New Kent supervisors want to address broadband access and options in the county, so the board unanimously allocated $19,700 for a strategic broadband study with Rural Broadband Consulting, LLC at its work session March 27.
County administrator Rodney Hathaway brought up the study at the Feb. 27 meeting, and the board agreed he should put out a request for proposal for a broadband study.
Supervisor W. R. “Ray” Davis Jr. said the county has done these studies before. Hathaway countered that Rural Broadband Consulting, LLC’s approach is different, as it’s a fiber-tie-to-home approach, not wireless.
“Every day we keep getting further and further behind and no one seems to have an answer or solution,” Davis said.
Supervisor Thomas Evelyn added that it is the number one issue he hears about in his district.
“We need to try something,” Evelyn said.
The study can use previous data and information from other broadband studies conducted in the county, according to Hathaway.
Vice chairwoman Patricia Paige added that the county “doesn’t have a choice.”
“We have invested and the schools have invested money in Google Chromebooks for students and students don’t have internet accessibility in some areas,” Paige said. “New businesses can’t operate efficiently, residents who work from home are sometimes unable to work from home.”
Naming private roads
Planning Director Kelli Le Duc discussed the issue of how private roads and driveways in the county are named.
Le Duc said the county is dealing with a “unique situation” where it is getting a lot of building permit applications due to growth.
After a third lot is on a private road or driveway, the county is continuing to go through a lengthy, outdated process from 2004 to name the road, according to Le Duc.
“The process to get it named takes a long time and it gets frustrating for residents,” she said.
The homeowners on the lots, vacant or not, have to agree on a road name that is either pre-approved by the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission or submit one to the commission, according to Le Duc.
After sending letters to the homeowners and waiting 14 days, Le Duc has to select the name chosen by the majority of the homeowners. The whole process can take two months.
“It takes time and causes issues between the homeowners to agree on one name if it’s one pre-approved, or if they want to name it we have to wait on approval from the commission,” Le Duc said. “In most cases the parcels are still vacant, but (those that have people) living there and have been living there are the ones most affected.”
Hathaway said in order to get a building permit, a resident must have an address, so the county is assigning temporary addresses while negotiating on names of the private roads.
“Then we change the addresses when it’s decided upon and it gets confusing and frustrating,” Hathaway said. “Although any resident can apply to change the name of their road and go through the process if they are unhappy with the name.”
Le Duc asked the board to consider approving a list of names, submitted by the Planning District Commission, for the county to keep for new road names to make the process easier. The commission keeps track of all road names to make sure there aren’t duplicates, according to Hathaway.
Paige asked if they could come up with a list of road names according to area characteristics, trees and historical parts of the county.
“We can work with the commission on some new names for a list,” Paige said. “That way you can assign a road name, address and if a resident wants to change the name they can go through the process.”
There is no fee for applying to change the name of a road, the only cost is for a new street sign paid by homeowners or the homeowners association, according to Hathaway.
The board unanimously approved the list of names and agreed to work on a new list with county departments and the Planning District Commission.
» The board unanimously agreed to donate a surplus New Kent County Fire-Rescue ambulance to Bridging Communities Regional Career & Technical Center for the diesel and nursing programs to use, per the request of fire Chief Rick Opett.
» Opett also brought forward a request to apply for a pre-hazard mitigation disaster grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help a Lanexa resident in need.
A resident who lives on Colony Trail on a cove off Diascund Creek has had issues with erosion and run off, according to Opett.
“She has been trying to get a permit for a sea wall from the Army Corps of Engineers with no success,” Opett said. “She is now in a situation, as of last week, where it’s only about 4 feet from her steps to a 45 feet drop off into the Diascund Creek.”
In terms of life safety, Opett said there’s about 15-20 feet left before the drop off encroaches on the foundation of her home.
“She has an engineering plan for the property for a sea wall with a significant cost,” Opett said. “It’s anywhere from a quarter million dollars to a million.”
Opett said her house is assessed at about half a million.
“We can enter into a an agreement with the homeowner for her to fund our local match of the grant,” Opett said.
The county is eligible for pre-disaster mitigation funding from the past two tropical storms. And while Opett said he wants to help the homeowner, he’s reluctant to set a precedent in the county of helping residents with grant funding.
“There are other properties in county on the Chickahominy River side that are seeing similar things,” Opett said. Paige added that they need to look at the other areas in the county as well.
Supervisor Ron Stiers said while it may set a precedent, the county is supposed to look out for its citizens. “If there are three people in the same situation next year, we will do the same thing.”
Hathaway said state permitting agencies, such as Department of Environmental Quality, have said they also would help with the process.
The board unanimously agreed that Opett should apply for the grant if the homeowner can fund the county’s local match. The amount for the grant is unknown at this time.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter