations require signs to be turned off overnight and that messages may not be changed more than once per minute. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the CUP but not the special exceptions. Pastor Zack Zbinden, speaking as the applicant before the supervisors, agreed to turn off the sign at 11 p.m. as well as a 15 second interval for message changes.

Ordinance changes

The supervisors approved several changes to county ordinances to bring some of them into comportment with state law.

Animal Abandonment- the penalty for abandoning a companion animal was changed from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Agricultural Equipment Tire Disposal Fee- a $30 per large agricultural equipment tire was added to the county’s fee schedule. This will cover costs incurred to dispose of these tires between 19 and 24 inches off rim, which has posed a problem for local producers. The amount was agreed to by the agricultural community and will be cost neutral to the county.

Competitive Sealed Bidding-this changed the time frame for action against a surety on a performance bond from one to five years from completion of a contract and defines when a contract has been completed. This gives the county a bit more authority and gives the county additional time to sue. County Attorney Tara McGee said the longer period gives the county time to accurately assess any damages that may result from the breach of a contract but does not increase the term of the bond. Five years, she said, is the standard in Virginia.

Sharpe raised concerns that this would place smaller contractors at a disadvantage, forcing the county to use larger, and more expensive, contractors. Neil Spoonhower, District 2, asked if this would increase the cost of a contract. John Lumpkins, Jr., District 3 said this could increase the cost of a bond. He too was concerned about placing an extra burden on smaller contractors.

 Director of Purchasing Wanda Tormey said the length of a bond can increase its cost. She said that on larger projects, like the courthouse, the longer period is to the county’s advantage
The supervisors voted to defer a decision to their August 4 meeting to gather more detailed information on the consequences of the change.

Small purchase maximum- this increases the maximum amount of small purchases from $100,000 to $150,000 and changes to amount of capital projects needing board of supervisors’ approval from projects over $100,000 to projects over $150,000.

Farm equipment- adds farm equipment used for forest harvesting and silvicultural activities to the list of personal property tax exemptions, effective January 1, 2021.

Court fees- increases the courtroom security fee from $10 to $20. These fees are available to be used for courthouse security or equipment expenses, but their use must be approved by the board of supervisors. This is part of court costs levied on convictions in addition to a $5 fee for courthouse maintenance and construction.  The $10 fee has generated about $50,000 historically. Past practice has used these finds to cover the cost of courthouse security personnel. The effective date is August 1, 2020.





Friday, July 10, 2020

The new normal



Goochland County entered phase 3 reopening on July 1.  Although a special called meeting was held on June 10, the first regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors since March happened on July 7. Masks are required in the administration building, and seats were marked to ensure proper social distancing. Highlights from the afternoon session follow.

At the start of the afternoon session, both Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, and Interim County Administrator Derek Stamey “gave a shout out” to Commissioner of the Revenue Jennifer Brown and her staff for going above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic.

People wait for their turn at  Goochland DMV Select


During the lockdown, Goochland’s DMV Select was one of the few branches of that agency to remain open in the entire STATE. People have been coming to Goochland from quite a distance to take advantage of this for months. On July 7, for example, tents supplied with cold water were set up outside the admin building to provide some relief from the heat for people waiting their turn. The county purchased a pager system to ensure that only a limited number of people enter the building at a time. Kudos to Brown and her staff for adapting to the emergency and continuing to work through the pandemic for the citizens in a safe manner. Demand for these services has been high, said Stamey. He reported that on July 6, more than 700 DMV Select transactions were completed; the count for a “normal” day is around 200.

Stamey reminded those who have not yet participated in the 2020 Federal Census to do so. The information gathered from this is vital to making sound decisions for the future. So far, Goochland’s response rate is 68.4 percent ahead of the statewide rate of 66.7. Details of this Census will not be released to the public for 72 years, in 2092. Numbers reported in December will be general, as in “how many people lived in Goochland County, Virginia on April 1, 2020”.

Jonathan Lyle, Director of the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District commended the supervisors for partnering with Central Virginia Electric Coop (CVEC) to expand broadband in the unserved western part of the county. He also thanked Matt Longshore, county director of utilities for keeping MSWCD in the loop about storm water management for an alfalfa field near Holly Lane in the eastern part of Goochland.

Lyle believes that there will not be a four percent decline in property values—real estate tax revenues provide the bulk of county funds—and urged the board to strongly consider restoring items supporting public safety, education, and county staff cut to deal with expected revenue shortfalls, to the budget.

This weekend the Alvis Farm Sunflower Festival will return, reported Lyle. The event, family friendly on a site large enough easily accommodate social distancing, will take place on the weekend of July 11 located on acreage off of Seay Road, north of I 64, east of Oilville Road. Go to https://www.alvisfarmsva.com/ for details.

Glorious fields blooming for the Alvis Farms Sunflower Festival

The supervisors adopted a revised human resources policy manual. (See the July 7 board packet on the county website goochlandva.us for details.)

A resolution to request that VDOT accept the streets in the Bridgewater subdivision, on the north side of Rt. 250 west of Fairground Road, into the secondary system of state highways for maintenance and provide a one year warranty on the  roads was unanimously adopted by the Board. This seems to be the final step in a long and convoluted journey to complete construction to bring Bridgewater roads to state standards.

Goochland has needed a new circuit courthouse to replace the existing structure, which has been in use since 1826—no, that’s not a typo—for quite a while.  A security annex completed late last year, made security screening better, but a new courthouse is still needed. The county’s 25 year capital improvement plan includes about $26 million to build a new courthouse sometime in the next decade.  The county has been acquiring land adjacent to the courthouse green, presumably for the new building, though no specific site has yet been identified.. Last year, the county purchased the medical office building  in front of the courthouse green from Goochland Cares.

The county will purchase this property as a possible site for a new courthouse
Note: clarification of the original post are in bold.
On July 7, the supervisors authorized Stamey to execute a contract to purchase properties located at 2952 River Road West from 2952 River Road West, LLC, a Virginia limited liability company, owned in part by the family of John Lumpkins, Jr., the current District 3 supervisor. Lumpkins, through a power of attorney, handles the financial affairs of  this relative. He does not own the property.

Before the matter was addressed by the board, Lumpkins read a conflict of interest disclosure statement and left the room during the discussion. The supervisors, Lumpkins said, expressed an interest in the subject properties before he joined the board in 2018. Since that time, he said he has never discussed the issue with other supervisors or staff.

Stamey said that an independent appraisal of the property set its fair market value of $313,000. The supervisors authorized execution of a purchase agreement for $299,000. Phase I and II environmental studies on the parcels, which contain underground tanks, including boring samples around the tanks and toward the road, indicated no evidence of leaching into the soil.

Neil Spoonhower, District 2 said the purchase, unlike other proposed expenditures that he has pushed back on during Covid, is prudent and wise given the current real estate market conditions.

Director of Finance Barbara Horlacher presented a monthly update on county money matters. As first half real estate and personal property tax deadlines were extended for a month without penalty or interest, the amount of tax revenue actually collected was an unknown when the revised budget was approved in April. Erring on the side of caution, a four percent decline from last year’s collections was used to craft balanced budgets for FY 2020, which ended on June 30, and FY 2021, which began on July 1.

Horlacher reported that so far, for FY 2020, $27.7 million in real estate tax has been collected, which is $1.2 million over the amount budgeted. Year to date personal property tax receipts are $12 million, $1 million over budget. Sales tax receipts, which Horlacher explained are two months behind actual sales, currently total $3.1 of the $3.2 million budgeted. The total received for building permits, was $1.075 million, ahead of the $1 million budgeted. Interest on bank deposits was forecast at $1 million, but for 11 months, $824 k was received, Horlacher did not expect that number to increase significantly.

Preliminary figures for FY 2020 show revenues at $59.5 million, $2.3 million over budget and expenditures expected to come in $1.8 million under budget, resulting in a surplus of $4.3 million. In August, the board will look at ways to determine one-time uses for the surplus in the FY 2021 budget.

Horlacher reported that the county received $2,072,358 in June from the CARES Act to offset one-time costs attributable to Covid response. Eligible expenses include overtime for public safety employees; equipment to enable employees to work remotely; extra cleaning and other sanitizing costs; acquisition of PPE; and modification of public spaces for safety. The funds may also be used to provide economic support for those adversely affected by the pandemic but may not be used to offset losses of revenue.

Horlacher said that the CARES expenditures will be part of the annual audit and treated like a federal grant. The supervisor approved use of CARES funds to offset a variety of proper expenses including $400 k to the schools for maintenance, transportation, and technology.
The board approved a motion to donate surplus self-contained breathing apparatus to the Charles City County Fire Department. Goochland Fire-Rescue recently replaced this equipment. The donation will help a new department.

A public hearing on August 4 was set by the supervisors to consider an unsolicited proposal to build a pedestrian walkway between the east and west portions of Tucker Park. It would take the form of a boardwalk along the James River under the Rt. 522 bridge.
The supervisors met in closed session to discuss candidates for the county administrator position. No time frame for filling the job has been announced. 











Sunday, June 21, 2020

Is Goochland busting out all over?



Every time a residential rezoning application starts through the county’s land use process, virulent opposition declares that Goochland will soon be covered with houses. New residents, opponents contend, will overwhelm public safety resources, and flood our school division with new students.

Just how fast is Goochland growing? If you drive down Hockett Road, it seems like houses pop out of the ground after every rain. New homes are also rising in Courthouse Village.

According to the Weldon-Cooper Center at the University of Virginia (https://demographics.coopercenter.org/virginia-population-estimates), Goochland’s population as of 2019 was estimated to be 23,472 up from the 2010 census count of 21,717. Numbers in the 2020 census—if you have not yet completed your census forms please do so—will be higher. The county’s population as recorded in the 1970 census was 10,069; the 2040 population is projected to be 29,451. To put things into perspective Henrico’s current population is approximately 330,000. Goochland has slightly more land area than its neighbor to the east. There is also some indication that the overall population of Virginia is declining.

Goochland Director of Community Development Jo Ann Hunter presented an overview of current residential growth as indicated at the June 2 supervisors’ meeting. 

 Approximately 75 to 100 “by right” lots—created by breaking up existing large parcels— are also developed per year. These agricultural splits, which tend to be located in areas zoned A-1 and A-2, account for about half of new lots annually.

Hunter used a map to illustrate residential lots created by rezoning actively under construction, or pending by location, maximum number of homes approved, number of lots recorded, and the projected date of build out.

Approved residential lots.


Hunter pointed out that of the 2,410 approved residential lots, 1,962 are in age restricted communities, which do not add students to the school division.  These include Avery Point and Tuckahoe Pines, both located in the very eastern part of Goochland, which are multi-story buildings.

In spite of Covid lockdowns, interest and activity in new residential communities is robust. Completion of Reader’s Branch, on the east side of Hockett Road, for instance, is moving faster than its anticipated eight year build out and could be finished in three to four years. “Build it and they are coming”  Hunter said.

She said that the actual number of new homes completed in 2019 was 213, which was the highest number in several years. The average household size 4.3, which, Hunter estimates increases the county’s head count by five hundred people each year.  “It’s healthy to have new residents,” she said. That number translates into an overall growth rate of about two percent, which, she contended is manageable and does not over tax county services.

Many of the recently approved subdivisions, including Tuckahoe Bridge and Manakin Towne are still in the engineering phase. At Reed Marsh in Courthouse Village, however, site work is well underway, though no lots have been recorded. Build out for the up to 64 approved lots in Reed Marsh, according to Hunter’s chart, is expected to take up to five years.


The Reed Marsh community  in Courthouse Village is well underway.


Building permit submissions continue at the same rate as before the Covid lockdown, Hunter reported.

Going forward no large residential rezoning applications are pending.  The only project on the horizon is an estimated 330-unit apartment community in West Creek. This would be on the remaining 20 of 60 acres approved in 2012 for multifamily use.

Market forces will determine how fast these new subdivisions will be completed. The long-term economic consequences of the Covid lockdown and their impact on the economy are still unknown.  Utilities—water and sewer—available only small portion of Goochland, are necessary to support large subdivisions.







Thursday, June 18, 2020

The lemonade stand



Metaphorical l lemons rained on the world during 2020 disrupting all aspects of normality. Lock downs separated us from one another. For fear of spreading Covid people were unable to gather and celebrate weddings or mourn at funerals, times of sharing that double joy and halve sorrow. Traditional graduations were another casualty of Covid.

A specially built stage in front of a video screen at the Goochland Drive In

But wait! Goochland’s ingenious school division made lemonade from those lemons and found a way to hold high school graduation so proud families could see their graduates walk across the stage and receive diplomas while safely separated.

On the evening of June 16, the Goochland Drive In Theater hosted graduation in the age of Covid, outdoors in the rain. Though reimagined, the ceremony included many traditional elements including, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance; speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian; and the walk across the stage after each student received their diploma.

Intrepid school leaders Dr. Jeremy Raley Superintendent of Schools, School Board Chair John Wright, District 5, GHS Principal Dr. Chris Collier, and Dr. Beth Fowler stood masked in academic regalia, sometimes in pouring rain, to celebrate—via touchless congratulations—each member of the class of 2020 as they collected diplomas from a table sprayed with disinfectant between graduates and posed for photos.

During brief remarks at the start—all speeches were prerecorded in the GHS auditorium—Raley encouraged the class to see challenges as opportunities to make a positive difference in the world. Wright observed that the high school degree is an investment in the future and a ticket to the good life. He hoped they would put their “tickets” to good use to do old things in new ways and do things never believed possible. Collier acknowledged the faculty and staff whose skill and commitment to excellence guided the class to graduation. The audience beeped horns and flashed headlights as an alternative to applause.

Collier recognized the academic leaders of the class and introduced the Valedictorian Coleman Boatwright and Salutatorian James De Loach Their remarks were thoughtful and reflective.  Both thanked those that helped them along the way and encouraged classmates to remember the lessons learned inside and outside the classroom as they move on to the next phase of life.

Goochland alum Justin Verlander, waiting to see if their will be a major league baseball season this year, congratulated the Class of 2020 via video, wishing them all the best in our crazy world.
The entire event can be viewed on the Goochland County Public School Facebook page.

Congratulations to the GHS Class of 2020. They will never forget their unique graduation. Thanks to all who made this celebration of 13 years of schooling happen. Maybe it will start a new tradition.


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Public meetings in the age of Covid



On Wednesday, June 10, Goochland supervisors held a special called meeting.
County Administrator John Budesky welcomed the public. “We missed you,” he said. “While our doors were closed, we were working hard. Now in phase two (of Covid 19 restrictions) things look different. We are in the people business. Our work is much more rewarding when we can see who we are dealing with.”
Distancing and masks are "the new normal" for public meetings in Goochland.

He commended Commissioner of the Revenue Jennifer Brown and her staff for keeping Goochland’s DMV Select open during the lockdown. Our DMV Select was one of a handful statewide that remained operational, crafting work around procedures to serve the public while observing Covid 19 precautions.

Budesky announced that on Monday, June 15, the new animal shelter will open to the public. The facility contains tributes to the old shelter and the late Rebecca T. Dickson, who envisioned the public-private partnership with Goochland Pet Lovers that made the shelter a reality. The old building, said Budesky, served the county for over 33 years in a space about the size of the new shelter’s lobby.

The Animal Protection Department, explained Budesky, expected to be in temporary quarters at the Central High Complex for only 6 months and has been there for about a year and a half. The rise in adoptions during the Covid 19 quarantine nearly emptied the shelter of adoptable pets, which will simply the move to the new home.  A second dog park at Hidden Rock Park will soon be open too.
A virtual tour of the new shelter will be available on Monday as well as a 360-degree tour. Social distancing and limited capacity will apply to visitors.

Derek Stamey, Deputy County Administrator for Operations, was appointed Interim County Administrator and Clerk of the Board effective July 1. He will act as the county’s chief executive officer while the supervisors conduct a search for a successor to Budesky, who leaves Goochland on June 30. Stamey will be vested with all powers and duties of a county administrator as described in state law.
Derek Stamey

Stamey began his employment with Goochland as Director of Parks, Recreation, and Facilities Management in 2009 as the county sought to consolidate and streamline operations during the great recession. In December 2016, he was named Deputy County Administrator for Operations. In that role, Stamey oversees animal protection; general services; parks and recreation; the Goochland Extension Office; and major capital construction.

In June 2019, Stamey was awarded the Marcia Mashaw Outstanding Assistant Award by the Virginia Local Government Management Association (VLGMA) in recognition of several accomplishments. VLGMA is a non-profit, non-partisan organization composed primarily of city, town, and county managers and key members of their management teams. These include his leadership role in renovating and restoring the Central High School Cultural and Educational Complex.
Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, said that the supervisors have confidence that the county is in good hands with Stamey’s leadership.

Stamey said “I want to express what an honor and privilege it is to serve this board and citizens.  I’ve come to know this county as a wonderful place to serve. We have an unbelievable staff of wonderful talented individuals. I look forward to work with this staff, our constitutional officers and our counterparts in the schools to keep Goochland steady and on the right track.”

The supervisors authorized the county administrator to execute a contract with Blakemore Construction for a change order not to exceed $268,000 to finalize construction on roads in the Bridgewater subdivision.

May this be the final step on a long road to correct issues resulting from an oversight that allowed a road bond for the subdivision to lapse before construction was completed.  According to staff, many “robust discussions have been held about the situation with VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!—, which was likened to “Lucy with the football” refusing to accept changes it required. In addition to county funds, a service district was created to collect part of the cost to bring the roads into the state system on all Bridgewater property owners. Policies and procedures have been put into place to ensure that such a lapse will never again occur.

Announcement of a new broadband initiative for western Goochland, the main event, was moved to the back of the agenda because a presenter was caught in traffic.

Last September, Goochland County announced a ten-step initiative to bring hi speed internet to the entire county, which was never considered to be a “one size fits all” endeavor. (See  broadband initiative focusing on 10 Steps to Broadband Internet Initiatives (PDF) for details.)

Budesky said that Covid 19 made providing access to broadband for the entire county more urgent than ever. In recent months, local enterprises have been brining broadband to underserved parts of Goochland. These include Evan Weiner of Hosted Backbone (https://www.hostedbackbone.net/) who brought internet  to the Crozier area and continues to expand service, and Stan Corn of BOIP (https://myboip.com/) who is helping residents in other parts of the county get wireless internet access.

Goochland recently joined Central Virginia Electric Coop (CVEC) with an announcement that the utility will bring broadband to about 800 of its customers in the west end of the county in the very near future. For some time, Goochland has searched for solid partners to bring affordable high-speed internet to underserved rural areas.

Gary Wood of CVEC and Melissa Gay, Dennis Reese general manager of Firefly Fiber Broadband were in attendance. Wood thanked the county staff, supervisors and Economic Development Authority for their input and cooperation. 

Wood explained that CVEC was formed in 1937 to provide essential utilities in rural and sparsely populated markets. It touches parts of 14 counties, does not seek to make profits, but must break even in its operations.  (see https://www.mycvec.com/)

To deliver better electric service CVEC, needs hi-speed internet communication throughout its service area, but cannot afford to build it only for that purpose. Offering internet to its customers improves electric service and helps offset cost of infrastructure, which Wood estimated at $120 million. All CVEC customers will have internet access by the end of 2022, if all goes well.  These include Goochland customers in the Carterville and Shannon Hill areas. (See the video for a map of the proposed expansion areas. These fall into different categories, depending on funding sources. GOMM will share this when it becomes available.)

Under Virginia law, electric coops are not permitted to sell internet services or own fiber outside their service areas but may form subsidiaries to do so. A wholly owned subsidiary of CVEC, Firefly (https://www.fireflyva.com/) fills that role outside CVEC service area.

(See https://www.cooperative.com/news/pages/new-virginia-law-aids-electric-co-ops-building-broadband.aspx for an article discussing how removal of regulatory road blocks helps this expansion.)

The proposed grant application partnership between Goochland and Firefly will create a mechanism to bring broadband to approximately 75 to 80 percent of unserved areas. This is a massive project projected to cover about one quarter of Goochland homes.

Budesky said that a lot of time and effort, especially by Paul Drumwright, who runs point on the issue, has been put in by staff to identify solid partners for broadband expansion. Goochland was careful in this process.

To view the entire presentation, go to https://www.goochlandva.us/943/Video-of-Past-BOS-Meetings beginning at about the 18 minute mark.

Wood said that there is a “plan B’ to secure financing for the project if the grant is not secured, which could delay buildout beyond the current time frame.

Firefly has no service contracts, no exit fee, costs per month are 100 megabit per second up and down $49.99; 1 gigabit per second, $79.99. Wood said it is important to keep the monthly costs in the $50 dollar range to serve the rural demographic. It will also offer voice over internet (VOIP). A $100 installation fee will be waived for customers who sign up during construction. CVEC customers will have no additional cost to bring service to the house. If the grant is secured, Firefly customers will not have a connection cost. Wood said that the presence of fiber backhaul can also improve cell phone service.

In Goochland, Wood explained, there will be different funding sources including grants, loans. Firefly will need to finance approximately $2.5 million. Wood said he wants to explore this with the EDA, which has met in closed session at its recent meetings, presumably to discuss the Firefly proposal.
Wood asked residents who want to support the grant to visit https://www.usda.gov/reconnect and weigh in on the matter. “We believe that there are fewer than ten percent of homes in western Goochland served by hi speed internet, but it never hurts to have people who need the service confirm the need.”

Stay tuned, this looks like the real deal, at long last.