Broadband, school needs top 2019 priorities

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Jan 09, 2019 - 12:51 PM

The upcoming year promises to be both exciting and challenging for Gloucester County government, according to county administrator Brent Fedors.

Hot button issues will include potential funding options for a new or renovated high school, potential broadband internet expansion in the county within a year’s time, and revisions to ordinances that will help small businesses thrive in the community.

“There have been a lot of behind-the-scenes accomplishments going on,” Fedors said. “There is no limit to the opportunities we have coming our way. Some are big. Some are small.”

Fedors said he is excited about the upcoming year for a number of reasons, including the effectiveness of organizational changes that were implemented over the past year, such as the addition of an assistant county administrator. “Bringing (that position) into play allows us to maintain momentum in many areas,” Fedors said.

One of these areas is the formation of the county’s Telecommunications Committee, which will focus on ways to bring affordable and accessible broadband internet to underserved areas of the county.

A number of residents have already filled out applications to serve on this committee, many of whom have backgrounds in wireless communications, cable and related fields.

The committee, Fedors said, will not only be responsible for the programming that appears on public access channels, but will also help in negotiations with the county’s cable franchise agreement to help make more accessible broadband a reality.

With the committee and the potential of millions more state dollars potentially pumped into broadband initiatives, Fedors said the expansion of broadband in Gloucester County is a “potential reality inside of a year’s time.”

High school

In a separate matter, both the school board and board of supervisors will discuss debt capacity regarding the potential of a new or renovated high school.

In June, the school board voted that it wanted to seek a referendum for up to $110 million for a new or renovated school. Both entities’ financial advisors from Davenport and Company will discuss debt capacity and provide a number of different options. Based on the feedback given by board members on these options, guidance will be given on what to be included in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan regarding the school.

“It’s going to be a balancing act on maintaining the strong fiscal position of the county and its credit worthiness and what we can afford,” Fedors said. “That way, we can better see what we can do and when, and will allow the board to decide on the substantial ask the school board is putting up.”

Stormwater

The county adopted in its legislative agenda support for several Virginia House of Delegates bills aimed at addressing rural Tidewater localities’ concerns regarding the administration of stormwater regulations for land disturbances of 2,500 feet to one acre. This is what is considered the stormwater “donut hole.”

According to Fedors, there are many working parts to having Gloucester’s ordinance be implemented in this regard, but once worked out, should impact positively those wishing to locate or expand here. “Our hope is to remove challenges for small businesses,” he said. “This is an opportunity to remove stormwater as an impediment to small business growth in the county.”

Finally, Fedors said a major goal of county government in the coming year will be the launching of a workplace safety and training initiative. “We place a lot of expectation on our employees,” he said. “The safety of our people and training/compliance will be a significant target this year.”