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Hickory Town Meeting held September 7, 2010
- School Overcrowding at Southeastern Elementary, and Hickory Elementary, Middle and High Schools
- Vegetation Obstructing Speed Limit Sign near Southeastern Elementary School
- Traffic Problem at Hickory High School
- Mount Pleasant Road Widening Project
- Speed Limit Reduction on Battlefield Boulevard
- Toll Road Payoff Status
- Extension of Hillcrest Parkway to Centerville Turnpike
- Toll Road and Traffic on Battlefield Boulevard
- Drainage Problem on Delia Drive and Impact of 168 Expressway on the swamps in the Area
- Stop Signs at Intersections of Edinburgh Parkway and St. Brides Road and St. Brides Road and Sign Pine Road
- Extension of City Water to Pleasant Ridge Area
- Longridge Park
- Senior Citizen Discount for Northwest River Park
- Speed Limit on South George Washington Highway near Deep Creek Park
- Battlefield Walgreens
- Legislative Package on City Website
- Live Christmas Tree at City Hall
- Personnel and Organizational Issues
- Red Light Photo Enforcement
- Symphony Under the Stars
- Volvo and Independence Parkways
- Chesapeake Regional Airport
Following are responses to issues, grouped under headings, raised at the Hickory Town Meeting.
Below are the school capacity and a summary of the enrollment figures over the past four years as of the end of each school year for each of above schools. As can be noted, Southeastern Elementary School's enrollment was less in June 2010 than in the previous four years and is at the capacity of the school. Hickory Middle School's enrollment has fluctuated over the four year period and at the end of the last school year (6/10) was approximately 260 students over capacity. Hickory High School's enrollment has dropped significantly since June 2007 primarily due to the opening of Grassfield High School and has declined annually over the four year period. Their year end (6/10) enrollment was slightly less than their capacity.
School 6/15/07 6/12/08 6/11/09 6/16/10 Capacity HHS 2,508 2,123 2,000 1,893 1,900 HMS 1,717 1,705 1,753 1,760 1,500 HES 366 388 398 384 600 SEE 804 781 807 722 725
Current economic conditions have produced a decline in the number of single family homes being built in the Southeastern/Hickory school attendance zones. This has resulted in fewer students being generated from this community. Although we are still dependent on portable classrooms to supplement our classroom space needs we believe, given the current housing market conditions, this is the best and most economical means to house our students. We are anticipating both the economy and housing market to rebound. Exactly when is unknown. We have included in our Capital Improvement Plan a request for new facilities to provide relief to all three schools. The timing of this relief is contingent on the economy, the housing market and, when funds are available from City Council. Until such time, I believe the existing facilities are adequate to educate our students as the teacher to student ratio at all three schools remains the same as our other schools.
An inspector from the Traffic Operation Division of the Public Works Department inspected the road and the sign near Southeastern School on September 13, 2010. The onsite inspection revealed that the northbound approach on South Battlefield Boulevard has a slight curve with heavy vegetation on the east side and that the speed limit zone sign was partially obstructed by some low lying limbs. On September 14, 2010, the overgrown vegetation in the immediate area around the sign was removed.
The City's Traffic Engineering Division will conduct a traffic study at this location which should be completed by late October. The result of the study and recommendations will be provided at that time.
Traffic Engineering staff conducted a traffic study collecting traffic volumes on all approaches of the intersection on September 29, 2010. The study was performed during both the AM and PM peak periods. On October 12, 2010 traffic models were run using the newly collected traffic volumes for both periods. The signal optimization program (Synchro) provided staff with the updated signal timings. On October 13, 2010, the new signal timings were programmed into the traffic signal controller at the intersection. Staff then observed the signal operation during both AM and PM periods and concluded that the new signal timings improved the overall operation of the signal. Prior to the traffic study, it was determined that the south bound through and left turn lanes had defective vehicle loop detectors. A vehicle video detection camera was installed and all approaches now have fully functional vehicle detection. We will continue to monitor its operation and make adjustments if and when required.
City Council has requested the Virginia Department of Transportation to transfer funds from the Mt. Pleasant Road Project to the Dominion Boulevard Project. The Mt. Pleasant Project is now on hold until future funding becomes available. An invitation to a future informal community meeting will be forthcoming to discuss the status of the project with residents.
The primary concern raised relates to driver behavior that sometimes occurs when making a right turn onto St. Brides Road from Battlefield Boulevard. Sometimes motorists traveling behind do not slow down, but rather swerve around and pass on the left side by using the left turn lane as a passing lane. Concern was also expressed about the additional traffic that will be using Battlefield Boulevard upon completion of the Wal-Mart shopping center. These concerns raised the issue of the need for the speed limit to be reduced below 55 mph in this area.
Ideally, there would be a right turn lane on the approaches to all side streets which would allow motorists turning to move out of the main travel lane and decelerate to make their turn; however, it is not practical to provide such a lane in every case. This location is considered a rural location with light traffic on the side streets. Traffic Engineering evaluated the three (3) year accident history and found that there were no reported accidents at this intersection during that time period. In addition, the most recent speed study performed on Battlefield Boulevard South indicated that the 85th percentile speed was 61 mph (average speed 56 mph). The 85th percentile speed is the standard measure of the prevailing speed of a roadway and is one of the best indicators of the safest speed that can be traveled on that particular roadway. Traffic Engineering studies have shown overwhelmingly that an arbitrarily low speed limit does not increase safety, and may in fact result in more accidents as motorists follow too closely or take unnecessary chances to pass other vehicles.
Although motorists may occasionally use the turn lane to go around a vehicle turning right onto St. Brides Road, the existing data and field observations do not lead us to the conclusion that this is a pervasive problem. In the absence of an accident problem, and with the 85th percentile speed shown to be 61 mph, Traffic Engineering does not recommend any changes at this time. Should we see a dramatic increase in accidents, further evaluation would be warranted.
The Chesapeake Expressway was built for approximately $116 million dollars, of which $21.6 million are in 30-Year Bonds. The expected year for pay-off of all borrowed money is 2032. All revenue collected is used for the following:
- Operations and Maintenance Budget
- Payment of Debt (Annual Principal and Interest of the Bond & State)
- Annual Renewal and Replacement Items (major projects, pavement replacement, bridge repairs, etc.)
Debt payments have been received on time and as scheduled. As of Fiscal Year 2010-2011, current revenue amounts have sustained the required operation, repairs and debt described above. The City is considering development of a system of tolls to leverage needed transportation improvements such as Dominion Blvd. enhancements.
Although this extension is on the Master Road Plan, it is not currently funded in the City's Capital Improvement Budget. As a result, there is no funding available to acquire any property required for the project at this time.
The original design and purpose of building the Expressway was to alleviate summer time traffic and backups on Battlefield Boulevard, and to offer an option to all commuters for a quicker and safer limited access highway through the City. Several traffic count studies have been completed which indicate an approximate 50/50 split of traffic, on a weekday basis, between use of the Expressway and use of Battlefield Blvd. During the weekends the split is 75% Expressway and 25% Battlefield Blvd.
There are no current plans to improve the Indian Creek interchange and to add toll booths. The Expressway does offer a Discount Program for frequent users of up to 75% off the regular $2.00 toll. By opening a prepaid account and paying a $3.33 monthly membership fee, tolls are only $0.50 per trip.
The City's Senior Drainage Engineer reports that a work order has been issued to clean and re-grade an outfall ditch at Delia Drive. The work is scheduled to start the week of October 4, 2010, weather permitting. In addition, the City's drainage engineering staff will conduct a site investigation to determine the cause for the w stagnant water in the swamps. The site investigation is scheduled to be conducted on September 17, 2010, weather permitting.
Stop Signs at Intersections of Edinburgh Parkway and St. Brides Road and St. Brides Road and Sign Pine Road
The City's Traffic Engineer reports that our traffic engineering staff has completed a field study of those intersections to determine whether changes should be made to the existing traffic control. Our field study indicated that some changes at those locations are warranted. Work orders will be issued to add STOP signs and pavement markings at these intersections to better indicate which approaches have the right-of-way. Although we cannot add traffic control to the private driveway/access road to the Greenbrier Farms Nursery, we will request that the owner of the business/property provide a STOP sign on their property to reinforce to their drivers/patrons that they must stop at Sign Pine Road.
An update on plans to extend city water to the Pleasant Ridge area which includes Benefit Rd., Saint Brides Rd., and Taft Rd. was requested. This area is outside the utilities franchise area by approximately 2.2 miles traveling along St. Brides Rd. The City Council adopted the Public Utilities franchise area policy in 2001. It meshes with the City's Comprehensive Land Use Plan to provide a means of development in a systematic fashion. Building out utilities is best accomplished in a progressive manner, usually following the residential and businesses centers out from the city core.
Expanding the franchise area would require a careful cost/benefit analysis and City Council approval. Public Utilities is an enterprise department, which means it is like a business, supported by its customers, not taxes. Therefore, it is important that revenue generated by new customers cover the costs for expansions. At this time, an expansion is not being considered.
As a result of a 50% cut in the Parks and Recreation Department's mowing contract funding, Longridge Park is now mowed once per month as opposed to the previous twice monthly. This reduced mowing cycle results in a less than manicured park appearance. As has been done at other park sites impacted by budget cuts, the Department will work to form a partnership with the community to assist with the maintenance of the park.
While the economic climate currently is not favorable to offering across the board discounts in critical revenue generating programs, the Department of Parks and Recreation is evaluating the feasibility of some type of senior discount program for campsite and cabin rentals at Northwest River Park during non-peak periods.
The City's Traffic Engineer reports that approved construction plans for the Deep Creek Park will construct turn lanes along South George Washington Highway at the park entrance. The speed limit along this segment of roadway will be reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph. The 45 mph speed zone will start approximately four hundred feet south of the park entrance and extend to the existing 45 mph speed zone to the north. The speed limit will be permanently reduced from 55 to 45 MPH with the onset of park construction.
The Walgreens at 321 Battlefield Boulevard was issued a use permit for an amplified speaker at their drive-through window on February 16, 1999. Several stipulations were attached to the use permit including restrictions on truck traffic through the Mount Pleasant Road entrance and a prohibition of alcohol sales.
Walgreens decided to remove the loud speaker due to numerous complaints and investigations concerning the use of the entrance by delivery trucks. The use permit was determined to be abandoned, following a one year period for which the loud speaker was removed. Therefore, the use stipulations lapsed and were void. Subsequently, on September 27, 2008, one year following the removal of the speaker, the restrictions for the Mount Pleasant entrance were eradicated. An ABC license was granted and alcohol sales commenced.
On August 20, 2010, an inspection of the Walgreens revealed that an amplified speaker had been re-installed at the drive-through window. A notice of violation was issued to the store owner for operating the amplified speaker without a valid use permit. The notice of violation required the speaker to be removed or submission for a use permit application would be required no later than September 10, 2010. The property was be re-inspected on Monday September 13, 2010 and legal action was initiated to compel compliance.
The City does not put up a live tree in the City Hall building due to a regulation prohibiting live trees in commercial buildings per the fire code. Also, it would not be cost effective to purchase a new tree every year. A 15-foot artificial tree is placed in City Hall every year.
We do put up two trees made of lights outside in front of the City Hall building each year as well. In the past, there was a real tree (planted in the ground) and decorated with lights: however, there were problems with vandalism and the lights being stolen. The tree died and was removed.
With regard to a number of personnel changes at the department head level over the last few years, these have been the result of the previous department head either retiring or resigning for a position outside of the City.
Bi-Weekly Pay Plan
The transition to a consolidated bi-weekly pay schedule wasn't implemented primarily due to concerns raised by employees and the impact of the economy on the City of Chesapeake. Employees' annual salaries were held constant, while health insurance premiums increased slightly. Semi-monthly employees would have to adjust to a lower net paycheck, although they would receive a total of 26 paychecks compared to 24. Employees paid on a weekly basis would have seen a higher net pay; however, would have faced the challenge of making their money last over a longer period of time.
The City proposed a consolidated bi-weekly pay schedule to simplify the implementation of a new human resources/payroll system. When it was determined that the implementation could happen with two separate pay schedules, the decision was made not to implement a bi-weekly pay schedule in an effort to minimize the negative financial impact to employees.
Northwest River Park Rezoning
On May 19, 2009, City Council approved a conditional zoning reclassification for a 38+ portion of the Northwest River Park from A-1 Agricultural District and C-1 Conservation District to C-3 Recreation District. This rezoning was approved to allow a public/private partnership between the Parks and Recreation Department and the YMCA to develop a summer day camp at the Park. As a condition of the approval, the following proffer was accepted by City Council:
The applicant agrees that this rezoning is conditioned on obtaining approval from the Chesapeake Health Department, Department of Environmental Quality or the City of Chesapeake if a conditional use permit is required for a sewerage disposal system or systems to serve the subject property within three (3) years following the effective date of this rezoning in order to comply with the Level of Service Policy for sewer capacity. In the event that the Zoning Administrator finds that the applicant/owner fails to obtain such approval within the said three-year period, the applicant/owner agrees that the rezoning shall be placed on the City Council agenda for reconsideration and possible revocation on grounds of inadequate sewage capacity.
As stated in the proffer, the approval of the subject rezoning was conditioned on (the YMCA) "obtaining approval from the Chesapeake Health Department, Department of Environmental Quality or the City of Chesapeake if a conditional use permit is required for a sewerage disposal system or systems to serve the subject property within three (3) years following the effective date of this rezoning in order to comply with the Level of Service Policy for sewer capacity." In addition, the Director of the YMCA agreed at the public hearing not to pursue the development if a package septic sewer system was the only alternative capable of serving the proposed development due to its potential to harm the Northwest River watershed. Unfortunately, after evaluating the sewage disposal alternatives, it was determined that only a package sewage treatment system would work on the site since a traditional septic system would not work as previously thought. A letter was submitted to the City notifying the City that the project could not go forward.
Since the YMCA did not proceed, City Council was asked by area residents to rezone the park site back to its original zoning to ensure the park would not be developed as proposed by the YMCA. City Council directed staff to prepare a rezoning application that would rezone the property back to its original zoning. Since all conditions were the same as they were under the original zoning classification, the rezoning process was not time consuming and did not take much effort on the part of staff.
In light of the retirement of the Director of General Services, the Department of General Services was dissolved and its functions transferred to other existing departments. Structural changes are as follows:
- Department of Parks and Recreation - The Department of Parks and Recreation received all of the positions, equipment and funds associated with municipal grounds maintenance and housekeeping functions.
- Department of Public Works - The Department of Public Works received the facilities management functions. The Facilities Management Division has been renamed Municipal Facilities with its major function being improving energy use practices to promote greater efficiencies and cost savings and to implement defined maintenance and replacement schedules to maintain an aging infrastructure. Additionally, a new Division of Facilities Construction includes the existing project managers and inspectors from the former Department of General Services. The goal of this division is to implement effective project management strategies with the objective of bringing projects to completion on time and within budget parameters.
- City Manager's Office - All fleet management operation formerly in the Department of General Services will report directly to a Deputy City Manager.
As many of these functions are internal, with the customers being other city departments, it is not anticipated that there will be a major impact on the quality of life or standard of living of Chesapeake citizens as a result. However, this action will improve coordination of similarly related functions, reduce duplication of operational and equipment costs, and enhance the span of control over staff resources, resulting in more efficient operation of these functions and providing some cost savings.
This was not a major reorganization of the City's structure and was not billed as such. The only real change to the City's Organizational Chart was the elimination of the Department of General Services.
Budget reductions/positions eliminated
Over the course of two and half years, as revenues have declined, the City has reduced the City's operating budget by approximately $40 million. Fifty-four (54) vacant positions were eliminated and 87 filled positions were eliminated.
With regard to the new Red Light Photo Enforcement, the City has contracted with RedFlex for services associated with Photo Enforcement. They are based in Arizona; however, they are contracting with local companies for the installation and maintenance of the camera systems and those jobs will be local. edFlex has expressed some interest in establishing a regional office in Hampton Roads given the fact that they also have systems in place in Virginia Beach and Newport News. We have made our Economic Development Department aware of this possibility and will provide them with contact information for RedFlex. The equipment will be owned by RedFlex but leased to the City exclusively for public use, and therefore would be exempt from taxation as property owned indirectly by a political subdivision.
In September 2006, the City arranged to have a fireworks display in conjunction with the Symphony Under the Stars concert to honor the upcoming 400th anniversary of Jamestown. That year being a special celebration, included the appearance of Maestro Jo Ann Faletta of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The City also provided fireworks following the 2007 and 2008 Symphony Under the Stars performances. However, fireworks were not included with the September 2009 and 2010 Symphony events. Funding for these fireworks has never been a part of the Department of Parks and Recreation's budget, and financing of these events has always been a challenge. We were fortunate in the past to have support from sponsors.
The Volvo and Independence Parkways improvements are fully funded and will be advertised in November. The current schedule is: Right of Way complete - December 2010; Construction begins - March 2011; and Construction complete - October 2011.
Concern was raised about the lack of advertising for the Chesapeake Regional Airport. The Airport Manager provides that the Airport is advertising as much as possible within the current budget constraints. Once the improvements to the Dominion Blvd. corridor are in place, there will be a more concerted effort to market the airport and the surrounding area.