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PE Paves Plan For Alternate

PRINCE EDWARD-There will be an alternate Route 628.

County supervisors, following a lengthy discussion Thursday, approved a series of motions to construct the new access road just south of the current intersection on Route 15.

Specifically, on a series of 6-2 votes-with Prospect Supervisor Howard “Pete” Campbell and Farmville District (701) representative Jim Wilck opposing-the board agreed to move forward with the road project and agreed to have County Administrator Wade Bartlett, County Attorney James R. Ennis and Chairman William “Buckie” Fore try to come up with incentives to assist in the acquisition of the property without legal proceedings.

Supervisors turned to bonds last month to finance some of its long-term debt and also factored about $1.4 million that could be used for the new road, though they did not commit to construction.

Overall, the cost for the new road (with a new turn lane) totals $3,472,059.06 with funding factored from the state and revenue sharing from VDOT, the County's cost was projected at $1,397,059.06.

The board, in a separate motion, also agreed to authorize the County Administrator and County Attorney to proceed with the acquisition of the property and the easements by consent or condemnation proceedings to obtain legal rights to enter the respective properties needed to relocate the existing utilities and to construct the Route 628 roadway project.

Supervisors also agreed to request Virginia Department of Transportation to move $575,000 in revenue sharing allocation from the Route 692 project at Hampden-Sydney to the Route 628 project; that the County Administrator be directed to update an appraisal that's needed for the acquisition of property and easements for Route 628; and that they accept a base bid and one alternate of Haymes Brothers of Chatham and that the chairman and/or county administrator be authorized to sign the contract under the condition that the property needed for construction and utility easement acquisition have been carried through the proper process such that VDOT revenue sharing program is satisfied; and that the firm of Hurt & Proffitt be authorized to proceed with finalizing the contract options for the formal signing once VDOT requirements for property acquisition and utility easements and utility relocation have been satisfied.

The new access road would provide a separate access point across from the intersection at Lowe's and the County's business park east and reconnect to the existing Route 628 beyond the school system's bus garage.

The new road would also serve as an access to the proposed Granite Falls hotel and conference center that would be located on an old quarry site on county property. While that project has yet to crystallize, if it is built, it was noted in a memo in the board packet the County would be reimbursed by either having the CDA levy a road assessment tax on the hotel in an amount equivalent to the debt service or the County can establish a special service district or transportation district and the County would levy a special assessment in the district to collect an amount equal to the debt service.

If the hotel is not built, it was also cited, the County could still create a service or transportation district and levy a special assessment to a collect a portion or possibly all of the cost from any lands that would benefit from the new road.

Small Window

There was a relatively short time-frame for the board to take action on the bid to move forward with construction.

The County received an initial bid August 2 that was good for 90 days, County Administrator Wade Bartlett detailed. While it expired November 2, he said they have a letter stating that they (the firm) would hold their prices through December 16, provided the 360-day contract time remain the same starting from the notice to proceed, that they have a contract in hand by that date and have a notice to proceed prior to January 15.

Bartlett noted that they don't believe if they start after January 15 that they can get the project done by the end of the next calendar year. If they had to come back the following year costs would go up. As a project sits during the winter, he also said, they would have to come back and redo some of the work, re-compact to meet VDOT specs and that would increase the costs.

The County cannot award the contract, Bartlett detailed, until they acquire the land, the right away, which is a VDOT requirement.

And that precipitated a lengthy discussion on a timetable for working out a deal with property owners.

“If one or more of the landowners adamantly disagrees with how this is going to be handled and decide they're not gonna sell, what are the chances of us still beating this…deadline that's been set?” asked Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt.

“Assuming all other things go perfectly,” Ennis said, “we will be in a position once we have negotiated with the landowner to make an immediate decision on eminent domain under a procedure known as a quick take where we will have the documents prepared in either event to file a certificate of take with the circuit court, put our offer on deposit with the clerk. As of the date of filing of that certificate, we will own that property and can commence construction at that point. And then we will argue over the value at a later time.”

Still, there was reluctance over having to follow that process, with a preference to work things out with the landowner. Gantt, during the discussion, had asked about a possible closed session, but the discussion proceeded.

“…To get this thing through on your timeline, to get this thing through with the least amount of legal work, to get this thing through the way we would all want to be treated, the thing to do is come up with the best deal we can put together for him and go forward,” commented Gantt. “And what I was gonna do in closed session was find out what the best deal we could put together with him is.”

Essentially, with the board's action, they will seek to work things out with the property owner, but the board also laid the groundwork to proceed with the project in the event they are not able to reach an agreement.