PE Eyes Freezing Business

Published 4:40 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

PRINCE EDWARD-The County's cannery could have a chilling effect for small businesses.

And that could be a good thing.

Supervisors, at their October 11 meeting, gave the go-ahead to apply for a tobacco grant to further expand the County's cannery to add equipment to support the processing of low-acid food products and expanding business opportunities.

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An updated facility would allow growers to quick-freeze produce, fruits and meats-potentially opening opportunities for small businesses.

Specifically, the board will seek $486,000 in Tobacco Commission grant funds.

Before they would spend those funds, however, they will look to grant funds through the USDA's specialty crop grant (administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture) and includes a private foundation contribution totaling $35,000, for a feasibility study.

That study is expected to provide information on regional foods availability, demand, evaluation of the cannery site, access to three-phase; power, proximity to participating growers, proximity to support services, and political receptiveness to hosting a value-added processing facility. The grant would also determine the optimal scale and infrastructure for a facility processing local foods, costs of facility development, and management structure.

Board Chairman William “Buckie” Fore asked if there were any facility elsewhere in the state similar to this.

“No, which is what is so awesome about this is there is not presently a flash freezing facility or a co-packing service, if you will, in Virginia for the small volume producer,” County Planner Alecia Daves-Johnson explained. “Now they do have some in the eastern part that deal with seafood production, large volumes of tomatoes…but for the small volume producers-which is what we're really catering to here, we're trying to aggregate several small volume producers together to make a product-the lack of those facilities keeps them from developing their businesses. So, if we're able to provide that facility, then we're able to prove them with this link to be able to develop their business.

It has drawn some regional interest.

As for potential space growth, the cannery site has four acres.

“If this really caught on, the next step would probably be building a whole new facility that could handle it. We have definite capacity problems in our cannery because it was built for home use,” County Administrator Wade Bartlett said.

Highway Matters

The County also listed four priorities that will be submitted in the development of VDOT's Virginia 2035 State Highway Plan. The regional plan aims to incorporate the top three priorities and the CRC staff and the board will work to prioritize the list of 18.

The County's priority projects include: the Route 15 and 628 intersection and two portions on Route 658, which Wright noted is “falling apart.”

County officials were to select priorities from a list of 71 projects.

Currently, there are no formula dollars for localities to allocate to projects on the Six Year Plan for road improvements and the board looked to add the project of the Back Hampden-Sydney Road, having set aside allocations in previous years, to part of the regional plan.

Virginia Department of Transportation's Residency Administrator Kevin Wright reported that they are currently mowing in the county, finished paving of Route 307 (milled and overlaid a section), and that a contractor on Route 460 with a boom axe is doing some additional mowing of some slopes.

A written report also detailed that VDOT has conducted a speed study on Redd Shop Road and recommended that the speed limit from the Route 15 North intersection to Route 665 (3.51 miles) be reduced to 45 MPH; a traffic engineering review was done on Route 15 about 1.2 miles south of Route 665 to determine the need for a “Littering Is Illegal” sign and installation is pending; a 750 feet distance plaque will be added on an existing “Side Road” warning sign and a “Watch For Turning Vehicles” sign will be installed on Route 47 in advance of the intersection of Route 671 for south-bound traffic; that they are awaiting approval to lower the speed limit on Germantown Road to 45 MPH; a traffic engineering review was conducted in a specified area on Route 775 to determine if conditions warrant a “Watch For Children” signs; and, following a review, a “Blind Pedestrian” sign will be installed at the end of the Town limit on Route 1009.

Public Hearing

Supervisors held a public hearing on a regional hazard mitigation plan and, after much discussion, gave their approval.

Speaker Cornell Walker, citing the events in Louisa County, asked if any more consideration would be given to earthquakes.

Ms. Alecia Daves-Johnson noted that it came up at the planning commission meeting.

“…The earthquake is going to be reviewed,” Ms. Daves-Johnson said. “The draft of this will probably need to be submitted prior to all the data from the Mineral, Virginia earthquake being compiled, but it will be submitted as an addendum to this.”

The plan, with suggested changes needs to be completed and submitted by November. (In giving its approval, the board also asked that the Commonwealth Regional Council to include the dam breach inundation zone maps in the final plan.) FEMA would have the opportunity to make recommendations and the plan would then come back to localities that can then make additional comments or approve the plan.

Farmville Lake

One resident who resides beside Farmville Lake detailed problems with efforts to repair Farmville Lake. The road across the dam caved in with recent rains. He detailed issues with convincing a regulatory agency to allow the repairs.

“…I'd be just as upset as he is tonight with the bureaucracy and the noses that have gotten stuck into this thing,” commented Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt. “You know if there's one thing I feel for you about is the bureaucracy end of it and I don't know how much as a County entity we can do to help you except try to get everybody to get their noses out of it and let ya'll fix it.”

“That's all I want,” the speaker commented.

“Then let us try,” Gantt said.

In Other News…

*The board also concurred to have the law firm of McGuire Woods serve as the bond council. (The decision to hire the law firm is up to the Granite Falls CDA, whose members are the board of supervisors.)

It was noted in a memo to the board that Prince Edward Development (which hopes to build a hotel and conference center) anticipates final funding commitments by February and that closing documents for various funding sources must be developed by the Granite Falls CDA bond council. Bartlett also highlighted that Prince Edward Development (PED) has agreed to pay. It was noted in a letter to the board that the IDA is holding a security deposit of $75,000 that is refundable to the PED if financing is not closed.

“This refundable deposit may be used as security for PED's legal fee reimbursement obligation if the hotel project does not go forward,” an unsigned letter from PED Manager Robert Fowler said.

The Granite Falls CDA is scheduled to meet prior to the November board of supervisors meeting.

*Supervisors agreed to create a leave donation program for all County employees in cases of serious medical necessity, as approved by the county administrator. To be eligible to receive donations, a worker must exhaust all annual and compensatory leave and all but one week of accrued sick leave.

*Supervisors appointed James Davis as the alternate representative to the Piedmont Regional Jail Board.

*The board authorized three public hearings on matters scheduled to go to the planning commission this week. (The commission and board hold separate public hearings.)

Specifically, supervisors will consider an amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow commercial outdoor sports and recreation by use by special use permit in the A-1 district (Ms. Daves-Johnson cited that she has four requests for uses, but that it's not permitted in the A-1 zone); will consider a special use permit application from Kenneth Hill to erect a four-by-six-foot six-inch sign, a sign advertising a home business on Green Bay Road (home businesses are limited to six square feet of sign space); and consider a rezoning application from Muhammad Umar Alahbakshs to rezone property on Railroad Avenue in Prospect from A-1 to C-1 General Commercial for auto sales. The property has operated as a commercial land use for more than 20 years, it was noted in a memo to the board, and is on the commercial growth corridor.

*Supervisors agreed to provide a surplus vehicle to HOPE.

*The board agreed to move their November meeting from the second Tuesday (election day) to November 17 at 7 p.m. The annual Virginia Association of Counties runs from November 13-15 and staff had recommended the date change.

*The board took action to post County-owned property for no hunting. The property includes the landfill, industrial park and the land adjoining the regional jail.