IOW hears VDOT woes, possible cuts

Published 8:07 am Saturday, February 21, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—With the $787 billion federal stimulus package now a certainty, transportation projects and continued budget cuts fueled discussions at the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday.

According to MacFarland Neblett, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Waverly residency administrator, the economy may soon affect programs and staffing of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The Waverly residency office oversees the roads in Isle of Wight, Smithfield, Surry, Sussex and Windsor. The state’s roads are managed by 44 local residencies.

Residency consolidation throughout the state is being proposed for implementation during the winter of 2010. Cities and counties would be grouped into 29 residencies instead of 44.

It was not clear whether the Waverly office would be one of the residency offices to close.

On Thursday, VDOT announced it would lay off 1,450 employees, made up of 450 hourly and 1,000 full-time positions over the next 18 months. Neblett said that consolidation is still a tentative plan. A statewide public hearing will be held in March, with the exact location and date to be announced.

Transportation project discussions came to the forefront at the board meeting.

“We are looking at several projects that stimulus funding could apply to,” said Neblett, and mentioned improvements to Routes 603 and 620. However, if a contract has already been signed for a project, that project cannot receive stimulus money, said county engineer Kristin Mazur.

Vice Chairman Phillip Bradshaw asked that projects within VDOT’s six-year plan, road paving projects and drainage improvements along Route 460 and Route 10 be considered for stimulus eligibility.

The board addressed a VDOT request to connect to Smithfield’s water system.

A VDOT maintenance facility located at Waterworks Road, the dividing boundary between Smithfield and Isle of Wight, is currently experiencing well failure and is not located in a service district. The facility is located within Isle of Wight limits and would need the county’s permission to connect to Smithfield’s water main just across the boundary.

Supervisor Al Casteen motioned to approve the request. During discussion, Bradshaw said that he was concerned with the continuing drainage problems at Route 460 and Route 10, a project he said VDOT has held up for 30 years. Casteen’s motion was rejected 4-1 by the board.

Supervisor Stan Clark motioned to enter into negotiations with VDOT regarding the water connection request and the drainage improvements. The motion carried 4-1, with Casteen voting against.

During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, Windsor resident Mike Luter addressed his concerns about the dog training facility in Zuni for which the board had approved a land use permit on Jan. 22.

Luter said, “I’m here for two reasons, and those reasons are my two nephews.”

He expressed concern about the facility’s absence of a fence and the safety factor for his 4-year-old and 6-year-old nephews. Luter asked the board to bring the matter back for reconsideration. The board expressed that a previously approved issue could not be reconsidered.

Steven Jenkins, chief of operations for Isle of Wight schools, updated the board on proceedings from the school board’s first budget work session on Thursday. It is projected that more than 20 professional and support positions may be cut for fiscal year 2010.

Some assistant principal positions were scheduled to be cut, but those cuts are likely to be reversed during the next work session and replaced with cuts to lead teacher, library and special education assistant positions, said Jenkins. Total payroll deductions are approximately $1.6 million.

The school board will meet for a second budget work session at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.