- Development, Land Use & Construction
- City Council
- City Budget
- Property Information
Deep Creek Town Meeting held February 7, 2012
Following are responses to issues, grouped under headings, raised at the Deep Creek Town Meeting.
AIW Deep Creek Bridge
The US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) is responsible for the replacement of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Bridge at Deep Creek. It was authorized by Congress in 2007. Approximately $5 million in Federal funding has been appropriated since 2007 bringing it to 95% completion of design. Congress will need to re-authorize the project to the current estimate ($50.4 million) as well as appropriate the funding. The City appreciates efforts by the ACOE and our Congressional delegation in advancing the project in a very competitive funding environment nationally for projects such as this. The replacement will be constructed as a two bridges project and will be phased to ensure that two lanes of traffic will be maintained throughout the construction duration. The Bridge is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Right-of-way acquisitions are underway. Construction plans and specifications for advertisement are being finalized and utility relocations are being coordinated. Work continues on the plan of finance and funding for construction. Advertisement is scheduled for summer of 2012, with construction to begin January 2013, pending financing. The Commonwealth Transportation board approved the City's Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank application on January 18, 2012, which will assist in the financing of the project.
With regard to congestion at the intersection of Bainbridge and Dominion Boulevards, in that Dominion Construction is scheduled to commence in approximately eleven months, the current intersection will be relocated with an off- and on- ramp to Dominion Boulevard.
Extension of Dismal Swamp Canal Trail
The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail Project has been advertised and bid opening is scheduled for March 15, 2012. This is Phase 1 which builds the permanent restrooms, new boat launch and parking lots at the existing northern trailhead. A new stone dust horse trail and new restrooms at Douglas Road wayside are bid alternates. Phase 2 to extend the trail northward to Deep Creek Park will be bid later this spring.
Deep Creek Park Update
Deep Creek Park, encompasses four multi-purpose fields two-lighted, plus four, all lighted, tournament-quality baseball fields (Bronco and Pony), which showcase grass infields and are irrigated for durability and performance. A celebratory opening of the park will take place on Saturday, March 24, 2012. All athletic fields are CLOSED to public use until at least late spring 2012, to allow the grass to become well established and up to full potential.
SECEP Parking Area Drainage
The athletic field is owned by the school system; however, the Parks and Recreation Department maintains the field and provides for limited parking in the surrounding area. Extensive work was done to the parking area and a temporary fence set up to restrict parking on the field. Over the summer, the school system removed the fence and added trailers. The trailers reduced the amount of parking at the site as the mid-sized parking lot was downsized accordingly. This resulted in increased parking, traffic and mud in the lot adjacent to the field. The front parking lot was reworked as well, but current construction on George Washington Highway has hindered access to this parking lot. One hundred and twenty parking spaces still remain behind the school. The Parks and Recreation Department is working with the school system to provide crush and run for the parking area, fencing, and signs to address the parking issues before the start of soccer season.
Re-installation of Community Sign at Millcreek/Elwood Landing
The sign will be replaced upon completion of the project and will be re-installed approximately forty feet back in the median.
Marsh Creek Entrance Garden
A request was made concerning a sponsor for the landscaping of the subdivision entrance's garden. The land is on private property with a Sign and Landscape Easement, placing responsibility of the garden maintenance in the hands of a Homeowners Association. However, there is no established Homeowners Association in the neighborhood. The Public Works Department has reached out to the Cooperative Extension Office who has contacted Master Gardeners living in or near the subdivision to see if any of them are interested in maintaining the garden. Public Works has also created a flyer that will go to all residents in the subdivision.
Settlement on Wellons-Forehand Bridge
The City is aware of the settlement on the approaches and has taken measurements to document the rate of settlement. Specifically, Schnabel Engineering, our Geotechnical Engineers on this project, advised the City that additional settlement will occur over the following decades, and that this would have to be considered in planning and budgeting for future road maintenance. Our recent review concluded that the current settlement does not present a safety hazard at this time. We will continue to monitor and take measurements on a quarterly basis. The City will resurface the approaches at the appropriate time.
Volvo Parkway and Independence Parkway
Public Works has completed the design and the acquisition of right-of-way for the project. The utility relocation is underway. Construction is expected to start during the month of April 2012.
According to a Schools representative, at this time there has been no discussion by the School Board to rezone any school.
The City and School Board share revenue based on a formula that has been in place for approximately ten years. Growth or losses in certain revenue accounts is shared equally with schools (50/50 split). The shared revenue encompasses most revenues except those supporting specific activities. Shared revenue includes all property taxes except those reserved for tax increment financing districts (South Norfolk and Greenbrier), business licenses, investment income, and sales and consumer taxes. Since the recession started in 2007, declines in real estate taxes have overshadowed the growth in other taxes. This has resulted in reduced resources for both Schools and City operations. It is expected that City funding of Schools will grow as the real estate market recovers. Based on current economic indicators, recovery of school resources is still several years in the future.
City staff is working diligently to minimize the service impacts that are proposed for City services to citizens. The City budget deficit for next year is approximately $15 million and staff will propose to use a judicious amount of the City's reserves in order to continue some services until the economy and financial position of the City improve. However, it will be necessary to reduce the budgets of practically every City department, including libraries.
We are now entering the fifth year of reduced resources caused by the very steep decline in economic activity and in the housing market. The easier budget cuts and efficiencies in operations have already been completed and we are left to balance critical services with shrinking resources. It is expected that some services and hours will be curtailed throughout the City. Service reductions are expected, but we will make every effort to minimize reductions in core service areas.
City Budget and Taxes
The City is taking every possible measure to control City spending for the upcoming year. No new programs or initiatives are being considered; in fact, the entire focus has been on reducing the cost of local government. Unfortunately, we are incurring additional costs beyond the City's control. The cost of health insurance and employee retirement benefits are the two largest challenges faced. While employee benefits are not changing, market conditions are pushing our costs ever higher.
City government is heavily dependent upon real estate taxes in order to provide services. Because the cost to provide basic services is increasing while real estate taxes continue to shrink, the City's budget is being squeezed from both sides. It is simply not possible to reduce taxes or fees in the current environment unless significant reductions are also made in City services. However, it is expected that most homeowners will see lower real estate taxes. The continued decline in the housing market means that most properties in the City are assessed less than a year ago. It is expected that assessments will decline by 3.7%, on average, across the City. Of course, some properties may decline by more than 3.7% while others may hold their value. However, the typical homeowner's real estate taxes will fall by an average of 3.7% (again, the taxes of individual properties will vary depending on the change in the reassessment). It is estimated the City will collect approximately $8.25 million less in property taxes than would have occurred if assessments had not declined.
Gang Prevention Strategy
The Chesapeake Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Section is composed of Intelligence Unit Operatives and the Gang Suppression Unit. The Gang Suppression Unit was formed in March of 2011. The Criminal Intelligence Section's strategy in suppressing gang activity occurs by way of a two (2) pronged approach: Education and Enforcement.
Gang education is conducted by way of the Chesapeake Police Department's Gang Module. The module is provided in three levels: Level 1- is provided for Law Enforcement Personnel. Level 2 - is provided for Non-Sworn Personnel. While Level 3 - is given to the community at large. The Gang Module is conducted by way of Power Point and lecture by trained detectives within the Criminal Intelligence Section. Information provided outlines gang behavior, identifying gang related dress, gang signs and symbols as well as methods of reporting gang activity. The more knowledgeable an individual becomes as it relates to gang trends the greater the opportunity to suppress gang related activities by law enforcement. The Chesapeake Police Department has partnered with other local, state and federal agencies, as well as the courts and surrounding community, to increase educational efforts.
The Bureau of Community Programs, through our services for youth and families, does not offer youth employment at this time. However, at times, funding through Opportunity Inc. is available to provide summer employment.
The second approach involves enforcement of the current Virginia Gang Statute. Enforcement efforts involved the creation of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU). GSU detectives are responsible for surveying and patrolling areas that have signs of gang activity. GSU detectives are also tasked with interacting with potential gang members who are displaying signs indicative of gang involvement within these areas. This is accomplished by way of field interviewing techniques and community contacts. Information garnered is collated, collected and stored within a database for future prosecution if needed. The Chesapeake Police Department has also developed the Gang Initiative which has been designed for special projects related to heightened gang activity. The Gang Initiative is a collaborative effort of members of the Police Department, Prosecutors Office and Criminal Investigators to suppress gang activity within these problem areas. The Chesapeake Police Department continues to maintain viable partnerships with other local, state and federal agencies as well as the surrounding communities to develop innovative and effective methods of enforcement related to the investigation and enforcement of violators of the Virginia Gang Statute.
The City does have a program, Virginia Teens and the Law. This program serves as a preventative program for youth by educating both youth and parents about Virginia Laws. In addition, the Bureau has Life Skills classes and Teen Seminars that are held on a monthly basis for any youth who may want to participate.
Library Materials for Home Schooling
The Library is happy to work with all patrons, including those that home school, in order to provide appropriate materials in the libraries.
The City operates a very successful volunteer program managed by a network of volunteer coordinators across the organization. In 2010, citizens contributed over 172,000 hours in service to the City at a dollar value of nearly $3.4 million. Each year since the Program's inception over 25 years ago, we have seen an increase in volunteer support of City services. We hope to continue this trend this year through expanded recruitment efforts and the exploration of community partnerships to enhance our volunteer recognition programs.
City Manager Search
The City Council is in the very early stage of their search for a replacement for City Manager William Harrell. The Search Committee, consisting of Vice Mayor John de Triquet and Council Member Ella Ward, is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 to begin the process of selecting a search firm and working with City staff through the City's procurement process. Once selected, the search firm would be responsible for developing a profile of the position based on City Council input and advertising for the position throughout the country.
Transportation Improvements in Deep Creek
A number of transportation projects have been completed in or near the Deep Creek area over the past several years. These include:
- Moses Grandy Trail: New 4-lane divided roadway from Dominion Boulevard to Diamond Avenue which is the terminus of the Deep Creek Locks Bridge project. Construction was completed in 2006 at a total cost of $19.6 million.
- Route 17 South: 4-lane divided, limited access highway on new alignment from the North Carolina state line to Dominion Boulevard. Construction was completed in 2005 at a total cost of approximately $60 million.
- Route 17/Old Mill Rd/Cedar Rd: Interim geometric improvements to increase the capacity of the intersection were completed in September 2002 at a total cost of $340,000. Additional improvements will be made with the Deep Creek Locks Bridge replacement project.
Likewise, there are a number of active/planned projects to alleviate congestion in the Deep Creek area which include:
- Gilmerton Bridge Replacement – replacement of the existing structurally deficient draw bridge with a new vertical lift span bridge. The project is managed by VDOT and is scheduled for completion in January 2014. The total estimated project cost is $175 million.
- George Washington Highway Widening – widening to four lanes from Old Mill Road to Willowood Drive. Construction is underway and scheduled for completion April 2012. Total estimated cost is $3.6 million.
- U.S. Route 17/Dominion Boulevard – this project will widen the existing roadway from two to four lanes from Cedar Road to Great Bridge Boulevard. The project also includes the replacement of the existing draw bridge with a high-level, fixed span bridge, as well as the construction of interchanges at Cedar Road, relocated Bainbridge Boulevard, and Great Bridge Boulevard. Design is complete, right-of-way acquisition is scheduled for completion this Spring, and the project is scheduled to be advertised for construction July 2012. The total estimated project cost is $411 million. Additional information is available through the Public Works Department.
- Deep Creek AIW Locks Bridge: Project includes replacement of the existing bridge with a 5-lane bascule bridge. Design is approximately 95% completed, with an estimated total project cost of $50.4 million. Due to the uncertainty of federal funding, there is no schedule for this project at this time. The City, however, is continuing to pursue additional funding to bring this project to fruition.
As indicated above, the City has initiated several roadway improvement projects to alleviate the congestion currently experienced in the Deep Creek area. These projects, particularly large-scale projects like Dominion Boulevard, take a significant time to plan, design, fund, and construct. Once completed, however, the traffic conditions in and around the Deep Creek area will be greatly improved.
Permanent Restroom at Deep Creek Lock Park
The restroom at Deep Creek Lock Park (DCLP) was burned down due to arson in the early 1990s. Because of relatively low park use and vandalism in the park, it was decided not to replace the restroom at that time. To build a new restroom at DCLP now would cost an estimated $80,000. To properly maintain restrooms, especially vandalism repairs, would require an estimated 560 total man hours a year. Housekeeping would require approximately $3,500 in supplies and materials annually. According to the City's Risk Management division through the City's insurance broker, the standard two-year statute of limitations has expired whereby the City may have filed a claim for fire that destroyed the original restroom. Parks and Recreation is not currently staffed or funded to operate and maintain restrooms at this park.
DCLP is still not a heavily used park. The park is comparable to Great Bridge Lock Park (GBLP); however, current vehicle usage for DCLP is 75 cars per day, which includes vehicles accessing the lock facility and nearby residents, and GBLP's vehicle usage is 334 per day.
The Parks and Recreation Department will install a port-o-john at DCLP on April 1st, and this will be kept in the park until the winter months. Because of budget reductions and low park visitation numbers, there are no current plans for a restroom facility at DCLP.