Isle of Wight County: 2016 in review

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Proposals for infrastructure projects, an economic development initiative, and an ongoing debate over chickens on residential properties dominated headlines in Isle of Wight County during 2016.

1. Environmental group offers 460 alternative. In January, the Southern Environmental Law Center released an alternative proposal for upgrades to Route 460, which it claimed would have fewer environmental impacts and would cost less than the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to build a northern bypass around Windsor.

In early 2015, VDOT proposed a non-tolled 17-mile bypass going north of Windsor, which the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors supported unanimously via a resolution in hopes that it would give the county some say in the plan. Windsor’s town council, however, opposed the plan, claiming it would ruin the town’s economy and create environmental and safety issues.

Windsor Mayor Carita Richardson was impressed with the group’s counter-proposal.

“I think this ‘practicable’ modified version of Alternative 4 that uses only 88 feet of right-of-way is excellent, she is reported to have said via an email at the time. “Unlike the plan offered by VDOT (Alternative 4) to redo the old 460, it impacts very few businesses in Windsor. It also gives us a center turn lane for the public to access our businesses, and that lane will act as a buffer between oncoming lanes of traffic.”

2. IWCS asks for $54.4 million, withdraws from Pruden Center. In February, Isle of Wight County Schools Supt. Dr. James Thornton estimated that $54,403,019 would be needed for fiscal year 2016-2017, a $1.8 million increase from the then-current budget of $52.5 million. According to Thornton, the additional funding was to cover budget increases in technology and transportation for laptops, maintenance, bus drivers, and a new bus lease. Year-round professional development and athletics and instructional coaches also were mentioned in the request for funding.

Also in February, the Isle of Wight County School Board voted unanimously to withdraw the school system from participation with the Pruden Center in Suffolk, which specializes in vocational education. According to IWCS Spokesperson Lynn Briggs, the school system was having to pay $950,000 to the Pruden Center regardless of how many students wanted to participate in its various programs, and that the school system could save time and money by developing its own vocational program. Briggs added that IWCS will still participate with the Pruden Center for the 2016-2017 school year, but 2017 would be the final year for the partnership.

3. Supervisors approve resolution authorizing SPSA post-2018 agreement. The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors approved and adopted a resolution in March to authorize the execution of the use and support agreement post-2018 between Isle of Wight County and the Southeastern Public Service Authority.

According to County Attorney Mark Popovich, Isle of Wight County had done research and received RFPs from other companies, and what SPSA was offering was the best choice, citing that the price the County would pay is about half of what the County currently pays.

4. Walters says no to range. The Isle of Wight County Planning Commission voted unanimously in late May to not recommend that the Board of Supervisors pass a conditional use permit allowing a shooting range for public use in Walters.

The decision came after a contentious hearing, in which the commission’s chairman, James Ford, several times called for the audience to be respectful to other speakers, including commissioners.

American K-9 Interdiction LLC had requested the permit for 57.44 acres, which includes four acres of land at 4007 Burdette Road. The range would have made accommodations for 25m pistols, skeet and 100m rifles and 50m tact rifles, with shooting allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and some private shooting, but no earlier than 8 a.m. The Board of Supervisors also rejected the permit at a later hearing.

5. IW OKs plan to use Motorola for new radio system. The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion in June authorizing Chairman Rex Alphin to begin carrying out an agreement with Motorola to install an 800 MHz public safety radio system.

Per direction from the Federal Communications Commission, the new communication format has to be up and running by Dec. 31, 2018 but there is no timetable of when to begin. Once in place, the system will allow for greater clarity and range when dispatchers broadcast calls to the sheriff’s office, fire departments or rescue squads.

6. IW appoints new county administrator. Randy R. Keaton was named Isle of Wight’s new county administrator in July, and took office on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Since 2013, Keaton has been the deputy executive director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. He has served as county manager of Pasquotank County, North Carolina for 26 years and has worked as a county manager and finance officer of Perquimans County, North Carolina, as well as register of deeds, budget officer, and clerk to the board of Camden County, North Carolina.

7. Windsor votes on poultry. In September, Windsor’s town council voted unanimously to approve a motion to allow residents in Windsor’s A1 agricultural district to raise poultry, with the restriction that the pens and cages will be at least 100 feet from any residential district and at least 50 feet from any other agricultural district. However, the council nixed the proposal of allowing poultry to be raised in residential districts because it’s a violation of the Town’s Zoning Ordinance.

8. Corps issues permit for 460. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit for the U.S. Route 460 project in early October. The current proposal for the $450 million project includes a new four-lane divided highway between U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk to west of Windsor, including a bypass. From west of Windsor to one mile west of Zuni, the existing road would be reconstructed and upgraded to a four-lane divided highway with a new bridge across the Blackwater River.

The permit from the Corps of Engineers was needed because the project would affect 40 acres of wetlands as well as numerous streams and tributaries. However, there are still further steps before the project actually gets built.

9. IW formalizes ST Tissue initiative. The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in November to execute their part of an economic development incentive package with the City of Franklin to entice ST Tissue to expand its current operations in the county in 2017.

The deal, valued at approximately $272,500 over five years, stipulates that ST Tissue would receive 25 percent off its total machinery and tools tax owed to the county, provided the company spends $15 million in new machinery and equipment, and creates 50 new full-time jobs with an overall average wage of $53,000 per year.

The agreement will take effect Jan. 1, 2018 and end Dec. 31, 2022. As a result of the incentive, ST Tissue received an additional $167,500 from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund.

10. Windsor chooses option C. Windsor’s town council chose a one-story option for its new municipal building during its December work session. During the work session, the council reviewed plans for one and two-story options.

The plan they ultimately chose, labeled “option C,” had a measurement of 7,875 square feet at $225 per, with an estimated construction cost of $1.77 million, with an additional million for site work. Other costs would include equipment ($200,000), architectural/engineering services ($263,000) and testing and inspections ($35,438) for a total projected cost of $3.65 million as-designed.