The end of the road on debated takeover
Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005
The end of the road is in sight for Suffolk lawmakers.
After months of public meetings, the Suffolk City Council is poised to decide Wednesday whether the municipality should take over the maintenance of more than 1,480 miles of state roadways.
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The vote will follow a public hearing on the proposal at the council meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Since the city’s 1974 merger with Nansemond City, VDOT has maintained all but the 85 miles of roads that were in the original city limits. The deal, a special arrangement coordinated by the late Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. of Chuck-atuck, requires that the state maintain the roads to rural, rather than urban,
If the city assumes the responsibility, it would get $15 million annually in state funds to do the job, said Eric Nielsen, the city’s public works director and an advocate for the proposal.
That is nearly three times what the Virginia Department of Transportation spends for the same work.
Although council members contacted for this article refused to say whether they would support the road takeover, several said they still have concerns about the proposal.
&uot;The big picture looks good, especially when looking at the funding,&uot; said Councilman Calvin Jones.
&uot;If you ask me if I have concerns, the answer would be yes.
&uot;This is a big, one-way decision,&uot; he continued. &uot;Is it really critical that we make it now?&uot;
Councilwoman Linda T. Johnson agreed, saying that she is unsure whether it’s the right time for Suffolk to make the change.
&uot;This is probably the most important decision that we will ever make,&uot; she said. &uot;There is absolutely no reversing it.
&uot;I have some real strong questions about what this could mean for us down the road, particularly if we move from maintenance to construction. So many people are raising valid questions that I don’t have the answers for.&uot;
Both Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Joe Barlow said they are waiting to hear what residents have to say during the public hearing before making a decision.
&uot;I came in on it late and I’m still trying to get both sides,&uot; said Barlow, who was recently appointed to complete the term of former Councilman E. Dana Dickens III.&uot;I want to stay open-minded until after the public hearing.&uot;
Bennett agreed. &uot; I’m hearing a lot of pros and cons,&uot; he said. &uot;But I’m waiting until after the public hearing to make a decision.&uot;