Supervisors Want More State $$$

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By Linda Cicoira — Accomack supervisors continued to seek additional state funds Wednesday to help recruit and retain teachers who might seek higher salaries in Maryland.

The board authorized County Administrator Mike Mason to work with Northampton officials in sending a letter to Onancock area native Gov. Ralph Northam to request competing adjustment (COCA) funding. Eighteen Northern Virginia school divisions receive the monies to provide additional compensation to school workers to keep them from going to Maryland or Washington, D.C.

Accomack wants its share so it can compete with Worcester County, Md., which includes Ocean City with four times the taxable value of Accomack and higher per capital income levels. 

“An Accomack teacher with 10 years experience gets an $11,000 boost in (annual) salary to go to Maryland,” said Supervisor Robert Crockett. “We just think it’s fair that we get … to compete with Worcester County (Md.) I think we have a better chance now. This year it’s Gov. Northam’s two-year budget,” instead of the former governor’s plan, the supervisor added.

“It is believed that a joint letter to the governor requesting these state funds signed by Accomack and Northampton officials is the most effective first step,” Mason said.

Supervisors Receive Cake

Superintendent Chris Holland, of Accomack County Public Schools, was there to give a report to the board and to present a cake for the $18 million in local funds the county provided. “We owe you that,” Holland said. “You helped us with the money for a 3% raise.”

Enrollment is up with 5,043 students; capital projects like the new roof at Pungoteague Elementary School, septic system at Chincoteague, and boiler at Tangier are continuing; and all 11 schools are accredited. “I’m very pleased with how we are doing right now,” Holland said.

“You’ve always been known for running a tight ship,” said Supervisor Grayson Chesser, when he asked about a fight at Arcadia High School after last Friday night’s football game.

Holland said he had a meeting with principals on the subject. “We’ve had problems. It’s not always Accomack County students. It’s adults. Some from out of state. We want to do things right. I go to most of the games. We have other people there. We don’t want that. Our society has changed. I’ve watched them … I’m worried about the violence. Yes, I am. We’ve had a good four years.”

Maj. Shane Childress, of the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office, said his office was never contacted about an incident at Arcadia High School. But at around 10:35 p.m., deputies were dispatched to the Sonic restaurant, in Oak Hall, where a large crowd gathered after the game. A male juvenile was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and charges are pending against “several” others, Childress said. He believed the fighting started at the school, moved to Oak Hall, occurred among Arcadia students, and was not gang related.

Spending for Water Testing

The supervisors also voted to spend $31,000 for water sampling pertaining to stormwater runoff. Expansion of poultry house operations has raised concerns for water quality impacts on sides of the Eastern Shore where harvesting marine resources and aquaculture operations may be affected.

For the past two years, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has bore the entire cost of water quality testing. In the third year they offered to fund $12,000. In 2018, results did not show impacts from poultry operations. Results from 2019 have not yet been released.

“This is so important because this is hard data,” said Chesser. “So much of the data for a model comes from various places across the bay that are a different world than we are. VIMS is certainly a respected organization. This is money well spent.”

Tangier Woman Rescued

While Hurricane Dorian was passing by and Accomack County had declare a state of emergency, a woman with a heart condition on Tangier Island needed to get to a hospital, Chairman Donald Hart, the director of emergency services, reported.

Hart praised Public Safety Director C. Ray Pruitt who contacted state authorities in Richmond when no other help was available. Pruitt then called the Coast Guard in Atlantic City, N.J., which flew its helicopter to Tangier and got the woman to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, in Salisbury, Md.

“It saved a person’s life,” said Hart. “She is alive today. It scared them on Tangier. It scared us. I’m very proud of him, and county EOC (emergency operations center), and our county … It turned out happy and we’re very glad,” Hart said.

Crockett agreed. “We are fortunate to have C. Ray as a director. He had the feel for it because he’s been here all his life.”

Fire Medic Recruiting

The board authorized Pruitt to extend offers to six or seven full-time recruits with a start date of Nov. 1. The move will temporarily exceed the number of vacancies but is within the approved salary budget and will provide cost savings on recruiting, training and overtime.

“It’s always great to be out in front and you’re doing that,” Supervisor Ron Wolf said. “It’s going to pay off. We’ve got to take that chance.”

Supervisor Paul Muhly said he and Pruitt have discussed the possibility of an EMT course being offered to high school seniors as an elective. “Holland is receptive but there are a lot of things to work out … They would walk right into a $32,000 a year job. Or go to college and schedule classes on their off hours.

Opioid Lawsuit News

County Attorney Cela Burge reported that Purdue Pharma, one of the 53 companies Accomack blamed for the local opioid epidemic in a lawsuit, has filed for bankruptcy and is working on a settlement. Burge said Accomack is among 2,600 litigants. “We are following this very carefully.”

Freebie

SolarGuys Inc has offered to furnish and install an 8.5 kW solar panel system for the County Public Safety Office, in Parksley, Mason reported. The company installed the solar system at Sawmill Park and told Public Works it would like to reduce warehouse inventory and install a demonstration project. The value of the installed system is about $17,000. 

Security

Additional security cameras have been installed in and around the county administration building in the latest step to increase customer and employee security. Cameras are also in the treasurer’s office and other facilities.