, 2015

Committee to begin
engineering firm search
for revitalization project

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

WHITE STONE—With five state-mandated requirements met, White Stone is ready to move forward with a potential residential and commercial revitalization project.

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The second meeting of a management team at the town office last Thursday fulfilled the last of the five requirements for the town to receive $3,000 in planning grant funding to begin the process.

Town manager Patrick Frere reported at the July town council meeting that White Stone has been offered two grants totaling $40,000, including up to $30,000 for planning and development from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and one for $10,000 from the Virginia Housing Development Authority.

The initial project area assessed for improvements is a residential block of town along Chesapeake Drive and Irvington Road. Commercial improvements will follow.

$3,000 of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for planning was to be issued to the town once the five requirements were met. The deadline for meeting them is Friday, August 8, according to Frere.

The first requirement was to hold an initial public meeting informing citizens about the housing assessment and rehabilitaton program. That was held as part of the town council’s July monthly meeting. The second was to form and hold two meetings of a management team.

According to Frere, the town was also to complete a neighborhood survey to assess needs and demands of the residents and complete an infrastructure assessment of existing water, sewer and road conditions.

The next step, according to Frere and Jerry Davis of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission (NNPDC), is to submit the paperwork showing the requirements have been met. After that, there should be a “meeting with the state,” said Davis, “and a facilitated contract signed.”

Meanwhile, Davis recommended the committee to begin its search for an engineering firm to conduct a Preliminary Engineering Review (PER).

“So when you sign the contract with the state and get the go-ahead, you can move on the signing with the engineering firm,” said Davis.

The PER, he explained to the team, will help determine the most cost-effective way to upgrade the sewer and drainage systems.

“Whether you plan to do your own sewer and distribution plant or bring in sewer from a neighboring town or have a private entity,” said Davis, “it’ll show what’s the most cost-effective and most viable way to do this.”

The focus for the initial planning grant is to bring any substandard housing in the area up to the current housing standards and to perform the PER.

The residential area to be improved, said Davis, is along Irvington Road and will extend just over the town boundary to include residences that need upgrading. Davis said he has spoken with the Virginia Housing Development Authority about extending work past the boundary and “they are fine with that.”

Mayor Lloyd B. Hubbard, who serves on the management team, asked Davis if storm water runoff would also be addressed along with septic, because they are two separate issues.

“We can ask them to include storm water runoff issues in the initial PER,” said Davis.

“When we start putting together the Community Improvement Grant, we need to have everything in there you are requesting,” he added.

Davis warned the town should have a solid idea of what its project will be and how it will take shape by the end of the year for an application deadline in March.

Team member and town planning commission chairman John Taliaferro said he has already reached out to members of the neighborhood to identify beneficiaries of the housing rehabilitation project and residents interested in participating. To participate, residents must supply income information and allow their houses to be inspected, he said.

Members of the management team include Davis, Frere, Mayor Hubbard, Taliaferro, town council members David Jones, Irving Brittingham and Randy Reeves, Lancaster building official Steve Daum, John Bateman of the NNPDC and White Stone residents Hope Waters and Martha Dobyns.

Davis told Dobyns and Waters their jobs are vital.

“Our community representatives are very important,” he said. “The state has a term for them. They are called spark plugs. We’re the government and as everybody knows, nobody trusts the government.”

He urged them to get out into the community, talk to their neighbors and gather support for the project.

The next meeting of the management team will be with state officials at the facilitated meeting, according to Frere. That date hasn’t been set.

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