Mathews directs VDOT to prioritize drainage issues
Mathews residents, speaking out Tuesday during Virginia Department of Transportation’s public hearing on the county’s Secondary Six Year Plan, held during the Mathews County Board of Supervisors meeting, convinced the board and VDOT to prioritize drainage issues in the upcoming year.
VDOT’s schedule for secondary road improvements in each locality is reviewed and updated annually, then brought to a public hearing for comment from residents. And Mathews residents had a lot to say about it this year, beginning with county supervisor G.C. Morrow.
Morrow, speaking after VDOT’s Saluda Residency Administrator Joyce McGowan had told the board which roads were due for improvements during the next six years, asked if revenue-sharing funds allocated for improving Haven Beach Road could instead be used to solve drainage issues in the county. He pointed out that nearby Old House Woods Road, which was improved under VDOT’s Rural Rustic Road Program in late 2013, already has holes, and that Haven Beach Road would be subject to such degradation, as well, if the issue of standing water isn’t addressed.
McGowan said Rural Rustic Road projects are “at the pleasure of the board and what citizens want,” and that an unpaved road could be taken off the list of those slated for improvements.
Morrow blasted McGowan for VDOT’s failure as an agency to respond immediately when property is flooded because of stopped-up ditches, and for its failure to clean out ditches and pipes every two years, as the agency’s own manual recommends. He said that Edward Hudgins, who is in charge of local VDOT operations, was doing everything he could do.
McGowan, who has been at the helm of the Saluda Residency since last year, explained that she’s not sure she has the money to clean pipes every two years because she has to rent the equipment, and that keeping it in the county all year long would cost $250,000 annually. She said that water is a problem everywhere and that for the past six months she has had local crews looking at every individual road and every individual problem. She said she is willing to work with the county to do whatever she can to come up with solutions.
During public comment period, New Point Comfort Highway resident Carol Bova, who along with Morrow has been a persistent advocate for improving drainage in Mathews by cleaning out ditches, said that roads are disintegrating from saturated roadbeds “caused by VDOT’s roadside and outfall drainage failures.” She said that the Federal Highway Administration manual states that a road that’s flooded for two months a year loses 80 percent of the useful life of a well-drained road. An FHWA chart she shared with board members shows that, depending on the severity of the flooding, a road’s useful life could decrease by anywhere from 40 to 80 percent if flooded two months a year, and that, if flooded half of the year, the road’s useful life could decrease by anywhere from 65 to 90 percent.
“Drainage must be our primary priority,” said Bova.
Kathryn Bunner of Ridgefield Road said that in her neighborhood “ditches aren’t cleaned, roads aren’t mowed, and we have two sump pumps running all the time,” and Sharon Fry of Weston Hall Road suggested that roads be drained systematically instead of just cleaning out “a spot here and a spot there.”
Holly Point Road resident DeWitt Edwards, Crab Neck Road resident Ray Mulvaney, and New Point Comfort Highway resident Charles Johnston also asked that drainage problems be addressed.
After the public hearing was closed, supervisors once again questioned McGowan on what options were available to address the issue of drainage in the county. She said she could move money from “out years” in the county’s road improvement plan and possibly come up with as much as $50,000 of the $170,000 allocated to Mathews over the next six years to address drainage without having to forego improvements to Haven Beach Road.
With that understanding, the board unanimously adopted the resolution approving the six-year plan.
Earlier in the meeting, during the board’s open public comment period, Bova questioned the county’s way of notifying the public about Tuesday’s public hearing. She said that nothing about the hearing had been placed on the county’s website, and that not everyone reads the paper in which the hearings are regularly advertised. She said there is no reason such meetings can’t be listed on the county’s main internet page.