Whaleyville residents greet road plan with skepticism

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

Whaleyville residents, many leery and distrustful of the city’s proposal to take over roads now maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, pounded Public Work Director Eric Nielsen with questions Wednesday.

More than three dozen residents of the rural community crowded into the Whaleyville Volunteer Fire Department to give city leaders their take on the proposal.

Under the plan, if adopted by the Suffolk City Council early next year, the city would take over 1,480 miles of state-maintained roads by July 2006. VDOT has been maintaining most city roadways since the 1974 merger of Suffolk and Nansemond County.

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Much of the animosity in Wednesday’s meeting seemed to stem from merger-related issues. Several Whaleyville residents said the city never delivered on promises, such as water and sewer service, that were made to county residents at the time of the merger.

&uot;Are we going to get more projects than in the past?&uot; said Calvin Dildy. &uot;We have a sore spot for getting services from the city in the past.&uot;

From the front of the room, another man echoed similar sentiments.

&uot;Why should we trust the city? We have been neglected for the last 30 years,&uot; one man said. &uot;Whaleyville is out of sight, out of mind for the rest of the city.

&uot;We’ve got a VDOT facility right here in town. We’ve never had a wreck of tree to fall when they didn’t respond in a timely manner.&uot;

Several people wanted to know if city lawmakers would be setting up a way of dividing the money to make sure rural parts of the city would get its fair share of road funding.

Whaleyville Councilman Curtis Milteer, who has publicly supported the proposal, backed that suggestion.

&uot;The arrangement with VDOT was a honey of a deal 30 years ago,&uot; he said. &uot;I’d like to make sure each borough gets its share.&uot;

Residents also expressed concerned that the City Council might cut the public works department’s budget if it begins receiving the anticipated $15 million in

road maintenance funds each year.

Nielsen assured residents that the scenario isn’t likely.

&uot;We can’t take VDOT money and pay our electrical bill,&uot; he said.

City officials will hold a second meeting in Whaleyville in January to further address residents’ questions.