Broadband In PE

Published 4:58 pm Thursday, June 30, 2011

PRINCE EDWARD – Broadband service may finally be coming to Prince Edward.

“The board may remember-it seems more than a year ago, it may be two years ago-that Buggs Island Telephone Company…had a plan to provide wireless broadband in 12 counties…(a) considerable number all the way up through Buckingham from Mecklenburg,” cited County Administrator Wade Bartlett at the board's regular June meting. “They received a considerable amount of money from the federal government (in) the stimulus; they also received matching funds from the Tobacco Commission. And, as of today, not much has happened.”

When it was announced, the company cited in a press release that the BIT Wireless project intends to offer wireless broadband at speeds of up to 10 Mbps to as many as 100,000 households, 14,800 businesses, and 800 community anchor institutions. In addition, it was cited, the project will promote broadband adoption by discounting the cost of the equipment necessary to subscribe at home.

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Bartlett noted that he contacted the Tobacco Commission on the status of the project and had received an email “that it is still an active project” and that “it is anticipated that in about eight months, we'll start seeing a roll out in Prince Edward County.”

Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) received an $18.9 million federal grant.

Joint Public Hearings Set

Following the request of the planning commission, supervisors agreed to schedule joint public hearings with the commission to consider an anticipated rezoning and special use permit applications related to truck yard use.

It was noted that the commission expects a rezoning application and special use permit application will be submitted by Tim Tharpe. The application, a written summary in the board packet detailed, would “entail a rezoning request to change the zoning of a parcel along U. S. 460 west bound from A-1 (Agricultural Conservation) to C-1 (General Commercial) with an accompanying Special Use Permit Application to operate a Truck Yard at the site.”

A joint public hearing has been set for the July 12 board meeting to rezone the property from Agricultural A-1, Agricultural Conservation to C-1 General Commercial; a separate joint public hearing has been set for June 29 for a special use permit to operate a Truck Yard in a C-1, General Commercial District.

Longwood Request

Supervisors, following a public hearing, approved the special use request from the Longwood University Real Estate Foundation for a special use permit to operate a woodyard on 17.6 acres off of U. S. Rt. 460 near the Nottoway County line.

Louise Waller, a spokesperson for Longwood University, explained that Longwood has been burning sawdust since 1983; it provides heat and hot water for the University and saves the university over a million dollars a year.

“About six years ago, we started taking a more proactive approach to managing our fuel system. Rather than…taking the sawdust…directly from the saw mills and taking it to our boiler, we…started stockpiling it in property that we were leasing,” Ms. Waller explained.

That, she said, was very successful and they realized that they “really probably needed to eventually buy or own property rather than leasing.”

In looking at properties, they wanted at least 10 acres, fairly isolated, accessible, and to be zoned agriculture.

“This property became available several months ago and it met our needs quite nicely,” she said.

The plan, Ms. Waller detailed, is for Longwood's Real Estate Foundation to hold the property about a year so the University can buy it. At that point in time, she added, they will begin by solely storing the sawdust there, but plan to buy equipment necessary to help process other wood residues and debris into biomass. They anticipate it being an economic generator for the community.

It was noted that in staff introductory remarks that lands owned by the state are not subject to the County's zoning ordinance; if the property is held by Longwood University, it would not be subject to the County's ordinances.

“…As a good neighbor…they have come to us and agreed to go through this special use permit process with us,” County Planer Alecia Daves-Johnson cited.

Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt asked if they were going to put a grinder on the property and Ms. Waller confirmed that eventually they will and detailed plans to clean up the back side of the property and have a good buffer around it.

“We do not plan on grinding 24/7 or even every day of the week, but we would like to take wood residues and debris-branches, limbs after a storm, trunks of trees that are left over after wood is harvested and turn that into fuel,” Ms. Waller said. “Stuff that usually there isn't a market for, we would like to take and put to good use.”

She went on to explain that the grinder would not be operated early in the morning or late in the evening. It would be in the middle of the day and not every day of the week.

Board members unanimously approved the special use request.

Hearings Held

Supervisors held a series of five public hearings with little comment:

*The board approved a resolution supporting the Virginia Department of Transportation's Six-Year Plan.

VDOT Representative Randy Hamilton highlighted that the Six Year Plan is not a construction plan, but an allocation plan. Funding, factoring telecommunication fees, projects earmarking a portion of funds for three specific projects (though none would have the complete amount of funds for the work) and includes the Back Hampden-Sydney Road from .08 miles west of Rt. 644 to .57 miles east of Rt. 644; replacing the existing bridge and approaches on Lockett Road; and Aspen Hill Road from .01 mile north of Rt. 460 to .01 mile south of Rt. 619.

Hamilton explained that the plan is basically a continuation of last year's plan. No projects were added.

*The board agreed to request (through resolution approval) that VDOT implement through truck restrictions on the entire length of State Routes 735 and Rt. 600 in the village of Rice. It was noted that the through truck designation would only apply to those trucks that don't have a destination in the area-so those coming from a location on the proposed routes or going to a location would not be impacted.

*The board also agreed to allow personal services as a use in the agriculture conservation district (A-1) by special use permit. The planning commission held a separate public hearing and had recommended approval.

*Supervisors approved amendments to the zoning ordinance that establishes a definition and use classifications for truck yard (allowing it to be an industrial use type by special use permit in the County's General Commercial C-1 and General Industrial I-1 districts) and adds aquaculture to the existing definition of agriculture.

Library Support

The Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library's extended hours that began last December will continue.

Supervisors, following the request of the Director of the Central Virginia Regional Library Peggy Epperson, voted to continue chipping in $20,000 in funding for the coming fiscal year.

The board contributed $166,559.

Since they extended the hours, Ms. Epperson reported, they have recorded over 5,000 additional library visits during the evening hours (after 6 p.m. through 9 p.m.). She noted that many community groups have had the opportunity to use the facility.

“…The library's open right now and will be open until 9 o'clock tonight,” she said. “I called over there right before I came in for the meeting and right now there's 21 people in there using the library.”

Monthly totals, she cited, are running around 3,000 people per month. She notes that they've seen great surges in program attendance. Ms. Epperson also said they think they have enough trained personnel to provide Sunday afternoon hours-probably from 1-5 p.m.

It was reported that the Town had contributed $10,000 (which is in keeping with the library construction contribution based on population of two-thirds for the County to one-third for the Town).

Patty Pugh, Chair of the local library board, also highlighted the use of the new library.

School Board Appointments

Supervisors approved recommended candidates for appointment to the school board. Susan Lawman (the current vice-chair) will continue to represent the Lockett District; Prospect will be represented by new appointee Darin Thomas. Current Prospect School Board member Thomas Tillerson did not seek reappointment.

The four-year terms begin in July.

Highway Matters

In a written report on highway projects included in the board packet, it was cited in maintenance activities planned for the next 30 days include crews mowing along primary and secondary routes.

It was also reported that Rt. 613 over the Sandy River will be closed to July 15 for bridge replacement and that a signed detour using routes 612 and 611 will be in place; that the bridge on Rt. 633 over the Bush River will be narrowed to one 11-foot lane for repairs.

It was also reported that a speed study was requested for Schultz Mill Road and that the highway department will install curve left and right signs with a 30 MPH advisory speed plate at the curves on the unpaved and paved sections of Rt. 631; a no U-turn sign will be installed in the south median nose facing the Rt. 15 Southbound left turn lane at the intersection of Routes 15 and 628; a request for a “school bus stop ahead” sign is under review for Howardsville Turnpike; and that an investigation is underway on a request for a speed limit study on Rt. 683.

Rt. 628 Update

Representatives from Hurt & Profitt engineers were on hand to present an update on plans for Rt. 628. While it's not set in stone that the County will move forward, they are moving ahead on specific construction bids for the alternate Route just south of Farmville that could cut down on traffic through the county's school complex (providing an alternate access) and include a turning lane on Rt. 15.

Specifically, they will look to construction bids, which would be advertised based on acceptable funding from the owner as a criteria to proceed.

“Obviously, you all can reject all the bids if you see fit when they come in. There is no guarantee to the bidders that the low bidder is gonna get a project and move forward,” a spokesman for Hurt & Profitt cited.

Still, it may or may not be affordable for the County. The total cost, including the engineering estimate is expected to be about $3.9 million Bartlett cited last month. While the County has $2 million in revenue sharing (half of which are county funds) and $500,000 from VDOT to ensure that upgrades at the intersection would not have to be redone once VDOT does their upgrades to Rt. 15, leaving about a $1.4 million shortfall that would have to be absorbed by the county on the project.

“…We see this as being a very competitive project from a bidding stand point,” the Hurt & Profitt spokesperson cited.

In Other News…

*Supervisors, having previously approved the budget for the coming fiscal year, approved a budget resolution and appropriations for the approved budget.

*Bartlett reported that, looking at their budget, things seem to be fine. Revenues are strong and expenses are within their budget “so we should end up this year in pretty good shape.” He noted delinquent tax collections have increased considerably over the previous year-citing about 30 percent.

*Supervisors agreed to allow the County Administrator to dispose of surplus vehicles from the sheriff's department at his discretion.

*It was noted that the County received $51,128 from the sale of land for delinquent taxes.

*Supervisors re-appointed Southard Brumfield to the board of appeals for building code, re-appointed Ken Copeland and Joe Eppes to the Poplar Hill Community Development Authority; re-appointed Vice Chairman Howard Simpson as the board's representative to the Poplar Hill Community Development Authority (and expanded the appointment time from one to two years); appointed Ken Copeland and reappointed Edgar Jones to the Prince Edward County Industrial Development Authority, and appointed Pauly Hollingsworth to the Social Services Board. The Board also tapped Myra Green to serve on the Central Virginia Regional Library Board from among three candidates for the position. (She received five of the eight votes cast.)

*Supervisors agreed to reappoint James R. Ennis as the County Attorney and to reappoint Brian Butler and Morgan Greer as deputy county attorneys effective July 1 to June 20, 2012. Their appointments were set to expire June 30.

*Youth Empowerment Director Jacqueline Ghee asked board members for support, detailing the efforts of the program including a pregnancy prevention program and have joined or collaborated with social services in providing classes on finding employment. The board, which rejected a similar request last month, failed to provide $5,000, as had been the motion. It failed on a 4-4 vote.

*Supervisors, following a staff recommendation and the request of residents Jane and John Lee, agreed to announce their intent to close State Route 701 (located near the Briery Creek Wildlife Management Area. Though the gravel run dead ends, it does not have a cul-de-sac, but rather the driveway of the home has become a cul-de-sac and there are a lot of late night visitors to the end of the road.

*The board agreed to opt out of the VRS program and to join the VACo program to provide line of duty act services. It was noted in a memo to the board that the General Assembly pushed the cost of the Line of Duty program to local governments who have the option to purchase coverage from the Line of Duty fund managed by VRS, opt out of the VRS and individually fund it, or opt out of VRS and group self-fund through VACo.

The Line of Duty Act provides certain benefits to eligible high hazard employees and volunteers while acting within their authorized duties.

*Supervisors agreed to advertise for a full time position with the County Administrator's office. The decision moves from part-time to full-time.

*The board agreed to approve a letter of support for the Town's application to the Virginia Main Street program and a five-year commitment on the donation of office space, utilities and access to office equipment.