Ringing in the New Year in the Northern Neck
New Year’s resolutions are nothing new. Every year people strive to attain annual goals. For 2013, local officials gathered their thoughts and shared their plans and objectives for the upcoming year.
Town of Warsaw
Warsaw’s Mayor Mark Milstead has set his sights on enhancing the town’s infrastructure. He noted the new town park and sidewalks as one of council’s major focuses.
“What we’re trying to do is create an environment that is conducive to have people want to live here or have a business here,” Milstead said.
The mayor also commended council for being more outgoing and accessible to the public.
“You see them outside, at Warsawfest or whenever there’s a parade or [something like] the apple pie festival,” Milstead noted. “They’re a pretty gregarious bunch and we’re working on public perception as much as anything else to make sure everybody knows that we’re open, willing and friendly and that we want to see them and talk to them.”
Milstead added that Warsaw will continue to work with a limited budget.
“It’s a small town,” the Mayor said. “I think what we’re trying to do is maximize the use of tax dollars that we have and try to make sure that we don’t raise any taxes.”
Milstead said that for 2013 the town will continue to look for opportunities that will benefit the community and take advantage of them the moment they arrive.
“Our ideas or progress aren’t going to be a million dollars this, a million dollars that,” he said. “They’re going to be small bricks at a time, whether it’s moving the poles [from the middle of sidewalks on Richmond Road], building restrooms at the park, putting a playground up, fixing the sidewalks, or putting up some lights at the corner.”
Milstead added: “I think as long as we’re supporting the community, remain business-friendly which we always have been, and keep ourselves open to opportunities when they arise, then we’ll be fine.”
For the New Year, Warsaw’s Town Manager John Slusser seeks to improve on what council accomplished in 2012.
“And I think we’ve accomplished quite a lot,” he added.
Slusser noted that the town park, which opened last summer, is a continuing project.
“We’ve kind of got the skeleton there, but we’ve got a long way to go before it’s really up and running,” Slusser said.
Slusser sees water and sewer as a challenge for next year.
“Our volumes are down from what they were in the past, so we’ve got to deal with that,” the town manager said. “There’s going to be capital improvements that will be made in the next 12 to 18 months.”
“We have to drill a new well at I’d say the cost of half a million dollars,” he added. “There’ll be some line work in town…we’ve got some old lines that need to be replaced.”
Slusser said the town is looking forward to having the little league up-and-running in its new location.
“The fairground’s initial run last August was successful,” he said. “We’re looking for that to get better as they become accustomed to their new surroundings.
Slusser also hopes to encourage business growth in town.
“We’re certainly making the effort,” he said. “Not only do we want new business, but of course we want to retain our existing businesses.”
But of all his hopes and goals for the new calendar year, Slusser emphasized the upcoming arrival of a new website for Warsaw as a key development in public perception of the town.
“We really believe this website is critical to how the world perceives the town” Slusser said. “We want it to be a community bulletin board for people that are here so they can look at it.”
Slusser said that the site will include an up-to-date calendar of town events and schedules for fundamental services.
“There ought to be an interactive ability to conduct business, leave messages and perhaps pay bills,” he said. “We think that what we have right now was a good attempt at the time it was [created] but at this point in time we can do better…we need to do better.”
Slusser said that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will continue work on Court Circle, Richmond Road and Main Street.
“I went through the minutes of council meetings…there was a 1968 [meeting] where the Warsaw Womens’ Club was trying to get a crosswalk on Main Street and [Route] 360,” Slusser said. “That’s been forty-some years ago and it looks like that may happen.”
Richmond County’s District 1 Supervisor Richard Thomas expressed his hope that the board can walk forward in a positive manner, work together and make their county stronger.
Thomas also hopes to see the school project move forward.
“It’s moving, but we hope to kind of see it through,” Thomas said. “The school board is doing their part…I just want to be supportive.”
“There’s plenty of things going on, but we just need to take them as they come,” Thomas added. “I’m ever hopeful that there will be economic impact on this community.”
Thomas wanted to wish everyone in the county and the Northern Neck a happy new year going into 2013.
County Administrator Morgan Quicke’s goals for 2013 concern maintaining a strong process for the ongoing school construction project.
“That’s probably the biggest thing the county’s got going into 2013,” Quicke said of the construction project. “My goal is to keep all of the board of supervisors and school board informed…Dr. Smith and I have been closely working on it for the last three or four months and we feel like we have laid a good game plan down to manage the project administratively.
Quicke added: “It’s the biggest thing the county has taken on in quite some time and the management of the project is going to be important to make sure that the board of supervisors and the school board both understand what’s going on, and also that we stay within budget.”
Quicke said the softball fields, which are part of the project, are a top priority of the county to have completed by Spring.
In addition, Quicke aims to adopt the county’s comprehensive plan which will feature up-to-date census information, as well strengthen Richmond County’s economic development initiative.
“Economic development is something that is interesting in rural counties like where we are because you don’t have all the tools and resources that you would elsewhere,” he said. “It’s a challenge to really be proactive on that, but it is something I would like the county to put a little more focus on.
“We can look at smaller type things like family businesses,” he continued. “We’ve got to continue to support the businesses that we’ve already got and make sure they know that we do appreciate them because we do…they help us a tremendous amount.”
Quicke also hopes to have a smooth budget process for the fiscal year 2014 and continue the efficiency of the county government.
“I feel like Richmond County does a really good job for the people… I don’t see a tremendous amount of wasteful spending anywhere,” Quicke said, adding that county government will make improvements if necessary.
For the upcoming calendar year, Richmond County School Board’s Chairman John Brown emphasized the importance of the board meeting four goals that they designed during a school retreat along with Smith.
Brown said that Richmond County Public Schools will seek to develop a plan encouraging the continued recruitment of the best qualified individuals at all levels of employment, provide positive information about the achievements of students and teachers to the social media, monitor the progress of the construction project and transitioning of students and furniture into the upgraded facilities and address concerns over what the board believes will be a constrained budget.
Brown also expressed his anticipation over the addition of the Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) Academy and the Virtual Learning Programs to the school system.
“These innovative programs will enhance our ability to offer greater resources to our students,” said the chairman. “Currently, we are making these programs available to some of our
students on a limited basis.”
In addition, the board will be coordinating with Rappahannock Community College to expand AP programs.
Brown said the use of electronic textbooks, block scheduling and expanded class and laboratory time are under consideration. He also noted that new means for allowing students to pay for lunches electronically will decrease their time spent in the cafeteria.
“The use of these resources will allow more time for the use of additional learning situations,” Brown added. “As always, the goal here would be the most effective use of time, thereby enhancing the quality of instruction and student learning.
The Chairman added that although he called the school system “excellent,” he saw room for improvement.
“Many of our students perform quite well on standardized test,” he said. “I think it is quite important that each child is encouraged to maximize his or her potential.”
School Board Vice-Chair Brenda Pemberton shared a variety of overarching goals that she hopes Richmond County Public Schools (RCPS) will take steps towards fulfilling in 2013.
Alongside her drawing focus to the school board’s goals, Pemberton emphasized the necessity to continue to prepare Richmond County’s students for the future.
“The global economy is the reality of today’s world as it has gotten smaller,” Pemberton said, adding that they will be able to prepare the children if they utilize the technology available to them to the best of their ability.
“I also hope that we can get an improved health care plan for our teachers and a long overdue salaries and benefits for our teachers,” Pemberton said, adding that her concerns were issues that Governor Bob McDonnell and the General Assembly have the task of fixing.
The Vice-chair also said she looks forward to meeting with Delegate Margaret Ransone and Senator Ryan McDougle to discuss “burning educational issues.”
Furthermore, Pemberton expressed her desire to continue working closely with Smith as well as supervisors in regards to the budget process.
“The school board has complete confidence in his leadership and his ability to make the best decisions for the children,” Pemberton said of Dr. Smith.
“I know [supervisors] have an extremely difficult job and education is always the largest slice of the pie in any locality,” Pemberton said. “I will be diligently working on our budget to try to deliver instruction in the most economically sound manner.”
She also emphasized RCPS’s competitiveness in maintaining an outstanding faculty and staff.
“All citizens of Richmond County should be proud of the successes of our educational system,” she said, adding that the system was one of 34 school divisions in Virginia to achieve Annual Year Progress.She said that she hopes that the school system will continue to look at ways to “keep the edge as far as having the highest scores in the Northern Neck.”
Greater Tappahannock District Supervisor and Chairman E. Stanley Langford said that his main goals were updating the comprehensive plan, which he said will be a seven-month project, and continuing to move forward with the school’s construction plan.
Langford also anticipated the introduction of the new county administrator, which will take place at Essex County’s next board of supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Supervisor and Vice-Chair Bud Smith said that he looks forward to working with the new county administrator and school superintendent.
Smith said his main goal for 2013 will be making the appropriate adjustments to the budget for fiscal year 2014.
“The budget’s the first thing we work on and we filed 15 percent lower on our tax reassessment [last year] so we probably have to think about doing some tax rate adjustments,” Smith said.
“The budget is the budget [but] we’ve done it many times,” he added.
Smith also looked forward to lending his support to the school construction project for remodeling Essex High and revisiting the comprehensive plan.
Essex County School Board Chairman Larry Bullis placed high emphasis on maintaining the school system’s mission statement for 2013, supporting the division’s objectives, and improving student achievement.
Division goals that Bullis and the school board aim to achieve include ensuring full accreditation, improving academic achievement for all students while closing achievement gaps among subgroups, enhancing safety, increasing student attendance, providing a strong disciplined environment, supporting timely communication to all stakeholders and acquiring the latest technology for students and staff.
“The school system had a very successful 2011-2012 school year and major progress was made in regards to student achievement, which resulted in full accreditation for the entire school system,” Bullis said.
“The schools met school state accreditation and Federal Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO), the first time all schools have met federal mandates in 8 years,” The school board chair added.
“We are very proud to have Essex County listed among the 34 school divisions meeting this requirement,” he continued. “This would not have happened without the hard work of the entire school system’s and parents’ involvement…it is very important that parents are involved in student performance.
Bullis’ remaining hopes and goals include evaluating safety throughout the entire system , motivating teachers, improving morale, building a team climate, and fostering the smooth transition of acting Superintendent Dr. Gail Pope, who starts Jan. 2.
Bullis also said that he hopes the school board can keep the high school renovation project on target and form a budget that meets the needs for the 2013-2014 school year.
Town of Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock Mayor Raymond Booth expressed his opposition to the town council’s support for purchasing or building a new town hall this year.
“I feel our current facilities are more than adequate,” Booth said. “I just don’t feel we should be committing taxpayer dollars to “big ticket” items during this tough, uncertain economy.
Booth said that he wishes for the council to concentrate on the basics.
“Government, especially at the local level, has a distinct responsibility to better the lives of its citizens,” he said. “I’ll work hard this year to maintain and improve the quality of services for our residents.”
The Mayor also aims to work harder in 2013 to ensure that fees and taxes levied for essential services of the town, such as real estate taxes, do not increase.
District 5 Supervisor and the Director of Emergency Services Wally Beauchamp hopes to work with all parties involved to provide the best EMS services for the residents of the county. He also seeks to continue making efforts with the rest of the board to reduce unemployment and provide jobs for area citizens.
Beauchamp also hopes to aid the county in its continued efforts with Senator Ryan McDougle and Delegate Margaret Ransone to “avoid the unfunded mandates that the state continually insists on passing down to the localities.”