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T he POSTAL CUSTOMER Colonial Beach • Westmoreland See the King George Home & Craft Show review section inside. Pages 11-14 Volume 38, Number 10 Water and oil don’t mix DEQ Water regulating measures spark council concerns over possible fracking in Montross The old saying “Water and oil don’t mix”, is ringing true for members of the Montross Town Council, who are making that statement metaphorically with their concerns over the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulating water usage for localities and individuals, but not for the mining industry. Council’s discussions on obtaining a water withdrawal permit sparked concerns of potential overuse and contamination from mining industries, who are exempt from not only water usage restrictions, but are also not regulated to the same degree as everyone else. The council met for their regular meeting on February 25, with Vice Mayor Joseph P. King presiding over the meeting in Mayor David O’Dell’s absence. O’Dell was out recovering from pain management surgery and was reported as doing well. The issue of water restrictions came to the council last year, when everyone owning and operating a well in Eastern Virginia received a letter informing them that they may be under water withdrawal restrictions being imposed by the State. The DEQ, through the State’s Water Control Board, regulates water resources and water pollution in Virginia. The DEQ designates areas for water control if it finds there is a risk of depletion, competition between wells, groundwater being overused or at the risk of contamination. The DEQ states that groundwater levels in the eastern portion of Virginia are declining or are expected to decline excessively. So to regulate water use, the DEQ has expanded their area of Ground Water Management Area (GWMA). There are 40 counties in the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area, including Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline, Hanover, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hopewell, Prince George, Sussex and Southampton Counties, and all counties to the East which encompass the Northern Neck. The Eastern Shore and Accomack and Northampton Counties comprise their own GWMA. Any individual, business or locality operating a well that pulls more than 300,000 gallons of groundwater per month within the GWMA, must now obtain a permit and adhere to strict guidelines set up by the DEQ. The DEQ states that establishing a groundwater management area protects existing users from new or expanding withdrawals [of water], assures continued resources viability into the future and manages the resource comprehensively. However, several council See DEQ, page 4 School Board playing it safe Although the school system is not in need, the Colonial Beach School Board approved both an alternative accreditation plan and added classroom hours to be on the safe side. High School Principal Andrew Hipple explained to the board that in 2011, the Department of Education (DOE) established ways that schools that had a graduating cohort of fewer than 50 students could be provided some alternative ways to be evaluated. Hipple stated that it is the School’s goal to have 85% of students (starting in ninth grade) graduate on time. The Department of Education uses a formula to determine a school’s Graduation and Completion Index (GCI). The formula is typically based on a four-year cohort of students from ninth to twelfth grades; It uses the number of students who graduated with a regular diploma within four years, and students who graduated by any means within four years to determine a number or percentage of students that should graduate within the four-year time frame. Hipple explained that a small class size, such as the one facing Colonial Beach with 42 seniors, has a greater impact on the bottom line percentage. If just one student fails to complete high school within four years, the School’s GCI is impacted more than that of a larger school. To combat this problem for the eight schools currently in Virginia who have a graduating class of less than 50 students, the DOE has come up with five criteria to assist these schools with raising their GCIs, thus creating an alternative accreditation plan. Hipple said that at this point, the School does not need to take advantage of these extra credits, but asked that the board approve an alternative accreditation plan, just in case. The following are CGI criteria which offer one point credit for each; 50% or more of students graduating have taken chemistry, physics and/or calculus; 25% or Wednesday, March 5, 2014 50 Cents helping you relate to your community more graduating have enrolled in advanced placement or dual enrollment classes; and 25% or more graduating students have completed Career and Technical Education (CTE). An increased percentage of students graduating with an advance diploma, or an increased percentage scoring advanced proficient on Endof-Course (EOC) reading, writing or math SOL assessments, also gives one point each. The board approved the alternative accreditation plan, as well as adding extra days to the 2013-2014 school calendar to make up for days lost due to bad weather. Superintendent Kathleen Beane reported, “As of today, we have missed eight days of school due to inclement weather. Fortunately, we have built in more than 120 additional hours of instruction beyond the requisite 990 per year. Even so, I would like to modify the school calendar to make up several of these days, hoping that we have finished with the bad weather.” Beane said that the Presidents’ holiday had already been used as a workday for teachers and proposed changing March 4 and 31 to student days, with parent/teacher conferences on March 4 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. May 6, June 11 and 12 would change from early dismissal to full days for students. Beane said that with these changes, the School would still have additional days beyond the state requirement for instruction. School Board member Michelle Payne asked Beane why she wanted to make changes if they would still go over the state’s required days. Beane answered by saying that the requirement goes by hours, not days, and although it is unlikely the town will see more snow this year, she cannot guarantee something else will not happen that would result in missed days. Furthermore, the Leadership Team all agreed that the students needed as much instruction time as possible. —Linda Farneth School forges ahead with relocation tasks Spring is in the air! residents responsible for grass in gullies or ditches up to 10 feet in front of their homes, even within town right-of-ways. Edwards questioned Building and Zoning Director Gary Mitchell as to whether that should have been included in the current draft. Mitchell indicated it was not in the current draft. Erard stated that she could include that in the draft with the changes proposed by Goforth. Councilman Jim Chiarello argued that he felt it would be unenforceable to make people maintain right-ofways. Erard stated that she felt that was a great point, but asked that the council leave those discussions to a future work session once all new changes have been submitted. Finally, Mayor Mike Ham reopened the public hearing. Robert Busik of Monroe Bay Ave. spoke first, saying he was unsure of what, exactly, the town was changing, but asked that the council consider a few topics during deliberations. Busik said he agreed with having an ordinance to protect the town from negligent property owners who let their properties become overrun with invasive vegetation, but said, in his opinion, some of the ordinances defining what type of grass could be grown as ornamental turf grass are outdated. Busik requested that the council consider drafting the ordinance that gives more lenience to homeowners who wish to have a more naturalistic landscape, in the interest of complying with the Chesapeake Bay Act. Marsha Feldman also did not know the changes to the ordinance being presented, but stated she has complained to the town about a neighboring property that is overgrown and a nuisance. According The Colonial Beach School Board met Monday, Feb. 24, at the School Board office to discuss placement of mod pods on the high school campus. The school had previously received only one bid for the project engineer from Jeff L. Howeth Engineering in Tappahannock. The board conditionally approved the bid with the intent to negotiate a better price for the contract. When the board met on Monday, Howeth said the original plans for placement of the mod pods would not work, since some of the mod pods the school intended to order will be larger than previously anticipated. The group experimented with different layouts until they were satisfied they could fit them all in, while still following all legal guidelines to keep the mod pods handicappedaccessible and still maintain safety and a flow of traffic that would not hinder daily operations. Some board members expressed a reluctance to move forward without something in writing from the town guaranteeing they would fund the move. On Feb. 17, the Colonial Beach Town Council and School Board reconvened their previous joint meeting from February 12 to discuss the issue of funding the move for the elementary school. The group was scheduled to receive an update from Town Manager Val Foulds on the $1 million bond the town is seeking from VML (Virginia Municipal League) and to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the school and the town to fund the move of the elementary school to the high school campus. Unfortunately, several misunderstandings sprung from the MOU and discussions during that meeting. At the Feb. 24 work session, the MOU was still being reviewed by the attorneys for both the school and the town. Other members, including Scott Foster, felt that time was too short to wait for legal entanglements and that the verbal word of the council was sufficient for them to be comfortable moving forward. There is still no word from the State on the cause of the January 5 early morning blaze at the abandoned brick building which created a collapse zone around the building, forcing elementary students to be relocated for the remainder of the year. The board remains grateful to the Oak Grove Baptist Church for taking the students in and for all the donations from businesses and citizens in Colonial Beach and surrounding areas. See Nuisance, page 4 —Linda Farneth Leonard Banks While the weather has presented the Colonial Beach High School softball program with its share of challenges, athletes both veteran and rookie are looking forward to the start of the season, March 17. Nuisance Ordinance lives up to its name A recent proposed change in the nuisance ordinance has brought confusion concerning the town’s authority to enforce mowing of “occupied” properties. Also in question is the town’s authority, under the current code, to cut property owners’ grass and bill them for it. Town Attorney Andrea Erard stated at the Colonial Beach Town Council Meeting on Feb. 17, that according to the current state code, under the current ordinance, the town could only enforce grass cutting for vacant properties. The town does have authority to enforce all aspects of the current nuisance ordinance “on vacant developed or undeveloped properties”. Furthermore, the current code is clear that all aspects of the nuisance ordinance may be applied to occupied properties, excluding the subsection that refers to the cutting of grass, weeds and other foreign growth. This is the matter currently in question. In a phone interview on February 25 with Erard, she stated, “A public nuisance depends on the specific facts of particular situation.” Erard went on to explain that in some extreme circumstances, where property is occupied, if the growth of grass, weeds and other foreign growth poses a health risk to others, the town has the authority to enforce cleanup. The nuisance ordinance covers the town’s authority to enforce rules concerning: trash, garbage, weeds, grass, shrubbery, trees and other vegetation, litter and other substances, generally, that could create a nuisance for others. The ordinance was originally brought before town staff last year to change the way residents are notified when they have violated the ordinance. It was proposed that the town ordinance send a notice by first class and certified mail to allow 14 days (instead of 7) to correct the violation, and 10 days to correct any subsequent violations. Council advertised and held a public hearing on the changes on Feb. 17. Only two residents spoke at the public hearing, but when council members began discussing the issue, attention to details gave way to a startling discovery, putting the town’s authority to enforce the 12-inch rule on grass height, into question. When the public hearing for the ordinance came up on the agenda, Councilman Pete Bone asked, “Are the changes significant enough to warrant re-advertisement, or is it okay as it stands?” (indicating that the town was planning to do so). Erard answered, “Not if it stays the way that it stands, but I did receive an email last week from Mrs. Goforth with some possible changes; those would require, I think, restudy and re-advertising.” Councilwoman Wanda Goforth had apparently submitted changes, which were not specified during the meeting. This eventually opened up discussions on procedural processes needed to implement the changes. Erard stated that what Goforth was proposing, if implemented, would be significant enough to warrant readvertising and conducting a new public hearing. Erard suggested passing the ordinance with the current changes, then drafting a new ordinance with Goforth’s changes and conducting a new public hearing on the matter. The public hearing was opened, but Councilman Tommy Edwards brought up that when the council had discussed this ordinance last year, a suggestion was made to make Water quality is focus of Potomac River Fisheries Comm. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission was created in the wake of the deadly Maryland–Virginia “Oyster Wars” of the 1940s and 1950s, with rival watermen from each side of the Potomac battling each other. But since President Kennedy signed legislation in 1962, giving the commission jurisdiction from near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the mouth of the river, the commission’s mission has changed dramatically. The commission’s goal is to conserve and improve the fishery resources along the Potomac, but today instead of dealing with warring watermen, much of that effort is focused on water quality. To underscore that point, last week the commission held the first ever Water Quality Information Exchange at its headquarters in Colonial Beach.  The event drew water conservation officials from Virginia and Maryland, as well as watermen and others concerned about the health of the river. Commission Executive Secretary Martin Gary, who led the meeting, said, “One thing we all have in common is that we care about what’s going on in the river.”   Representatives from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources spoke to those gathered about the two states’ water-quality monitoring programs.   Gary said it was important to get the various organizations and individuals together to share information, because the Potomac is facing big challenges linked to pollution and increasing urbanization along its shores. Tucker Brown, a Maryland waterman, said, “I think this is a good step. Just keep the questions coming, because I’ve already learned something myself. Everybody’s getting together, and nobody’s pointing a finger at anybody.” According to Jeff Talbott, monitoring program manager with DEQ’s Northern Regional Office in Woodbridge, bacteria levels in the Potomac have stayed about the same in the river over 20 years of monitoring. Talbott said that more stringent rules for sewage plant discharges have reduced the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus going into the river. Those nutrients can foster algae blooms that can rob the water of oxygen, killing fish, crabs and other marine life. Pollution carried by runoff, however, is a continuing concern, he added. Several watermen said the Potomac has many more water quality problems than the Rappahannock River. One commercial fisherman said that the Potomac is different from the Rappahannock.   “In the Potomac, everywhere you go, it’s Now you can follow local breaking news daily on our website at all the same color as your [brown] podium,” one waterman said. “The bottom is covered with that slime.” Other watermen raised questions about perennial bacteria contamination problems at Fairview Beach, on the Potomac in King George County, and water-quality monitoring on Mattox Creek in Westmoreland County and on Monroe Bay in Colonial Beach. At the conclusion of the meeting, Gary said that the agency will post a summary of the session on its website, with contact information and information links.  — Richard Leggitt


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