By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
At the January 26th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator John Barkley revealed an ambitious agenda for 2016. Prepared at the request of the Board and reflecting BOS priorities, the top items are improving the timeliness of financial reporting, starting the 2017 budget process and finalizing the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the county so that it can be balanced with the county’s funds and the Board of Supervisor’s priorities.
The largest capital project on Barkley’s list is the White Run Reservoir and it is estimated at a cost in excess of $40,000,000. The final cost will depend on the negotiated purchases of property, the access road, facility design/location and in the range of $7 to $9 Million in compensatory mitigation for stream and wetland impacts permitted by Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The compensatory mitigation may be paid to a third party mitigation site within the watershed that is authorized to sell credits for the White Run impact site in Greene
It will be of interest to see if there are any projects in Greene County that could use these credits/funds to restore/enhance streams to offset those that the dam will displace and get value back to Greene County.
The Stanardsville Revitalization project was included on Barkley’s priority list and he specifically mentioned a pavilion on the grounds of the County Administration building along with façade and infrastructure improvements in downtown Stanardsville.
Long term (2018-2020) the preliminary CIP lists sidewalk improvements, underground utilities and a water/sewer project for the town with the last being in excess of $10 million.
Barkley then spoke about the new county website with a presentation planned for the Board of Supervisors in February. This will also include a revision to the Economic Development and Tourism website .
Barkley also mentioned a desire to complete a facility assessment of all county owned property. Such an assessment would provide longitudinal data to update the CIP with a realistic cost to maintain all facilities. The fact that this study needs to be done indicates that whatever CIP is approved in the short-term will likely be understated until this assessment can be fully priced out.
Several other issues were mentioned by Barkley – transportation/Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Greene County Library, and broadband service for the western part of Greene County.
The CIP is a look forward five years and while many of the projects that Barkley mentioned are included, there are many other projects in future years that are also in the CIP.
After the meeting, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke with Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Planning Director and new Supervisor Dale Herring about the high speed internet lines being put down along Route 33 by the school system. In addition to being a newly elected supervisor, Herring serves as the Director of Technology for the Greene County Schools and therefore is heavily involved in the internet project. Herring explained that the installation of high speed internet service is part of a five year lease which will lower the operating cost of the schools internet and dramatically increase the speed to 10 GIG
This project is targeted to be completed by June, 2016 with a five year lease to commence after it is operational. http://www.usac.org/sl/. At the end of the lease period the school system will have the option to purchase the system at a very low cost. If the school system takes ownership of the system, then they can make it available for other departments of Greene County.
With the recent changes to eRate (http://www.usac.org/sl/) our school division was able to:
a. Increase our division internet connection from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps.
b. Increase the connection from the Technical Education Center to the Central Office from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps.
c. Lease a fiber connection from Ruckersville Elementary School and Technical Education Center to the Central Office increasing connection speeds from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps. The estimated time to be fully implemented is the summer of 2016. Greene County Schools will have the option to purchase the fiber in year 6. If it is decided to purchase the fiber, there would be a cost for a service contract.
Herring went on to explain that with eRate the schools costs have been reduced approximately $500 per month.
The county’s CIP update is long overdue. The CIP is a tool for projecting future costs of the county and is also a requirement of some grant applications. It will be interesting to see what the five year costs are estimated to be when it is updated and presented to the Board of Supervisors and what the proposed impact will be to the citizens of Greene in terms of infrastructure spending and potential tax increases.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits: Greene County