Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Road show

Intent on keeping campaign promises of transparency, Goochland County’s supervisors held their latest round of district town meetings in March.

Aside from providing an opportunity for citizens to share their concerns with elected and appointed officials, the meetings sought feedback about the county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins on July 1, and the proposed six year capital improvement plan (CIP). Public hearings on both of these items will take place starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 7. NOTE: THIS IS A CHANGE FROM THE USUAL FIRST TUESDAY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ MEETING SCHEDULE.

At a dual District 2 and 3 meeting, Elizabeth Nelson-Lyda, president of the Goochland Education Foundation, shared news about the organization. The annual gala, held on March 15, was a success, grossing more than $30,000. The GEF, she explained, has invested more than $100,000 in Goochland’s children by providing funds for items that fall outside the core focus of the school division budget. These include modest stipends for teachers of the year; cultural enrichment; and scholarships to help students move on to the next level of their education wherever that might lead.

(The GEF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; visit for more information.)
Among the entries on the CIP is a guestimate of $24 million for a new elementary school—location yet to be determined—and a $500,000 “placeholder” amount in the facilities management category for reuse of the Central High School. This structure, also known as the “old middle school,” is located on Dogtown Road near the Sandy Hook Village.

Since becoming vacant in the spring of 2007, little has been done to the venerable structure, built in the 1930’s, which served as the black high school for the entire county.

Although both the old regime of supervisors and school board members knew that the building would be vacant for several years before the middle school wing on the high school was completed, attempts to figure out what to do with it proved fruitless.
Roof issues, which are believed to have exacerbated damage to the floor of a gymnasium, whose use would be a welcome addition to area recreational facilities, complicated matters. The downturn in the economy moved the issue to the back burner as the county faced declining tax revenues. Snarking between the former supervisor and school boards over who would fund reuse of the building was also counter-productive.

Board of Supervisor’s Chair, Manuel Alvarez, Jr., who represents District 2, where Central High School is located, held his first town meeting in the building so that citizens could see its condition for themselves.
Before any action is taken, the county must figure out exactly what the building will be used for; how much of the structure should be renovated; how much will it cost; and where will the money come from. Given that the site probably has asbestos and lead paint, the cost of renovation could be significant.

While there is sentiment for using the core of the structure—there were several additions over the years—as a museum, creation of a community resource to commemorates Central High School and celebrate the achievement of students that walked its halls, might be a better option.

Citizens are encouraged to submit their ideas for Central High School’s future to Alvarez or Goochland County Administrator Rebecca Dickson. (Visit for contact information)

Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Lane presented a new video about our schools and shared a gracious plenty of good news. (Visit the schools website to learn more.)

Beth Hardy, District 4 school board member, said great things are happening in county schools. She said that she and fellow school board members are active in educational organizations throughout Virginia. “Goochland schools are known throughout the Commonwealth,” Hardy said.

Among the breathtaking, and lengthy, list of accomplishments by those who make Goochland Schools work, Lane said that the Marine JROTC program that will begin in the next school year had 91 students enroll, far above the 75 student threshold.

Dickson said that the county is working to secure its own bond rating later in 2014. In addition to expanding the county’s borrowing options, and saving a bit on interest rates, a high bond rating reflects a fiscally responsible local government. This, in turn, “sends a powerful message” to companies interested in moving to Goochland that is it a good place to do business.
In that vein, Dickson contended that the county budget is a value statement, expressing the priorities of the community. As the school budget won a national award for excellence, our values are high.

Roads were a topic of interest at the District 4 meeting as residents expressed continuing frustration over the lack of a traffic signal at the Hockett/Broad Street Road intersection in Centerville.

Dickson explained that VDOT does not believe that the intensity of traffic at that corner has reached its threshold for signalization. Yet, the intersection serving the apartments and medical offices under constriction opposite Wawa further east is expected to have a light because of expected high traffic volume there.

A study of traffic patterns on Broad Street Road from the Henrico line to Manakin Road and up Ashland Road to Interstate 64 is expected to identify problem areas.

There will be no full cloverleaf at Broad Street Road and Rt. 288—often the site of fierce games of “chicken”—Dickson said, expressing hope that dangerous conditions there will be mitigated.

In a departure from past practices, Dickson announced, Goochland will oversee engineering and design of a proposed realignment of the north terminus of Hockett Road with Ashland Road that will bisect the parcel of land on the south side of Broad and resume south just north of Hickory Haven. It is hoped that this will ease the current intersection congestion.
Concerns about the inadequacy of the westbound I-64 Oilville exit ramp at rush hour when vehicles getting off the road back up into high speed traffic lanes were raised.

The attendance at the meetings for Districts 2 and 3 and District 4 was robust. Goochland is still small enough for citizens to have easy access to elected and appointed officials.

A sign on the historic house gallery in the Arizona State Capitol contends “People get the government they deserve. Good, moral people concerned about others get a good, moral government that cares about the people…In a democracy, each of us is responsible for the quality of our government.”

Goochland citizens must remain engaged and informed to ensure that we continue to have good, moral government.

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