Isle of Wight takes stock

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2007

SMITHFIELD—The State of the County breakfast sponsored by the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce recently drew more than 100 people, including representatives from the County of Isle of Wight and the towns of Windsor and Smithfield.

Held at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Smithfield, the program was designed to give government leaders a chance to speak of their communities’ strengths and the challenges facing their localities, according to Judy Begland, vice chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

“This is the time when we just pause and take stock of where we are,” she said.

Smithfield Police Chief Mark Marshall said a main concern of his department is safety as the town continues to grow.

“With the population increase, there are more instances of crime,” he said.

“Not violent crimes so much as crimes against property.”

He noted that the Smithfield department has a good relationship with other law enforcement organizations and shared information has been a tremendous help in solving some of these crimes.

Marshall said he is proud of his police force, adding that his officers are doing a great job.

But an issue facing the department has been retaining good policemen, he said.

“Our officers earn somewhere in the $35,000 bracket annually, while it takes as much as $60,000 just to train him.

When we train an officer and afterwards he decides to leave, just look at the valuable resource we’re losing.”

Marshall said a new police station also was something that would be looked at in the future.

Windsor Mayor Marvin Crocker gave an overview of the progress made by the town

during the past year.

He noted that the town had acquired several new businesses and was in the process of building

85 new homes on

Shiloh Drive. He added that a $14,000 grant had been received from the government to conduct a water study and that plans to build a community center were in the works.

“We’ve also expanded our cemetery by 600 plots, but we hope we don’t have any takers,” he joked.

Smithfield Town Manager Peter Stephenson dealt with improvements in town, as well.

“What a difference a year makes?,” he said, adding that the Town of Smithfield has made great strides in several directions during the past year.

“We adopted a water conservation management plan and after 12 years, we’ve finally seen some progress in relocating some of the residents in the Pinewood Heights section.”

Stephenson said tourism had increased, Olden Days had been brought back and the schoolhouse museum had been drawing quite a few visitors.

He noted that work on improving Church Street would not begin until January to avoid having the street torn up during the holidays.

In closing, Stephenson noted with a smile, “And no, we have no plans for annexation yet.”

Isle of Wight schools have also made progress, according to Dr. Mary Mahaffy, assistant superintendent.

“First, I am very pleased to announce that our school system has received a budget award from the Government Financial Officers Association.

The credit for this goes to Mr. Jenkins, our chief financial officer and we’re very proud to have received it.

“I am also proud to say that at this time, all IOW Public Schools are fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education.”

Mahaffy gave credit to School Superintendent Dr. Michael McPhearson and the school staff for a number of improvements, including an increase in teacher salaries, “which helps to ensure that we keep good teachers,” she said.

Chairman of the IOW Board of Supervisors Tom Ivy, who lost his re-election bid in November, spoke of several major improvement projects the board had undertaken.

He said two of the most important and certainly most needed would be the new courts building and the Smithfield Fire Department soon to be constructed.

Other improvements Ivy mentioned included a reformed emergency management department manned by Rusty Chase and Andy Aigner and an information services center managed by Don Robertson.

Ivy said in closing that relationships between the county and the towns of Windsor and Smithfield have improved to a level never seen before. “We have collaborated on several projects, and are currently working together on countywide affordable housing.”

Sheriff Charlie Phelps, who collected more votes than any county candidate in the November election, said he expected his office to be busier than ever in the coming years because of growth in the county.

“My office is working very closely with the county administrator’s office to be sure we’re prepared for the influx of residents when the Benn’s Grant development is completed.

“There’s no question that we’ll need additional personnel, especially deputies, and this is going to cost.

But with the expected growth, it will be necessary.”

Phelps said his office covered 324 square miles and provided 24-hour coverage. He noted that his office is responsible for safety in the courts during session, as well as safety in the schools.

He added that soon he would have to train deputies on immigration issues.

“We have been able to handle these duties,” he said, “but in the coming months, we will have to increase our work force.”

He said another issue soon to be addressed would be replacing the current animal shelter.

“We are looking into that now.”