Thursday, January 7, 2016

A new year

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors began 2016 by electing a new chair and vice chair, Bob Minnick, District 4, and Ned Creasey, District 3 respectively. This fulfills their pledge, when first elected in 2011, to rotate board leadership on an annual basis.
Ned Creasey, Bob Minnick

Outgoing chair, Susan Lascolette, District 5, who holds the distinction of being the first woman to serve in that capacity, thanked her fellow board members for their attention to detail, thoughtful deliberations, good humor, and collaboration during 2015.

Lascolette also thanked County Administrator Rebecca Dickson for her incredible dedication and hard work helping the board work through issues large and small. She thanked County Attorney Normal Sales for his good counsel and the county staff, for its hard work every day preparing reports and supporting the Board. She also thanked the citizens for their support during the past four years and recent elections. “We rely on the input of citizens to keep Goochland County’s way of life.”
"Madame Chair" Susan Lascolette and gavel presented by fellow supervisors.

Minnick welcomed everyone to the meeting. He then thanked the Board for its vote of support. “I look forward to continuing the collaboration of the past four years. As always, I value your input.” Minnick expressed his gratitude to county employees. “you are they engine that makes this all work.” To the citizens, Minnick, said that he and the board are “committed to the freedoms that you hold dear and hope that you will continue to participate in this experiment that we call local government.”

The Board unanimously and joyously adopted a resolution recognizing the Goochland High School Girls’ Volleyball Team for winning the 2015 Virginia High School League Group A, Division 2 State Volleyball championship. The team, which finished the year with a 27-0 record, and its coaches were present. In addition to group accomplishments, team members Madelyn Ott, Josie Summitt, Maddie Parker, Alexis Wiggins, and Casey Spencer were 2015 Quad Rivers 34 All-Conference Volleyball selections. Madelyn Ott was named player of the year and Coach Jennifer Erixon was named coach of the year.

These fine young woman are to be commended for their accomplishments, which reflect well on them and the community. The lessons of personal dedication and teamwork will serve them well wherever life’s path leads them.

In November, a ceremonial groundbreaking for a kayak and canoe launch in the eastern arm of Tucker Park at Maidens Crossing took place. The new facility, which will be built in the next few months, was chosen by L.L. Bean, which recently opened a store in Short Pump Town Center, as the site for an “Outdoor Discovery School”--one of ten nationwide, and the only one in Virginia. To that end, the supervisors authorized Dickson to execute a lease agreement for use of the park. L. L. Bean will work with the Goochland Department of Parks and Rec to ensure that there is no negative impact on access for the general public. (See the January 5 board packet available on the county website for details.)
School Superintendent Dr. James Lane updated the supervisors on the latest accolades gathered by our school division.

Goochland Middle School has been named a “national school to watch,” one of the best middle schools in the nation, after rigorous vetting by principals from Loudon County. This will result in a national award in D. C. later in the year. All four county schools have been named “Apple Distinguished Schools” out of 300 worldwide. Byrd Elementary School, which has a high percentage of economically challenged students, was named a Distinguished Title I school by earning higher SOL scores than its peers.

Lane said that Goochland has been chosen to lead the Code RVA initiative to rethink what high school looks like and create a regional magnet school not focused on gifted students. High school would be completed at the end of 10th grade. Students would complete a two year Associate Degree online while working in a paid apprentice-type arrangement performing entry level coding tasks currently outsourced overseas. At the end of the program students would be college ready, or able to take jobs in computer fields. Local tech companies, said Lane are hungry for recruits. So far CarMax, Capital One, and area colleges are on board. Admission would be lottery based so that “any kid can be successful.”

Lane said that the student population is rising. There has been something of an influx of students in the southeastern end of the county, which could be the result of families transitioning from private to public schools. Additional students resulting from new construction is right in line with projections.

A preliminary capital improvement plan (CIP) for the next five years (FY 2017-2021) was presented. This enumerates approximate costs for infrastructure such as buildings, fields, parks, and major equipment like fire-rescue apparatus—whose cost cannot reasonably be absorbed in an annual budget cycle.

As capital projects can be quite costly some—the new elementary school planned to be built around 2020--will require borrowing. The supervisors are dedicated to limiting the county’s debt burden to no more than 10 percent of general fund expenditures. Careful planning is vital to achieve that goal.

The CIP also includes unfunded projects such as a new Circuit Court building and three new fire-rescue stations to put them “on the radar screen” for future consideration. A complete CIP will be presented on February 16.

During a working dinner, the Board met with Carlos M. Brown, who represents the Richmond Region on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, to discuss Goochland’s road priorities.

Brown listened attentively to a presentation that included the results of the Arterial Management Plan completed in 2015 as well as justifications for construction of a bridge connector between Ridgefield Parkway in Henrico and Tuckahoe Creek Parkway in Goochland.

While sympathetic to traffic issues in the Broad Street Road/Rt. 288 corridor, Brown said that of $600 million expected to be available statewide for road projects in the next six years, only $76 million will be available for this region. The bulk of the money will go to northern Virginia and Hampton Roads who suffer from “incurable gridlock all the time.” Considering that traffic congestion in the Richmond region lasts 30 to 45 minutes at rush hours, contended Brown, the region is “being treated pretty fairly.”

Brown said that I-66 was built to fix congestion and instead became “a parking lot.” There is no way to continue to build—and maintain—pavement without finding other means of transportation. In the future, roads, he said, will have to be tolled, or closed.

During public hearings in the evening, the supervisors unanimously approved rezoning for acreage in Courthouse Village to permit up to 16 Craftsman style homes on land opposite Parrish Ford. They also approved a conditional us permit for the expansion of Greenwood Memorial Park and amendment of county ordinances.

The Board will meet on January 20 for a day long budget workshop.

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