Tuesday, October 27, 2015

District 4 Town Hall HIghlights

Bob Minnick, who represents Goochland’s District 4 on the Board of Supervisors and Beth Hardy, his counterpart on the School Board, held their fall town hall meeting on October 22.

Qiana Foote, Director of Information Technology gave a brief overview of the new county website. She encouraged everyone to visit the site (http://www.goochlandva.us) and contact her with questions or comments.

Minnick said that in addition to the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which will build a $28 million facility in West Creek, site work has begun for the Audi dealership just east of Rt. 288. Minnick said that outparcels on Audi site are also being developed for restaurants.

An arterial management plan (AMP) was completed and approved earlier this year for the Ashland/Broad Street Road corridor. Minnick explained that transportation—read roads—improvements to come out of this are expected to include extra lanes and traffic signals at the Broad Street Road/ Rt. 288 intersection.

Application of Biosolids--residue from wastewater treatment plants--on local farmland has also been on the supervisors’ agenda. Goochland, said Minnick, has some real concerns about exactly what this stuff contains and the possible cumulative consequences of its use as a soil amendment. To that end, the county has worked with citizens to share information about pending application permits.

As part of its legislative agenda—matters of special local concern shred with our delegation to the Virginia General Assembly—the supervisors will request that an impartial multi-year detailed study about the practice be undertaken. A list of specific substances to be tested is included.

Under current state law, localities have no power to stop the practice.

Minnick reminded those present that the county earned a AAA bond rating—better than that of the Federal Government--from Standard and Poor’s earlier this year. This is the latest step in the Board’s efforts to restore financial stability, accountability, and public trust in local government. The rating, said Minnick will help the county obtain the most favorable terms when borrowing money in the future.

Goochland needs a new animal shelter, Minnick said. The current facility at the entrance to Hidden Rock Park is not adequate to serve the animal welfare population of our growing county. A new shelter is expected to be funded through a public/private partnership. A special person, with exception organizational and fund raising skills, is needed to lead private the non-profit part of this initiative. A two year commitment will be required.

Minnick declared that a District 4 Planning Commissioner will be put forward for appointment by the supervisors at their November 4 meeting, sworn in, and ready to deliberate on the November 5 Planning Commission agenda. No names were mentioned.

Any meeting in District 4, home of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, would be incomplete without a discussion about public utilities, AKA public water and sewer.

Todd Kilduff, county Director of Public Utilities reported that, thanks to recent completion of a utilities master plan, problems with water odor and pressure in the Centerville area are being addressed, and should be resolved in coming months. The Utility Master Plan is posted in its entirety on the county website.

The ad valorem tax, currently an extra 32 cents per $100 of assessed valuation levied most burdensomely on homeowners in eastern Goochland, is not expected to increase, said Minnick. Nor will it decrease any time soon. The advent of new businesses will raise ad valorem tax revenue, but the TCSD debt service is also growing. About $100 million of new investment in the TCSD is needed each year to stay even.

Beth Hardy said that she enjoys the opportunity to share the good news about Goochland Schools. Because our school division has gotten so many accolades—a two pager—she mentioned the highlights.

Visit the schools website, http://www.glnd.k12.va.us/, and download this year’s Explorations in Learning annual report for the whole story.

Outstanding test results, said Hardy, were achieved by not by focusing on SOLs but by “meeting the students where they are and getting them to where they need to be.” Empowering teachers to do what they need to do in the classroom is a very effective education strategy.

Hardy said that 73 percent of our high school students are enrolled in one or more of the Career and Technical Courses (CTE) and they love them.
She remarked that the great strides made by Goochland Schools in the past four years are in no small part the result of the collaboration between the supervisors and school board. The supervisors supported the CTE initiative, which includes the Marine Jr. ROTC corps, with additional funding for facilities and staff.

Good news travels fast, resulting in growth in our student population. Hardy reported that a “learning cottage” is being installed at Randolph Elementary School to accommodate its burgeoning student body.

School Superintendent Dr. James Lane, explained that the “trailer” at RES will be located on land adjoining the school, which will also provide space for additional parking.

The county had needed a new elementary school for a while. A $21 million “placeholder” is in the capital improvement plan to build this school sometime during the 2020 fiscal year. (To date, no specifics about the location or other details have been discussed. This needs to be moved to the front burner.)
Lane said that the successful programs in place at Goochland schools should be able to absorb additional students for at least two decades. He also said that the school division plans to teach computer coding—programming—at all grade levels in the near future. Lane said that will provide students with a skill very much in demand in the job market that requires no college degree.

Another evergreen subject in District 4, the bridge connecting Ridgefield Parkway in western Henrico with Tuckahoe Creek Parkway, was discussed.
District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr., who represents the county on regional transportation boards, explained that construction of the bridge is unlikely in the near future because Henrico does not want it. While our delegation to the General Assembly will not intervene in the matter, Alvarez suggested that there may be a “backdoor” strategy to support the bridge. None of this will happen any time soon.

The hope that HCA, which operates the West Creek Emergency Center, would support the bridge so it could justify building a full hospital in West Creek will not happen. Minnick said that HCA leases the West Creek facility, which has attracted fewer clients than anticipated. Minnick does not expect HCA to renew its lease, preferring a presence in the Henrico Broad Street corridor.

A citizen questioned the assumption in the AMP that, by 2035, there will be 100,000 cars a day moving through the Ashland/Broad Street Road corridor and wanted to know where they were coming from. Minnick said that the AMP assumed that every parcel of land adjoining those roads would be “built out to the max.” He conceded the assumption is probably not realistic, “But we had to start with something.”

Several speakers addressed the proposed “Glenns” subdivision (see GOMM Back to the drawing board?) declaring it is not appropriate for winding country roads and would swamp our schools with a flood of new students.

Minnick said that he has not yet decided how he will vote on the proposal, but said that its impact on schools is part of the decision.

Kudos to our elected officials for meeting with their constituents on a regular basis. Citizens are beginning to understand that they can speak their minds at these sessions and be taken seriously.

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