Tidewater localities focus on broadband, ground and stormwater management in legislative agendas

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

With the 2019 General Assembly session set to start in January, localities have discussed their concerns on broadband access and ground and stormwater management with representatives.

Government officials from King William and West Point, New Kent and King and Queen counties are looking to Del. Chris Peace, R-Mechanicsville, and Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, to help them address these issues.

King William

King William County’s legislative agenda reflects the one adopted by the Virginia Association of Counties at a recent conference, according to county administrator Bobbie Tassinari.

The agenda includes broadband access programs and initiatives for rural areas funded by the General Assembly and permits local governments to plan and regulate the usage of land in their area, according to Tassinari.

“(Including) grants or infrastructure investments to expand broadband service toward the rural areas,” Tassinari said.

The county also wants the state to provide full funding for public schools as the Department of Education comes out with new mandates and requirements, according to Tassinari.

“As the state steps back on the funding, the localities have to pick it up,” Tassinari said. “With new attendance, dual enrollment and testing requirements by the Department of Education, localities can’t afford to do it on their own.”

Water quality and stormwater management are also agenda items; as the county wants solutions to deal with water run off and to have adequate funding for water quality.

“There has been legislation passed in the past, which is great to protect water quality, but localities can’t afford it on their own,” Tassinari said. “Especially areas like we are on the Middle Peninsula or Chesapeake Bay.”

The county also requests localities receive the same taxing authority that towns and cities currently enjoy, which would allow counties to tax residents or visitors on services that the city or town that resides in the county can levy a tax for, such as cigarettes, according to Tassinari.

“These cities or towns are gaining revenue for these taxes, then when someone crosses the county line they can’t be taxed on it,” Tassinari said. “We don't necessarily want to impose those taxes, but it'd be nice to have the same ability.”

Hodges will be carrying amended language legislation to allow the county’s Economic Development Authority to increase its membership from seven to nine

West Point

West Point Town Council does not adopt a formal legislative agenda, but does discuss their concerns with Hodges, according to town manager John Edwards.

The town wants to focus on continued and improved efforts toward road conditions and ground and stormwater management, such as improved conditions on secondary roads and stormwater runoff on roads.

King and Queen

King and Queen County’s primary focus is legislation that supports jurisdictions labeled “Rural Coastal Virginia,” such as King and Queen, according to county administrator Thomas Swartzwelder.

“This can help develop new markets for the blue/green infrastructure assets of our county, also known as our agriculture- and water-based businesses” Swartzwelder said. “It can also reduce regulatory red tape for businesses and developments and re-evaluate current environment regulations.”

This legislation can also give localities a voice in the regulatory process for businesses in the county and help county’s get funding for rural broadband access, according to Swartzwelder.

New Kent

New Kent’s legislative agenda focuses on broadband access as well as the Interstate 64 widening project that currently goes through the county, according to the county’s legislative agenda document.

The county wants the General Assembly to assist companies in their efforts to bring broadband service to rural areas, such as economic incentives and statewide policies, as well as monetary assistance, according to county administrator Rodney Hathaway.

The Interstate 64 widening project should be made a priority and be done with the county’s aesthetic kept in mind, with representatives of Richmond developing a long-term strategy to complete the project in a timely manner.

With tourism business opportunities increasing in the county, the county wishes to be included in the Transient Occupancy Tax in the Code of Virginia. If amended into this section of the code, the county could levy an occupancy tax that doesn’t exceed 5 percent to promote county facilities, tourism and new businesses, according to Hathaway.

The county would also like a General Assembly subcommittee to weigh the impacts of changing the date of the June primary election from the second Tuesday to the third Tuesday of the month, when most schools in the state are closed.

The request is due to concerns of student safety and voter access while school is in session, as well as inconveniences for school activities and additional security needed, according to Hathaway.

Alternatives for funding groundwater would help businesses and communities meet the new state groundwater withdrawal while reducing the supply of groundwater. The cost for the county or any locality to do so alone would be extremely expensive and cause them to suffer, according to officials.

The county has experienced a 45 percent increase in emergency service transports during the past five years, with one-quarter of all transports coming from incidents on Interstate 64, according to Hathaway.

Financial aid from the General Assembly to localities that provide emergency services on interstates would help the county with the increased cost of incidents.

Any legislation or funding for secondary road maintenance is fully supported by the county to improve road conditions.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, aluck@tidewaterreview.com or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

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