I am looking forward to a day of rest, frankly. Yes, I am going to roast some chicken for hubby and cook up fresh green beans and corn on the cob, but that is not a long haul for me. Cooking and eating, for that matter, are just a part of everyday life.
Otherwise, I am going to finish a collection of short stories, “One Last Dram before Midnight” by Denzil Meyrick, write a short blog or two and enjoy this divine Southern summer we are having.
Health issues have begun to sneak into our usual routines. Multiple doctor visits monthly, sometimes weekly, have become more common than we like. Nonetheless, we feel fortunate in our family for the good life we have had and continue to enjoy.
One benefit we have, at least at the moment, is TriCare, the military health benefit enjoyed by many who served and their families. So I take this personal moment to thank my husband of just over 49 years for his 20 years of service in the United States Army.
I think you not only for the personal benefits our family enjoys, but I thank you also for the health and strength our country has enjoyed at least since World War II. You and others secured this prosperous, idealistic, and welcoming country of ours. May it long survive.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 schools 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.
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.
Tensions may run a tad high in this otherwise sedate rural county.
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
Remember 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.