This year will bring a multitude of capital projects and community assets to New Kent County.
The county is expected to break ground on Pine Fork Park, find a location for and start construction on a new elementary school and continue building a new fire station.
Live horse racing will hit the track at Colonial Downs in August, bringing live thoroughbred racing back to the commonwealth. The facility will also debut a new look and on-site, off-track betting and gaming emporium in April.
Pine Fork Park and Fire Station 5
The highly anticipated Pine Fork Park is expected to break ground in spring, according to Parks and Recreation director Kimberly Turner.
The project was funded in the 2018-19 budget for $3.2 million and is in the site planning process, according to Turner.
“We are working on our site plan and finding an engineer and architect to help with the planning and construction,” Turner said.
The park will include a playground area, tennis courts, ball field, dog park area, walking trails and a pavilion. The park will eventually have a field house, but the first area of focus is the playground, according to Turner.
The location is central to many residential subdivisions and is behind George W. Watkins Elementary School in Quinton.
New Kent Fire-Rescue’s new Fire Station 5 in Talleysville is under construction and is expected to open in the fall, according to county administrator Rodney Hathaway.
The county approved a $2,518,692 construction contract with Henderson Inc. in July and broke ground on the site in October.
The station is next to the New Kent County Visitor’s and Commerce Center off Route 106.
Colonial Downs was bought by former racing group Revolutionary Racing in April after legislation making historical horse race wagering legal — using slot-like machines to bet on previously contested races — was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Colonial Downs recently announced Rosie’s gaming emporium with historical horse race wagering will open in April, and live horse racing will return in August.
The facility is undergoing a top-to-bottom interior renovation, Colonial Downs officials said during a September construction tour.
The classic exterior architecture will stay as a historical staple. The facility will feature a Rosie’s gaming emporium with historical horse racing machines, simulcast race wagering, restaurants, interior and exterior live racing seating and a refreshed turf track, according to Colonial Downs officials.
The interior will focus on historic and feminine motifs, as well as modern and industrial accents, according to project interior designer Heather Robinson of Within Interior Design.
Colonial Downs spokesman Mark Hubbard said the group is excited to build on the partnership they have with New Kent and its residents when they open.
“In the summer of 2019 we will all celebrate the result of months and months of hard work as we return thoroughbred horse racing to New Kent and the Commonwealth,” Hubbard said. “We are going to make the community proud.”
The group has 35 employees in the state and expects to have 180 employees at the New Kent facility when it opens in April. The group is hiring and will have job fairs at the race track on Feb. 14 and March 14, according to Hubbard.
Hathaway said the reopening of Colonial Downs will make the county a true travel destination for residents around the commonwealth.
The county has a few other smaller capital projects on its plate, such as Fire House 3 renovations and tree removal at the county airport.
Supervisors recently created a fund for the firehouse project after discussing the Eltham station’s condition with New Kent Fire-Rescue Chief Rick Opett at a November work session.
Opett expressed concerns about insulation, the roof and the overall curb appeal of the building.
Upgrades to the station would include new siding, LED lighting, plumbing and garage doors. Opett said he expects to spend up to $250,000 on the renovation. The timeline has yet to be determined.
The county airport will look into a tree removal project, which will be on the 2019-20 budget, according to Hathaway.
“We would need to clear the pathway and near the pathway of trees,” Hathaway said. “The Federal Aviation Administration requires that we do so and we have some trees that could be removed for better line of sight.”
The project is expected to cost $300,000, and the county expects to work with residents who live near the airport for easements to remove trees on their properties, according to Hathaway.
The county budgeted $250,000 for a firearms range for the sheriff’s office, but it is now looking at other approaches to the project, according to Hathaway.
"We are looking at regional and alternative options,” Hathaway said. “Something that would be cost saving but also an asset to us and the region. We are not far along in this project and are looking at all of the options.”
Other small projects include resurfacing the Quinton Park basketball courts for $25,000 and finishing up putting LED lighting in the courthouse for $60,000.
The county will also rewrite zoning ordinances accommodate all types of economic and business opportunities, according to Hathaway.
The biggest project on tap for New Kent County Public Schools is to find a location for and begin construction of a new elementary school.
The school division is looking at land in the Quinton, Bottoms Bridge area and is close to acquiring land and an engineer/architect for the project, according to Superintendent David Myers.
“We are still thinking in the $28 million range — what was in the 2018-19 budget,” Myers said. “We are going to know of any increased costs in the near future because once we talk to the engineers about our needs they will be able to give us a better projected cost.”
Officials are considering lots with 50 acres, with 30 acres held back for a possible future middle school.
“We are growing as a county, and if we can save that land and address that growth when it comes, that would be worthwhile,” Myers said.
Myers said the school division and county hope to sign contracts in the next few weeks.
Another project for the division includes $25,000 for security doors in the back section of George Watkins Elementary, where the fourth and fifth graders have class.
“Students have to go outside to go to this part of the school and go outside to go to a different part, so we just want to make it as secure as possible,” Myers said.
Other capital projects include more trailers at the elementary schools for $122,557 to address growth while the new elementary school is being built, buying four new buses for $400,828 and minor roof maintenance for $25,000.
Academic focuses for the division include Standards of Learning test scores, but more importantly critical thinking skills, according to Myers.
“We believe that if you are engaging children every day in meaningful higher order or critical thinking skills, that the SOLs will follow suit,” Myers said. “Certainly we are looking to always improve and close those gaps in the scores, but we always want our students engaged and being interactive.”
The division also will increase communication with parents and students about the importance of attendance.
“We are sending more letters home and following up with students early if we notice they have been absent a lot,” Myers said. “Communication is key for all aspects of learning.”
Review archives were used in this story.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter