Roads, funding top city wish list

Published 9:01 pm Thursday, November 19, 2009

Suffolk City Council unanimously approved the city’s legislative agenda during its meeting on Wednesday.

Chief among the city’s concerns on the federal level is transportation funding, leaders said. Council also discussed various ways to fund road improvements during its meeting.

Though the agenda was passed, the move will not preclude Council from adding items as needed, Chief of Staff Sherry Hunt told Council members. The agenda now will be sent to the city’s legislators and lobbyists for review. The Virginia General Assembly session begins Jan. 13, and pre-filing of bills began earlier this week.

Among the items on the city’s wish list for state legislators are an end to unfunded state mandates, a study on port-related rail traffic, a clarification of state code and the designation of the Blackwater River as a scenic river.

“Unfunded and underfunded state mandates place an extreme burden on local government and state revenue streams,” Hunt said during her presentation. City leaders consider it so important that the state help pay for the demands it makes on localities that they agreed to make pressing for that change their top legislative priority this year.

In addition, the city will ask the state to conduct a study of the effects of port-related rail traffic in the city, and it will ask the state to clarify whether state agencies are exempt from local stormwater fees.

Finally, Suffolk wants the state to designate a portion of the Blackwater River as a component of the Virginia Scenic Rivers System. Council passed a resolution earlier in the year supporting the river’s inclusion in the program, which helps protect rivers and streams that possess scenic and historical significance.

In addition, the city will monitor statewide issues that especially affect the city, including stormwater regulations and uranium mining.

“We want to monitor any legislation that’s proposed pertaining to uranium mining, because it may have potential downstream impact to our water supply,” Hunt said.

In addition to transportation funding, the city’s federal legislative agenda includes competitive grant funding for sanitary sewer consent order projects, opposition to the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2009, and the Driver Naval Radio Transmitting Facility. The city hopes to have restrictions on the use of the former Driver facility lifted so it can be used for recreation.