A couple of weeks ago, the Richmond paper had a front page story about Virginia’s governor proposing the creation of a reserve fund to deal with the decreasing funds flowing from Washington. As the states get less from Washington, the counties get less from the states.
While a reserve fund makes sense, Prince Edward is doing just the opposite. Our county administrator has suggested we spend $2-3 million dollars on a “road to nowhere”. He suggests the extension of Dominion Rd. is needed as a safety factor for Hwy. 628 (the road in front of Prince Edward’s schools). This extension will supposedly open property for economic development, and provide a road for the Granite Falls Hotel complex if the complex is built.
I researched the traffic accidents on highway 628 and now have a two feet wide spread sheet from the Department of Motor Vehicles showing accidents back to 1990.
During that twenty year period there has been exactly:
- ONE pedestrian accident (non-fatal).
- Two deer have been hit
- Most of the accidents have been rear-end collisions where the drivers were distracted and took their eyes off the road.
If you subtract the two accidents that occurred in the evening after school was closed, then there were NO accidents in 2010 or 2011.
That means Hwy. 628 is not a safety hazard. The road will always be congested when children are being dropped off or picked up at the end of school. The new road will have no impact on this.
As for economic development, the county already owns property next to Lowe’s that is available for development right on U.S. Highway 15. As you probably know, there is not a big demand for property now because of the down turned economy. If the property on this extension of Dominion Road is needed by a developer, they usually pay to build the roads. Economic development in Prince Edward County will be helped most by a quality school system and a well trained work force, not another new road.
The hotel complex has been in the works since 2000 when it was planned to be included with the golf course. Back then a hotel was often financed with only 20% of the cost coming from the developer. While I was on the county’s IDA, the developer came to us about buying county land abutting what would be an extension of Dominion Road. The developer said it would be a $30 million plus project. I asked about financing and he said he used to be able to get 80% financing, but now he could only get 50% because of the drop in property values we were experiencing. On the internet I found a hotel newsletter that stated that hotel financing had dropped further to around 35%. I also found the big money center banks (Citi, Chase, Bank America, etc.) are not even making hospitality (hotels, restaurants, etc.) loans anymore. While we all would like to see this hotel built because of the jobs and the tax benefits it would bring, it just is not going to happen with this developer. If he hasn’t been able to do it in ten years, and couldn’t get it done when he only had to put up 20% of the money, then how will he be able to provide 60% or more of the investment when the main lenders are out of the market and the economy stinks?
I’m disappointed in our county administrator for continuing to push this spending of $2-3 million on a project that is not needed at this time or in the foreseeable future. Our administrator seems to be totally bewitched by a smile or nod from a smooth talking developer or an engineer as in the grand $$$$ water plant design. Our taxpayers know us, that we are experiencing tough financial times, and it is time to go on an austerity program not be looking for boondoggles to dump more borrowed money. Our administrator never seems to want to put funds away for tomorrow’s emergencies, but loves to spend today. We got just got hit with two of those “tomorrows” at our last meeting. The school needs a new air conditioner for one of their buildings at a cost of $100,000 to $150,000 and a new roof at a cost of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.
We require a planned replacement program that anticipates these needs not a new road to get a smile from a developer who can’t get his hotel off the ground.
Jim Wilck, County Supervisor