Challenges to economic development

Updating the 2013 strategic plan:

When asked at a citizen’s-comment meeting as the top three challenges to attracting and retaining businesses in Prince George County, Jeff Stokes, Economic Development Director and Deputy County Administrator, briskly replied:

  • workforce
  • infrastructure, particularly water and wastewater capacity
  • housing (well, the housing issue arose a bit later)

This meeting was the second of two citizen input type meetings to be held by the county in this round of a strategic plan.  The first meeting was held in the government complex area and had only a handful of residents participating.

Economic Development Planning Meeting (2)
a portion of the attendees

The second, held on May 14,  in Disputanta, attracted 17 citizens and included two Board of Supervisor members, Alan Carmichael and Floyd Brown, Jr. (“FJ”).  None of the denizens appeared to be younger than 50.

Floyd, Robin, & Erma Ecnomic Development Planning Meeting
Floyd Brown, Sr., Robin Brown, Erma Brown standing

After some circular discussion about how to attract tourism, commercial amenities, and sports tourism, in general, the discussion turned to workforce development.  This topic occupied about an hour of the roughly two-hour meeting.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

One of the consultant’s described some of the workforce demographics. One of the most striking was that 85% of employed Prince Georgians out-commute to other localities, though if the Crater corridor is considered as a region, that figure is probably closer to 50%. Another surprising demographic gleaned from the county’s website indicates that the County Government is the single largest Prince George employer with approximately 1600 of the 14,000 jobs in Prince George. Missing from that figure was how Fort Lee employment is cast in the numbers.

Some workforce issues discussed:

  • providing information on local employment opportunities, (job fairs, digital clearing house for county employment posts)
  • developing & implementing career education and apprentice programs for 21st century skills
  • emphasis on soft skills to have a work-ready pool of employment candidates

INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure issues loom large and affects attracting new businesses and providing a variety of house stock.  The primary challenge is wastewater capacity as the county does not have its own facility for treating wastewater, relying on the services provided by the sewer authorities in Hopewell and Petersburg.  Prince George is very near its maximum allocation from both entities.  This topic challenged the discussion in the room.  It is harder to get one’s arms around this aspect of infrastructure.

HOUSING

Housing was discussed only tangentially, as part of the how we can attract more business and as part of the discussion around infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see if any new ideas emerged in the discussion.  It would seem not, but 17 Prince Georgians are more informed, perhaps, as a result of the meeting. Check out the 2013 Economic Development Strategic Plan on the county website.

No mayhem over taxes

Prediction of mayhem premature:

The Prince George County Board of  Supervisors voted to retain the current real estate tax rate of $.86 per hundred for this fiscal year.  It was concluded that the need to raise the tax rate was premature. The BOS also passed a $116 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

The proposed property tax increase was being considered to fund one of the two new PGCS-logoschools needed to replace obsolete schools. The two schools, built in the 60s,  are configured in the campus style popular at the time. From a modern perspective the security issues are more than just a bit scary.

The need to expand the high school was also in the monkey brain of the county’s planners. The BOS however, was dealing with the expectation that we would be paying for one or two new elementary schools and would still need to float debt to pay for a new or vastly expanded high school. This prospect taxed the fiscal tolerance of the Board.

A general consensus had been reached to fund one new elementary school at this time, put the second elementary school on the back burner, and just plain not deal with the high school plant until absolutely, absolutely necessary.

As it happened the School Board was not prepared … no site, no architectural plan (except to build one just like North, the last elementary built in the county nine years ago), obviously no hard construction estimates, and a golly, let’s just build it and it will work out attitude.

The issue will re-emerge, but next year is an election year for three of the five Board of Supervisors as well as for three of the five School Board members. We will not likely be dealing with a property tax increase in an election year. But we will see if the possiblity of political mayhem will appear then.

Speaking of quaint mayhem …

Prince Georgians may be riled up …

Utility rates raised at the last Board of Supervisors meeting:

The Board of Supervisors raised utility rates by 5% on water and 7.5% on wastewater.  The purpose is to continue to the renovation of existing infrastructure and plan for expansion of county services in certain areas.  This follows on the heels of a rather sizeable increase in price the year before.

Most Prince George residents are on well and septic,  so only those limited areas with county services will be affected and the projection is that it will only raise the average user’s bill by $1.24.

Real Estate increase in the future?

The BOS will hold a public hearing on April 24th to consider raising the real property rate by as much as 5 cents on the hundred with the express purpose to devote that increase towards the building of one or two new elementary schools to replace LL Beazley and Walton.  The County originally agreed to replace one school at this time at a cost of 7 to 9 million dollars.  Subsequent discussion revealed that there was no site selected and obviously no engineering or architectural studies at this point.

 

Beazley Dictionaries
Prince George Rotarians with The Readers at LL Beazley Elementary School 2017

 

 

Tensions may run a tad high in this otherwise sedate rural county.

Miss Marple not needed in Prince George

The cozy English village murder mystery:

My go-to stress reliever, my mini-vacation, my escape from reality is the cozy village based murder mystery, preferably set in the UK somewhere.  In a pinch, a quaint Maine coastal village setting will suffice.

I am not into the “hard-boiled dick”  or the tedious forensic  “CSI” subgenres.  Nor do I enjoy the super bloody, graphic murder detail, except in the case of the DCI Daley series by Denzil Meyrick. I am a sucker for anything set in Scotland.

No wonder then, that I am an avid Agatha Christie fan, in particular, the Miss Marple series.  I think I have read all of the Marple books, though sometimes I get confused in that some novels were renamed in subsequent printings or renamed when published on my side of the pond.

I was content with the books until the right woman was cast as Jane Marple.

There is only one Jane Marple:

Joan Hickson is the only actress to portray Miss Marple to my satisfaction; She is posture perfect, keenly observant, slightly acerbic, frequently judgmental, and quietly humane.  Hickson began portraying Jane Marple rather late in her life so there are fewer than twenty or so of the Hickson Marples.

Thanks to BritBox I can now see them, including the Caribbean Mystery.  Yes, the Hickson versions provide the permission to check out from the yard work, my to-do lists for political organizations and Rotary, and attending to the necessary chores that keep our household in orbit.

Prince George has no Miss Marple:

Though mostly rural, Prince George is too spread out to have many clusters of people,  a prerequisite for murders, particularly in any numbers of critical mass.  No murders … no Miss Marple.  So through Joan Hickson and Agatha Christie, I vacation in the land of cozy murder mysteries.

Prince-George

A little osprey will do

My friend, Dana Rieves, recently showed me a couple of nugget-sized public spaces in nearby Hopewell, Virginia.  These parklets have some benches, picnic tables, and space for people to fish. Her suggestion was simply to take some time, from time to time, to enjoy the space, the Appomattox River, and the birds.

Hub and I have started doing that, but this weekend had an enhanced surprise when we discovered that there was a chick in the osprey nest near where we were enjoying our coffee, fruit, and cheese.  We had seen an adult osprey the prior weekend but had no inkling there was a chick over our heads.

I know this sounds gushy, so gushy.  Forgive me.

We will probably have to visit during the week just to check on the chick.

Virginia & Prince George are growing

The Weldon Cooper Institute at UVA has recently released its population projections for Virginia and its localities through 2040.  Though these are projections and subject to lots of variables , but there are some interesting tidbits …

  • by 2040 Virginia will have surpassed New Jersey (now 11) and Michigan (now 10th) to become the 10 most populous state in Virginia
  • the population center of Virginia in 1940 was in Cumberland County.  By 1970 the population Center was in Richmond.  Now it is in Caroline County and, according to projections, by 2040 the population center will be near or in Fredrickburg
  • the population of Prince George will be 38,379 in 2020, 40,816 in 2030, and 42,640 in 2014
  • School age children in Prince George will be approximately 17-19% of the total population in 2020, but in the two ensuing decades the percentage of school age children will trend slowly downward, more like 15-17%
  • By contrast the Prince George population age group of 65 to 85+ will grow from abut 15% of the total population in 2020 to 25% in 2014

Prince GeorgeRemember that these are just projections but population trends have tremendous influence on politics, budgets, crime, education, health, transportation, all aspects of life, really. Do we need to have more smaller schools? Do we need to address health and transportation needs if the senior citizens. What about transportation in general? Are we going to continue to be an automobile reliant community? What other infrastructures demands do we need to plan for.  Your thoughts are welcome.

 

Visit the link above to visit the report from the Weldon Cooper Institute and some other interesting sources are statchatva.org and Bacon’s Rebellion (focuses on a variety of Virginia trends, politics, and history.

More happening in and around Prince George

Vicissitudes of country life …

One might argue that I don’t really live in the country.  I have a Food Lion about 5 miles away, a Starbucks about 10 miles away, Comcast cable (now Xfinity), and excellent cellular coverage.  But, in defense my self-proclaimed avatar as a rural warrior princess … I do have well water and a septic tank.

Well, no pun intended, I awoke to absolutely no water on Monday.  For some reason my well pump and/or pressure tank of 36 years had mysteriously died.  Mind you Monday was Martin Luther King Day.  Finding a plumber or well service open on such a day was a tall order.  Finding a plumber that dealt with well systems was even taller order.  Fortunately, our neighbor across the road is a great networker, keeps his home in good nick, and is a go-to resource in such situations.

Steve recommended Charles McCann of Done Right Enterprise as the man for the job.  He took the additional step of encouraging Charles to take care of us on as timely a basis as he could.  I am not sure Charles would have appeared later in the day with his wife and partner, Marie, without the recommendation and endorsement from Steve. Charles assessed the situation, provided his licenses, and gave us the estimate of cost and the promise that we would have water the next day.

The next day he appeared as promised with crew and equipment, new pump and pressure tank and encouragement that all would be well.  Again, no pun intended.

Tuesday, late afternoon, we had water and a promise from Charles and Marie that they would reappear on Wednesday to install the pressure tank.

Awaking Wednesday I jumped into the shower to clean up for my Rotary meeting … low and behold, I had failed to turn the breaker back on for the hot water heater.  It was a very cold and very short shower.

pressure-tank-2017Fortunately, Charles is a master electrician as well as a master plumber so he could install all the switches and connectors necessary for the new pressure tank. Finishing around 8 pm with the installation of the pressure tank, Charles and Marie climbed wearily into their work truck and in short order had texted copies of our warranties, pictures of the job, and copies of the paid invoice. Our water adventure was over.

Now, I think I am going to have our septic tank pumped and checked.  I am not up for another adventure of a mechanical nature.

There were other less noteworthy adventures …

The Prince George Board of Supervisors had tied votes on the two nominees to serve as Chairman of the Board.  One member was absent due to a workplace accident. The next meeting should result in one of the two being elected … more about that next time.

A Petersburg citizens group called Clean Sweep filed petitions to have the Mayor and Vice Mayor removed from the city council.  That should have an expedited fuse.  It is an uphill battle, but at least the citizens are involved.

The City of Hopewell continues to recruit for a Finance Director as the last one abruptly resigned a couple of months ago.

These matters pale in comparison to my own personal dramas.