Supervisors weigh county priorities at retreat

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Jul 14, 2010 - 04:35 PM

The Gloucester County Board of Supervisors spent a little over three hours Friday weighing what it felt was most important and least important out of over 200 items on the county’s 350th Strategic Plan.

The board used an automated voting system, provided by the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission, to rate each item on a scale from 1 to 3 (with 3 being highest) during the retreat at Whitcomb Lodge, Beaverdam Park.

Some items rated highest by the board as a whole fell in the utilities department. Among its highest priorities is requiring any new developments and residences within the utilities service zone to connect to public facilities if wells and septic systems fail to meet current health standards.

In the same category, each board member gave a high priority to investigating funding sources such as development block grants, state and federal aid programs, and county/corporate joint ventures to help fund expansions.

The board also felt a comprehensive study of the county’s sanitary sewer system should be conducted, with recommendations for system needs to meet requirements of the Special Order by Consent, and felt it prudent to develop a long-term financial plan for the Department of Public Utilities.

For the past several months, the future direction of the county’s public utilities has been at the top of discussions in board meetings. In June, the board voted unanimously to transfer $500,000 from the county’s general fund to bail out the ailing utilities department.

Since that time, the county’s Public Utilities Advisory Committee has been exploring long-term methods to sustain the department. Earlier this month, the board voted to have county staff contact state representatives in the General Assembly to add Gloucester to the list of localities that could enforce mandatory hookups to public utilities. It will also discuss the possibility of a mandatory inspection fee next month to help the department’s financial condition.

Other areas

Other areas of the county’s plan that received high ratings from supervisors included:

—In the area of community development, developing a capital improvement process/plan that incorporates "quality of life" factors such as maintaining rural character, environmental quality, affordable taxes, adequate water and sewer, jobs, schools, businesses, traffic flow, road infrastructure, and streetscapes;

—In the area of economic development, develop a "we care" attitude from all areas including citizens, school administrators/staff, county administration/staff, board members, chamber of commerce and civic organizations;

—In the area of education, assess all facilities as to the appropriateness of each for "multi-use" facility; improve workforce training by forming partnerships with local businesses to provide apprenticeship programs in building trades, plumbing, mechanics, and electronics; investigate alternative methods of funding through state and federal money, grant programs, and business partnerships;

—In the area of finance, develop and implement a 10-year capital improvement budget process based upon priority need and a cost/benefit analysis;

—In the area of parks and recreation, continue developing and enforcing codes, appropriate sanctions, and a system of rewards to help improve and encourage beautification of the Route 17 corridor;

Finally, lowest priority was given to such items as developing shell buildings (or county built and owned buildings) to sell to private businesses; consideration and discussion of the future need to convert volunteer fire and rescue to paid personnel; begin looking for an appropriate waterfront site to develop a private or public campground, and in the area of youth and seniors, developing a second high school in Gloucester as a "community school" with adult education, senior center, preschool, Head Start, public library and community education staff person, and the creation of an "office on youth" funded by a grant with the Virginia Department of Youth and Family Services.

The county’s 350th Strategic Plan was first presented in 1998 to the board of supervisors. It was a result of more than two years of volunteer effort by over 75 citizens and county staff.

In 2000, an update and progress report was completed and provided to the board and the most recent update to the plan was completed earlier this year.