Sunday, June 28, 2015

Just in case

Mitchel Davis and sister Kate wear Morse code symobl caps as they work the radios on ARES field day

On the last weekend of June, Goochland Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers, sometimes called Hams, gathered at Goochland Fire-Rescue Company 5 to participate in their annual field day. They set up a huge emergency generator and antenna to simulate emergency operations conditions.
ARES volutes provide an important communication back-up that can be deployed quickly and requires minimal equipment to say in touch with the outside world during a crisis.

This large generator and antenna were used to make contact with ARES operators around the country.

On Saturday evening, they also kept a close on the weather. Lee Maddox of Maidens, known to his radio friends as N4HOK, said that the line of severe thunderstorms that roared through Goochland on Saturday night chased the group and their equipment from an open-sided tent into the sturdy brick fire-rescue station. They were back in the open after the storm passed and transmitted all through the night.
The object of the radio field day, observed al over the United States, is to make as many contacts with other operators as possible during a 24 hour period that began at 2 p.m. on June 27. Points are assigned for each contact.
All points are not equal, however. Contacts made by ten year-old Kate Davis, participating in her third consecutive ARES field day, count ten times those made by adult operators. Kate made 20 contacts to points as far distant as California, according to her dad Phil, a long-time ham, but can only be credited with 100 points.
“If you’re a licensed operator, all of your contacts will count for points,” Phil told his daughter. “If you study, you could pass the test by the end of the summer.”
There are no age limitations for becoming a licensed amateur radio operator, Phil explained. Tests are administered by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates amateur radio usage and issues licenses.
“I love talking to people everywhere,” Kate said as her brother Mitchell joined her at the radio. He wore a cap emblazoned with Morse code symbol“dah” to complement Kate’s “dit.”
Phil, who has been a Ham for 26 years, got bitten by the radio bug after hearing a talk given by Dave Metzger, WG4T, when he was in school.
Deputies, fire-rescue folk and members of the community stopped by to see what was going on under the tent, Maddox said.
After field day is over, ARES volunteers will still be on guard. They all have “go kits” with simple radios that enable them to broadcast wherever they may be. Each of Goochland’s six fire-rescue stations is equipped with a radio, which can only be used by a licensed operator, explained Maddox.
Lee Maddox calls out to fellow radio operators.

Although amateur radio seems like a quaint hobby that harkens back to simpler times, in our unpredictable world, it is a very real “suspenders” to the “belt” of cell phones and the internet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Keeping in touch

This weekend, beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 27 and continuing for 24 hours, the Goochland Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group will participate in a worldwide field day.

Radio equipment and generators will be set up at Goochland Fire-Rescue Company 5 on Fairground Road near the Food Lion in Courthouse Village. Operators will compete to see who can make the most contacts during the event.

Not so long ago, the hyper-connectedness we take for granted, was the stuff of science fiction.

We never wonder what will happen if the cell towers are out of commission or overloaded. This occurred after the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, a 2008 tornado in Atlanta, and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Not to worry. Goochland ARES has you covered. Amateur radio operators--sometimes referred to as “hams”--use relatively simple equipment and their ingenuity to contact the outside world.

ARES radios run on battery power and can use antennae crafted from what is at hand. ARES volunteers establish contact with other operators and relay information and messages from an emergency scene to those who can send help, when nothing else is working.

Locally, ARES volunteers have pitched in to keep communications open between Goochland dispatch and fire-rescue stations when the normal channels failed.

Stop by and meet the ARES folk and listen to them chat with fellow radio operators all over the globe. The event is free the public is invited.
For additional information, call Madison Long at 804-784-5791, or visit or

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Getting by with a little help from our friends

Elizabeth Nelson-Lyda, one of the proprietors of the White Hawk on Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse Village near Company 5, shared these comments with GOMM:

We genuinely care about the community we live in. We were already planning on running some fast lunch specials beginning tomorrow. However, given that a lot of our community members are still without power and in warm conditions, we wanted to change it up a little…

We are opening at 10 am tomorrow (an hour earlier) so that people can come in and have a place to cool down. In addition, we had fast-lunch/dinner specials planned that we have now expanded and we wanted to share with you that will be our Monday and Tuesday specials this week. It is our intent to have lunch/dinner specials every day of the week.

At lunch,
1 – Hamburger, chips, and bottled water, canned Diet Coke, or canned Coke $4.99
1 – Hot dog, chips, bottled water, canned Diet Coke, or canned Coke $2.99
1 – Chicken tenders (3), chips, and bottled water, canned Diet Coke, or canned Coke $4.99

At dinner (if you want fries – if not, see chip prices above),
1 – Hamburger, fries, and bottled water, canned Diet Coke, or canned Coke $6.99
1 – Hot dog, fries, bottled water, canned Diet Coke, or canned Coke $4.99
1 – Chicken tenders (3), fries, and bottled water, canned Diet Coke, or canned Coke $6.99

In-house Southern Style Strawberry Shortcake (warm biscuit, two scoops of vanilla ice cream, fresh candied strawberries and whipped cream) - $2.99 ALL DAY LONG.

Fixings for burgers and dogs will be free and at a table for you to add to your meal. You are welcome to hang out and cool down. We have free internet, too.

Some will say we’re trying to take advantage of folks. But, if this were true, the prices would be higher. We need your business and we want to provide a service with value, at a great price, to our community.

We appreciate you and hope to see you soon. Thanks!

We had two tornados touch down in Goochland yesterday. I was in the restaurant with Karen last night - and we could SEE two twisters in the sky. It was scary to see.

In the real scheme of things, it’s not that bad as we have NO major damage; and, regardless of the scare, no one is hurt! However, if you still don’t have power, it’s B-A-D. A lot of our county won't have power back till late Monday or Tuesday! : ( Argh!)

So, I decided to work with your chefs and overall staff today to discuss and devise a menu that we can deliver at much cheaper prices than we would normally do. The specials are (tested it on myself first, then my family, and staff) but not fancy fare. $4.99 burger, $2.99 dog, $4.99 tenders – all with chips and drink at lunch. Priced up a little for dinner due to fries (fryer time is actually precious and fries are more expensive, of course). $2.99 for-real Southern Strawberry Shortcake with warm biscuit, two scoops of ice cream, fresh candied strawberries and whipped crème. We’ve invited those without power to hang out as long as they like and use free wifi as well.

We’re not going to make money on this – but we won’t lose our shirts either. Hopefully, our community will see that we are doing this in our small way to try to be helpful.

Do what is right first. The rest, if earned, will follow.

With Best Regards,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The bottom of the hill

Goochland County leaders have worked hard during difficult economic times to make sure that our local government lives within its means. They’ve held the tax rate steady, which, thanks to modest increases in assessed valuations, translates into a slight tax hike.

Thanks to careful budgeting and an efficient work force, the past few years have also resulted in budget surpluses. Some of the “leftovers” are tucked away for unforeseen expenses. The rest is used to fund items that didn’t make the budget.

The specter of “black swans” and unfunded mandates could change all that.

A “black swan” is a hard to predict event with widespread consequences, like the 2011 earthquake. Goochland suffered relatively little damage from that temblor. Had one of our schools been destroyed, as happened in Louisa County, the story could have been different.
Unfunded mandates, however, are more predictable and insidious. They follow the strategy for cooking a frog. (Put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly raise the heat. By the time the water is boiling, the frog will be trapped.)

Unfunded mandates roll down hill from at the state and federal level with the best of intentions, and we all know where that road leads.
The latest well-intended program rolling onto Goochland government from our dear friends at the General Assembly is the Virginia storm water management program. This seems to be the latest step in trying to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

No one is in favor of dirty water or polluted streams and rivers, but it is unclear if the new regulations will actually do much to improve water quality. What is quite evident is that the new rules will make development more expensive. They also require periodic inspection in perpetuity.
(A related initiative implemented by the state and administered by the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District to build fencing to keep cattle out of streams. Funding assistance, up to 100 percent of the cost is available to eligible land owners. This program expires on June 30, 2015, so if you are interested, call 556-4936 now.)

Virginia implemented the storm water policy in 2014. As the initial details were murky, Goochland supervisors opted out of administering the program at the local level. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) handled the permitting process since then.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly clarified things somewhat and Goochland supervisors reluctantly decided to take local control of the program. Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, and Ken Peterson, District 5 voted against the measure in April.

Various developers have asked the county to assume the burden of administering the program, because working through the DEQ was cumbersome and time consuming.
The supervisors learned about this first hand. It seems that at least a portion of the additional cost—up to $200,000--of the new Hadensville fire-rescue station is directly attributable to delays caused by working through DEQ for storm water permits.
At their June meeting, the supervisors adopted a storm water management fee schedule, which is the same as that used by DEQ. The net cost of administering the program to issue permits associated with new construction activity will be greater than the fees Goochland collects. As the number of sites that need monitoring increases over time, the cost will escalate, as will the number of county employees needed to do the work. No fees will be levied for maintenance.

Peterson, who abstained on the vote adopting the fee schedule, said he remained “unconvinced that this is in the long term interest of Goochland County.”

Lascolette said she “does not like the program and don’t like us doing it, but we’ve got to pay for it. Ned Creasey, District 3, also expressed reservations about taking over local control of the program, but joined Lascolette, Bob Minnick, District 4, and Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 in voting to adopt the fee schedule.

Monacan Soil and Water District Commissioner Jonathan Lyle dubbed the storm water issue a “poster child” for smaller government.

At the same time that the state is imposing these new rules to control runoff, it is issuing permits for application of bio solids on farmland. While that practice is supposedly monitored carefully, there have been no definitive studies to determine if substances like heavy metals, which may be present in sewage and industrial sludge accumulate over time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mixing it up

The sky hasn’t fallen even though Goochland’s Board of Supervisors approved a new mixed use zoning category at its June 2 meeting. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the new zoning district last month.

Essentially, “mixed use” is the combination of residential, commercial, cultural, and perhaps recreational activities in close proximity. These projects aim for a pedestrian scale that encourages walking and bicycling. We used to call this settlement pattern a small town, which grew over time as people, for whatever reason, chose to live, and maybe work in a particular place.

According to the executive summary in the board packet (available on the county website at the ordinance was crafted in response to a request from landowner to consider a mixed use project. Staff has also received inquiries about building apartments and townhouses in the county. As these housing options require municipal water and sewer, Centerville is the most appropriate place for them.

Initially, mixed use proposals will be accepted only for parcels at least 20 acres in size in the Centerville Village core. Property in the “village core,” now includes a parcel south of Broad Street--roughly behind the parcel east of the Shell station often used for cattle grazing--and part of the Sycamore Creek Golf Course east of Manakin Road and roughly south of the creek. These additions were made at the request of the respective property owners.

Land eligible for consideration as mixed use includes the southeast corner of Manakin and Broad Street Roads and the northwest corner of Ashland and Broad Street Roads. No actual locations for any possible mixed use zoning have been confirmed.

Don’t expect this new zoning option to transform Centerville Village into a West Broad Village clone. The intent is to create a regulatory option that invites landowners and developers to present their most ingenious versions of mixed use as appropriate for Goochland. One of the objectives of the new ordinance is to create a “park like” atmosphere around the high density development.

As mixed use is a new land use option, it will require rezoning and a conditional use permit by special exception for every facet of each proposal. This means public hearings before the planning commission and supervisors and lots of opportunities for citizen input. A detailed master plan, that must contain elevations, landscape plans, building materials, and an estimate of the impact of the project on all county services, must be submitted as part of the rezoning process. Should the supervisors deem that a proposal would overwhelm schools, law enforcement, or fire-rescue, they could deny the rezoning request.

Existing overlay district design standards are high, but the wording of the ordinance seems to expect that these will be just a starting point. These mandates will add considerable expense to already high land prices in Centerville. Any housing in mixed use areas will be upscale at a minimum.

Higher housing density—six gross units per acre--allowed in mixed use zoning will be the biggest change for rural Goochland. More than one type of housing--single family dwellings, duplexes, apartments and town homes--must be part of a mixed use project. No uses are permitted by right, which gives the supervisors, and citizens through public hearings, control over development. Frontage on the Broad Street Road corridor will be reserved for commercial use, with residential set back from the highway. The maximum permitted height is 45 feet.

County administrator Rebecca Dickson pointed out that each mixed use project will have to stand on its own.

Board Vice Chair Bob Minnick whose District 4 includes Centerville, thanked staff for more than two years of thoughtful education and process. He also expressed appreciation for staff’s handling additional questions and “doing a deep dive as we explore this option.” Minnick observed that the board’s intention regarding mixed use zoning is to “start small and exercise a lot of internal and administrative control and watch this very carefully for a variety of reasons.”

The notion of mixed use in Centerville makes many people nervous. The trick here is to harness development pressure into a gentle incoming tide that lifts all boats and prevent it from becoming a tsunami.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Past and future perfect

District 4 Supervisors Bob Minnick and "Oilville 1938"

The agenda of the June 2 meeting of the Goochland County Board of Supervisors was replete with accomplishment.

At the start of the evening session, local artist Patti Rosner dedicated her painting of Goochland Villages to the county. After a brief address by Rosner, who expressed her gratitude to those who shared their memories of Goochland past, her family, and the community, the meeting moved to the foyer of the administration building. There the supervisors unveiled the paintings of scenes in their respective districts. The paintings will be on permanent display for all to enjoy. Rosner gave checks from the proceeds of the project to the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services and the Goochland County Historical Society

During the afternoon session, the staff of the utilities department was recognized for winning the Virginia Rural Water Association’s Wastewater System of the Year award for 2015. This organization is for rural system w with fewer than 10,000 customers. Department of Public Utilities Director Todd Kilduff and his “small but mighty staff”: Matt Longshore, Mark Wilds, David McDowell, Gerry Langfit, and Ashlea Thedieck were commended for their hard work, innovation, and ingenuity.

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1 said”...your high energy, customer focus, and innovation are really a model for how we want government to work. We are proud of you. Good job.”

Completion of the utility master plan identified probable causes of the “smelly water” issue plaguing TCSD customers and offered relatively simple and cost effective solutions. The supervisors appropriated funds to install a chloramine injection station and control valve vault in the near future.

Remember that, in all too recent memory, Goochland County utility customer records were vague at best, billings were somewhat arbitrary, uncashed checks sat in drawers for months, and even the location of the trunk lines in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District was a mystery. There was a geyser of raw sewage on posh River Road, and hundreds of gallons of water, bought from Henrico, were dumped on the ground in a vain attempt to combat staleness.

Beth Moore, chair of the Friends of Goochland Parks, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, talked about developments at Tucker Park at Maidens Crossing, one of the very few public access points on the James River in Goochland. Moore commended District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey for starting discussions with the Tucker Family that led to the county’s purchase of 36 acres with 1200 feet of river bank on both sides of Rt. 522 for use as a park.

Thanks to monetary and in-kind donations from local businesses, Tucker Park now has handicapped accessible parking, a mile long trail along the river and a paved performance stage thanks to the CarMax Foundation. Moore said that the vision of Don Charles, the late county director of community development, helped make Tucker Park a reality. To honor his contribution, the Friends are seeking donations to plant 15 sycamores around the performance stage. A $50 donation will plant one tree.
For more information visit

Perhaps the most important accomplishment discussed at the meeting was the projection/estimate of general fund revenues and expenditures through April 30. After the end of the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, the actual numbers will be finalized. John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Finance estimated that there will be an operating surplus of $6.49 million, while other jurisdictions in the area are wringing their hands over shortfalls and contemplating tax rate hikes.

In addition to careful use of budgeted funds, the surplus includes savings from lower fuel costs, and bank stock taxes of $1.67 million more than anticipated.

The annual budget process includes a “look ahead” feature to anticipate future costs. Items from this list are prioritized to use surpluses.

This year’s list includes some capital expenditures for the schools, which will reduce the need to borrow. Also included are up to an additional $200,000 to build, and $50,000 to furnish, the new Company 6 fire-rescue station in Hadensville, whose completion is expected in about a year. Complications arising out of the punitive storm water regulations imposed last year and prices increases account for the increase. Hopefully, this steep and expensive learning curve for building this type of facility will result in savings on similar projects in the future.

Surplus funds were also allocated for a new animal shelter, a canoe ramp at Tucker Park, a replacement ambulance, economic development, and a reserve for the fiscal 2017 budget. The complete list is in the June 2 Board packet, available on the county website at

After some discussion, the supervisors postponed referring a proposed zoning amendment to allow drive through businesses “by right” in areas zoned B-1, M-1, and M-2. A conditional use permit would still be required for B-2 zoning. As most of the land in Centerville contemplated for commercial development is zoned B-1, the proposed change could have a significant impact on the kind of enterprises permitted there.

Given the extensive push back over the McDonald’s and Taco Bell, District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick contended that holding a community meeting to gather public input on the matter before referring the change to the planning commission is prudent. The other board members concurred.
This is a sticky wicket. On the one hand, the county needs all the commerce it can get. On the other, how many drive through burger doodles is too many? Would the opponents to McDonald’s and Taco Bell have been as vocal about a Starbucks or a big box pharmacy?

Lascolette said that citizen engagement is vital to the success of local government and that she and her fellow supervisors want to hear from their constituents. Be careful what you wish for Madame Chair!