Districts 4 and 5 kicked off the current round of Goochland County town hall meetings on October 12 at the Hermitage Country Club. These sessions provide an opportunity for citizens to engage with elected and appointed officials in a casual environment.
Two additional meetings are scheduled: District 2 and 3 on Tuesday, October 18 at the Goochland Library; and District 1 at Byrd Elementary School. All begin at 7 p.m. The core presentation is similar, there will be ample time for questions and discussion of district specific concerns.
Board of Supervisors’ chair Bob Minnick, who represents District 4 served as emcee. The gathering was well attended. A brief summary of the meeting follows:
Sample ballots for the November 8 election were provided by County Registrar Frances Ragland. In addition to candidates, Virginias will vote on proposed amendments to the state constitution. One amendment deals with right to work, the other gives localities the option of exempting spouses of law enforcement officers and other emergency responders killed in the line of duty from real estate taxes. Visit http://www.elections.virginia.gov/election-law/proposed-constitutional-amendment-2016/ for more information.
Perhaps the most important duty of the supervisors and school board is selection of a chief executive officer—county administrator and superintendent of schools respectively—to ensure that their policies are carried out for the benefit of the citizens. In the past six months, both positions were filled with men well-qualified in temperament and background to continue and expand upon the good work of their predecessors.
Minnick introduced new county administrator John Budesky who said he was honored to serve the citizens of Goochland and pledged to work with everyone to “make a better Goochland.” On the job since August 1, Budesky has been busy learning his way around and meeting people.
John Wright, District 5 school board member, introduced superintendent of schools Dr. Jeremy Raley, who has been on the job since the end of June. Raley gave a brief overview of county schools, their mission and goals. He proudly touted the excellence that has become the norm here and explained that the school division is committed to helping every learner maximize their potential.
The career and technical education program provides an opportunity for students to graduate with marketable skills. (Visit Goochlandschools.org to learn about all of the great things happening right here in Goochland.) Raley declared that it is the school division’s job to ensure that every learner is better off at the end of each school year than on the first day.
Minnick said that economic development is moving right along. The announcementlast week that Sheltering Arms and VCU intend to build a 114 bed rehabilitation hospital in West Creek is the latest addition to new construction in the east end of the county. Others on the horizon include Audi of Richmond; Hardywood Park Craft Brewery; and the Bristol, an apartment community near Rt. 288.
The planned animal shelter; emergency operations center; and Hadensville Company 6 fire-rescue station, which are under construction were discussed. In the not too distant future, the county plans to build a new elementary school, a fire-rescue station on land proffered in West Creek, and at a later date, a new courthouse. Ken Peterson, District 5, explained that the county is playing catch-up with facilities whose construction was postponed due to the economic downturn.
The budget process for fiscal 2018, which begins on July 1, 2017, will soon get underway. This includes an update of the county’s five-year capital improvement plan, which prioritizes large expenditures, and funding mechanisms.
For the first time since 1997, property owners who participate in the land use taxation program will be required to recertify their eligibility. County records are badly out of date and this was determined to be the best way to get current information. About 51 percent of the land in the county is in the program, which taxes land by the acre, rather than its assessed valuation.
This tax break is intended to support agricultural, horticultural, or forestal use and discourage residential development. District 2 supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. estimated that the county foregoes approximately $3 million in revenue from property in land use. A workshop will be held in the county administration building on October 20 to explain the recertification process in detail.
The ad valorem tax, currently 32 cents per $100 of valuation in addition to the 53 cent real property tax to fund debt service on the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, is of great interest to folks in the east end. Ken Peterson, District 5, explained that, to keep the ad valorem tax steady, the county needs to add about $100 million new value to the TCSD annually and must “run hard to stand still.”
Projects to improve performance and mitigate issues with water are almost complete, said Minnick. These include a chlorinator, a mixer to prevent contents of the Centerville water tower getting stale, and removal of a tank.
During question time, Linda Moore, who lives where Goochland, Hanover and Louisa come together, contended that she lives in a “911 desert” and suggested that new fire-rescue stations be accessible to more remote parts of the area.
Minnick said that the supervisors have looked hard at staffing the Sheriff’s Office and fire-rescue for a number of years.
Peterson explained that the county has three 24/7/365 paid fire-rescue crews on duty, deployed in the east, west, and central parts of the county. These paid responders are supplemented, when possible, by volunteer providers. Mutual aid agreements with neighboring counties are in place to lend a hand. The supervisors fund additional paid providers each fiscal year and expect to double the number in seven years. Goochland has an amazing corps of fire-rescue volunteers who commit many hours of their free time to train and run calls that save lives and protect property in the county. For a variety of reasons, their numbers are declining as demand for service rises.
(Food for thought. Goochland ambulances transport patients to Richmond, Charlottesville, and points in between. It can take several hours between the time an EMS crew is dispatched to a call and is back in service. When things get busy—a more frequent occurrence as the county grows—a condition known as NUA (no units available) exists. If available, volunteers pitch in to respond to calls until a “duty crew” returns to the county, but there are no guarantees this will happen.)
Criteria for siting new fire-rescue stations, said Peterson will include population density. The location of existing fire-rescue stations, some of which were built more than 50 years ago, are now in the wrong place relative to where people live.
Peterson said there are no traffic studies underway that could result in a traffic signal at River Road and Route 6. A signal is planned at Route 6 and Hope Church. Minnick said that the county is working with VDOT to improve safety at the northbound Rt. 288/Broad Street Road interchange by adding additional exit land and installing a traffic signal. Plans are also in the works to extend Fairgrounds Road to Route 6.
The county does not build or maintain any roads, that is VDOT’s responsibility. The county engages in very cumbersome process to prioritize funds allocated for road construction and maintenance in the county.