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Newsoms project nears contract signing

Southampton County Administrator Michael W. Johnson informed the county’s Board of Supervisors during its Sept. 28 meeting that he is hopeful the Newsoms Housing and Drainage Improvement Project will be under contract in October.

Michael W. Johnson

The project had been facing a delay with regard to an old school that was planned to be demolished as part of the project.

Johnson noted in a written report to the board that the school, known as the “Newsoms School for Blacks,” was from circa 1935.

The county consulted with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to see if the school was eligible for the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places.

Adrienne Birge-Wilson, an architectural historian in the department’s Review and Compliance Division, thanked the county, in a letter, for providing an intensive-level survey of the school, identified as DHR ID #270-5014, and then she shared the department’s position on the structure’s register eligibility.

“We concur that due to loss of integrity and being in ruinous condition, #270-5014 is not eligible

for the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places,” Birge-Wilson wrote. “We recommend that the project will have no adverse effect.”

At the Sept. 28 board meeting, Johnson said, “That seems to be resolved now, so I’m cautiously optimistic that we will get this project under contract probably within the month.”

Expanding on this summary in his written report, he stated, “Following receipt of the (‘no adverse effect’) letter, we updated and reposted the “Combined Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact and Intent to Request Release of Funds” on Sept. 14. The public objection period expires in early October, after which we should be set to sign the contract with (the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development) and officially kick this project off.”

Earlier this year, Johnson provided details on the Newsoms Housing and Drainage Improvement Project, noting that Gov. Ralph Northam announced Feb. 11 the approval of grant funding that would help advance the project.

“The source of funding for that is coming through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development in the form of a Community Development Block Grant,” Johnson said, adding that the grant is for more than $1.2 million. “What the project will include is the rehabilitation of seven houses, substantial reconstruction of two additional houses, demolition of one blighted structure and then major improvements to the storm drainage system throughout the Thomaston Road neighborhood and the Town of Newsoms.”