Sussex Board of Supervisors Chairman Keith Blowe hosted a town-hall meeting Saturday at the Galilee Baptist Church.
Blowe covered a broad range of topics including broadband internet, the landfill and the propsed tax increase. Broadband internet access in Sussex is looking more and more hopeful according to Blowe’s presentation of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s “RUOnlineVA” initiative.
“Call the 1-800 number or go to the website, which asks five questions,” Blowe said. “Once the governor has collected all of this information, then they will set about identifying the need and requirement, then set about coming up with funding to help rural communities like ours get broadband access.”
Call 877-969-6685 or go to RUONline.virginia.gov to submit information for your household, which will assist in bringing broadband to Sussex and the surrounding areas. Blowe said this initiative is in response to a false start in bringing broadband to the area.
When broadband companies first came to the region, Blowe said they polled businesses about their broadband access. This poor sampling technique produced results that favored business access over residential access. Gov. McAuliffe is prioritizing this initiative to keep residential areas up to speed with the emerging demands of the public school system.
Citizens wanted to learn more about what was going on at the landfill, and specifically, the heinous odor that looming around it. Vandy V. Jones, III, the Sussex Deputy County Administrator was on hand to give an update on where the landfill stands.
“The landfill is under the emergency order from the Department of Environmental Quality,” Jones said. “They agreed to do a certain number of things. Some of those things dealt with the lechate, which is the liquid run-off from the landfill.”
Jones said the last report they received from DEQ confirmed that Atlantic Waste Disposal was removing twice the amount required under the emergency order. The lechate is being barged north for disposal.
“Atlantic Waste laid out a plan for what they call ‘capping’ the landfill,” Jones said. “This deals with capping those areas where the gas is coming up which is contributing to the odor. The first portion of that which covers about 30 acres is well underway. I believe the capping is taking place in three phases. All of the capping will be done by 2017.“
The issue will not be resolved overnight, Jones said, but Atlantic Waste Disposal is working to take care of the problem immediately. Jones said Atlantic Waste Disposal will be at every board meeting to give an update on the process.
The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing the proposed tax increase. One citizen asked the question that has been on many minds: Why not a meals tax?
“Why did we go to property tax increase verses a food tax increase?” Blowe said. “Property taxes are unavoidable, but there is a choice in the food tax. If you don’t want to pay it, you just don’t go to Popeye’s. The issue was raised several years ago and it was up for referendum and the referendum failed.”
In other words, citizens had to vote in favor of a meals tax but failed to do so. The board of supervisors cannot create or set a meals tax without putting the item on a ballot. The board can raise or decrease property taxes once a year, and Blowe said the proposed increase has come as a recommendation again and again over the years but for whatever reason previous boards never took action.
Blowe said the increase will not take care of all of the problems he has seen in the county since taking office in January, but it is a step in the right direction. Blowe decried the facilities the government is operating out of, saying they have been running Sussex in our of a pair of double-wide trailers for about nine years.
“You can’t invite Rolls-Royce or the next big company to come to the region to a pair of trailers and expect much,” Blowe said. “We need dedicated facilities.”
The mega-site is related to attracting business to Sussex. Gateway Virginia requires service extension to areas designated for industrial growth. Blowe said the reason for this extension of services like water and sewer is to allow companies to build their sites immediately.
“Companies don’t want to consider waiting two years for water,” Blowe said. “They are at a point where they can move so quickly with construction, it would make no sense to wait for us to get up to speed. They want to come in as soon as possible and start running their machines.”
Blowe spent a lot of time recapping the struggles the board has faced in working on the budget. The ultimate goal Blowe presented was growth in Sussex.
“I’ve got 15 grandkids,” Blowe said. “I’d like to see at least one of them come back to Sussex, but what are we leaving them?”