The Board of Supervisors heard an update on Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) projects at its Feb. 13 meeting.
VDOT Resident Engineer Lisa Price-Hughes said about 80 percent of the timber clearing for the U.S. 58 project has been completed.
“If you’ve been on the mountain, you can understand that. So, that’s what we’ve been concentrating on,” she said.
At the end of March or the beginning of April, Price-Hughes said excavation will double with people able to see a lot of work starting in the spring.
“In fact, they’ll be bringing in some much larger equipment during that time also. So, you’ll see a lot of work getting done,” she said.
Price-Hughes said there are also several other projects in various stages of development including sight distance improvements on Virginia 103 at Lee’s Kar-Go and on Ashby Drive on Virginia 8.
The T.J. George Bridge in Stuart was recently surveyed for its replacement project. Survey work will also be done on U.S. 58 in Vesta with hopes to continue making the road four lanes.
“But this summer, our two paving projects are Fish Farm Road and Handy Mountain Road on the old Orchard Loop side, eight-tenths of a mile,” she said.
A project will also start on the upper section of Squirrel Spur Road.
“We’re waiting on our environmental clearance to start that job. What we’re going to do is extend the pipe under there, probably about 60 feet, repair the flow line, and move the road over, make it wider there in that curve, and correct some of that superelevation there and also do a little bit of grading,” she said.
In other matters, the board:
*Heard from Kurt Bozenmayer, who thanked the board for providing the platform for public platform, which appears to be effective in stimulating interest in current county affairs amongst local residents.
“Specifically, numerous questions and comments on broadband and progress with the hospital have resulted in updates on both issues. One only needs to observe the increased attendance at these meetings to see the increase in public interest,” he said.
Bozenmayer said he and his wife bought their house in Patrick County 20 years ago this year.
“At that time a high proportion of vacant and/or abandoned houses and commercial buildings along the main roads of the county. A number of these buildings were in states of partial collapse at that time,” he said, adding he is disappointed to note that many of those buildings remain in the same state.
Bozenmayer said he believes the derelict buildings could hinder increased tourism and commercial development.
“I fear that many people visiting Patrick County for tourism or for consideration of possibly locating a business here may find such visual blights discouraging,” he said.
In addition to possibly attracting wildlife and potential vandalism, the buildings reduce the market value of nearby properties.
“U.S. census data indicates that nearly one of every four housing units in Patrick County were vacant as of 2019, an increase of 47 percent over the 2000 census,” he said.
Of those vacant housing units, Bozenmayer said over half are listed as “other vacant. Meaning not for sale, not for rent, or for other seasonal uses. It’s an increase of 147 percent over the year 2000. I suspect that many of these 1,387 ‘other vacant’ housing units may in fact be uninhabitable.”
He cited seven examples of partially or totally collapsed buildings located along a six-mile stretch of Woolwine Highway and J.E.B. Stuart Highway, north of Stuart.
Bozenmayer asked the board to initiate an effort to determine in this condition of derelict buildings can be addressed through an ordinance or other means.
“Such actions are routinely taken in Henry County as can be seen by the public notices posted,” in local newspapers. “The Town of Stuart is currently experiencing increased public interest in addressing their derelict building situation, and I feel that it is long past time for Patrick County to address it as well,” he said.
*Heard from Malcolm Roach about taxes.
“I did some research and over the last 8-10 years, the county’s population has gone down 2.5 percent. So, we’re shrinking, we’re not growing,” he said, adding that previous boards have created a dangerous cycle, with the revenue coming up short every year because of the declining population.
“What they do is they raise your taxes and spread that out on the people who are left so that they have the same income they had the year before. This creates a cycle – people are paying too much tax, things are bad, the county ends up short, raise taxes again. The cycle’s going to continue until we stop it,” he said.
Roach noted the Foresight Hospital and Health Systems hospital, the potential daycare center, and the Freehouse Brewery might bring a few jobs to the county, “but they’re not the kind of jobs you can raise a family on,” he said, adding the casino in Danville is a double-edged sword that could affect Patrick County.
Roach asked the board to put a cap on taxation, noting “and this is going to hurt. It’s going to hurt everybody because every company that provides service to Patrick County right now is looking for more money. Sooner or later this board is going to have to make a very hard decision and it’s not going to be population,” he said.
One reason he believes the county is not growing is the cellular and internet services.
“Without a good internet and without a good cellular service, industry and manufacturing are not going to come to our county. If we can’t provide a company with the communication services that they need, why would they come,” he said.
Roach said he would like to see the county invest more time and energy in cellular services because there are areas throughout the county that don’t have any cellular service at all.
*Heard from Amira Badarin, of Stuart, who asked what The town of Stuart is doing regarding Section 8 housing assistance.
“Me and my child were relocated after being homeless here last year, and we still haven’t been able to get any sort of help for me to really be able to get a job,” she said.
*Approved an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) request from the Extension Office to purchase 50 water testing kits for residents.
*Approved a volunteer services acknowledgement.
*Heard an update from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Coordinator Scottie Cassell about the Emergency Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) meeting.
*Approved the Solid Waste Disposal emergency agreement.
*Adopted an opioid resolution.
*Heard the county administrator’s report.
*Heard supervisor reports.
*Approved adding Walter Scott to the Solid Waste Committee to represent the Smith River District.
*Approved the meeting minutes.
*Approved the bills, claims, and appropriations.
*Recognized the fire and emergency medical services (EMS) awards presented by Mike Bast, of the Colonel George Wallace Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in Martinsville. He presented the awards to Rodney Howell and Steve Allen.
Clyde DeLoach, of the Blue Ridge District, did not attend the meeting.