By Linda Cicoira- Accomack supervisors voted Wednesday to spend up to $500,000 of the county’s $10.8 million Rainy Day Fund for improvements at three towers critical to public safety. The towers support equipment associated with the sheriff’s department and the Eastern Shore of Virginia 9-1-1 Communications Center.
“The county is currently working with consultants to determine whether repairs or replacement is in order,” County Administrator Mike Mason reported. The repairs are estimated at $210,000 with replacement at $500,000.
“All initial inspections and engineering work have been completed and the results are not good,” Mason continued. “The structural analysis of the Accomac Tower has revealed that it does not have sufficient capacity to carry its existing load … It is highly likely that this tower’s foundation has been in excess of its recommended capacity for much of the tower’s life.” The Accomac Tower was installed in 1982, when “geotechnical investigation of soils was not required.”
Mason said that study is now “mandatory for new towers. It is quite possible that the soils were never suitable for the anticipated load. Other issues have been identified at Mappsville and Craddockville sites but they are not as significant.”
The Rainy Day Fund was started in 2008 and has gone untouched in the decade since with supervisors adding hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. It was earmarked to support the government for two months in the case of a major catastrophe like what could have occurred if Hurricane Florence had come to town.
The current balance represents 13.7 percent of local revenue. The goal is to increase it to 16.7 percent by 2021. Nearly $856,000 is scheduled to be transferred into the account on June 30, 2019. Continuing with that cycle, the desired amount was anticipated in two years. With the withdrawal, it will be three years before the goal can be met.
If the Accomac Tower is replaced, the new structure would be put adjacent to the public works office at the county park. “Repairs to the Craddockville tower can be completed with existing funds,” Mason said. Another $80,000 would come from budget contingencies for the Mappsville improvements.
Mason was also directed to write to Northampton’s board of supervisors to inquire about merging the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission with Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and other local business associations and chambers. Mason said the chambers are interested.
“Chincoteague (chamber) does not want to be the group that promotes for the region,” Mason said. But it is interested in cooperating. In Williamsburg, he said, the chamber is split with a board of directors for both business and tourism.
Chairman Robert Crockett said merging the two entities would save money. “Same executive director in charge of both,” he said, adding that other chambers and associations could have seats on the board by right. “People like the Welcome Center down at the bridgetunnel. Nothing would change with the Welcome Center. … I see a lot of benefit in trying to work something out with the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.”
The effort to change how tourism is handled started after “Outlaw Industrial Chicken Farming,” was posted at an economic summit attended by the governor and other top state officials, and attributed to Kerry Allison, executive director of the tourism commission. Criticism of her statement resulted in her submitting her resignation effective Jan. 1.
Requests for a conditional-use permit and rezoning near the police barracks in Melfa where 45 apartments, a convenience store, and a fast food restaurant are in the works, was sent back to the planning commission. Officials are waiting for VDOT to comment and release results of a traffic study at the nearby intersection. A developer said he wants to put a Wawa and a Chik-fil-A at the site. The apartments would rent for $750 and $850 a month and would include garages and solar panels.
The supervisors also appointed supervisors Reneta Major and Harris Phillips to the Space Needs Committee to study finding office space for county government. That endeavor has gone on for years. When the public library moves from Accomac to Parksley, the building in Accomac will revert to the county and could be utilized for offices.