By Stefanie Jackson –
Robert Duer, Exmore town manager and Northampton supervisor, announced at Monday’s Exmore town council meeting that he will not run for re-election to the board of supervisors this November.
“I went down there to do three things. One of them was to keep chicken houses out of Exmore. I think I did that,” he said.
During Duer’s first month as a Northampton supervisor, on Jan. 12, 2016, the board passed a resolution that repealed zoning changes made about a year prior and amended the ordinance to make it nearly impossible to run a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the county.
For example, one of the amendments stated that a CAFO must have a setback of 1,000 feet from any property line. That equals about 333 yards, or the length of more than three football fields. The setback was previously 400 feet.
According to minutes from the Jan. 25, 2016, Northampton supervisors’ meeting, staff acknowledged that “there are zero parcels that would meet the setbacks proposed in the resolution and have any acreage available to have a CAFO.”
Of his remaining goals as a Northampton supervisor, Duer said, “The other two are about halfway done. … I think it’s time for me to concentrate on sewer in Exmore.”
He later said “housing” was his second priority for the county and declined to name the third.
During his term as supervisor, Duer has advocated for Northampton to adopt and enforce the Virginia Maintenance Code, requiring property owners, including landlords, to correct sub-standard housing conditions.
The town of Exmore adopted the Virginia Maintenance Code, but it does not have a building inspector to enforce the code; Northampton County does.
The maintenance code is the third part of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code, after the construction code and the existing building code. Counties are legally required to adopt the construction and existing building codes, but the maintenance code is optional.
“It was fun, but four years is enough of that,” Duer said. “I did what I wanted to do.”
In town business, Director of Utilities Taylor Dukes recommended awarding the contract to construct Exmore’s new wells to Anderson Construction Inc. Its bid of $1,786,050 was lower than both the $2,429,000 bid of its competitor and the $2,059,475 estimate provided by engineering firm, Draper Aden Associates.
The town council voted unanimously for Anderson Construction.
Adding up construction costs, a 5 percent contingency, and engineering and other related costs, the entire project will cost $2,425,250. A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant will cover $500,000 and a Virginia Department of Health (VDH) grant will cover $550,000.
Because the project will cost more than anticipated, the town asked VDH for additional grant funds, and VDH agreed to give about $186,000 more.
The town council decided to finance $813,000, the amount it originally expected to pay for the well project. VDH will loan the money at 2.5 percent interest for 30 years, with annual payments totaling less than $40,000. The town will pay the remaining $375,000 out of its savings.
The town’s staff is working to find the “cheapest … most economical” solution to Exmore’s sewer issues, and it is considering about five different systems, Dukes said.
He and Duer agreed that the regional sewer system recently proposed, which would serve several towns in upper Northampton and lower Accomack, is not their first choice. “I think we need to concentrate on Exmore,” Dukes said.
Exmore’s public works department cleaned out about 1,500 to 2,000 feet of ditches throughout town last month. Dukes said the new bucket attachment for the excavator works well and the public works crew hauled away two truckloads of trash, including bottles, tires, and crab pots, and several truckloads of debris from trees.