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Debbie Shinestine, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Bedford Residency Staff Engineer, and County Administrator Kathleen Guzi were bearers of bad news Monday night.
“There is absolutely no money in the next six years for unpaved roads,” Guzi told the supervisors.
Shinestine said that VDOT is looking at a $2.6 billion decline in revenue over the next six years. Part of the response to this is a restructuring. The number of VDOT residency offices will be cut from 44 to 29. Rocky Mount’s office is one of those, with its duties being taken over by Bedford’s residency, which will remain. Statewide, VDOT staff will be reduced with all staff reductions and restructuring being complete by July 2010.
Maintenance will remain a primary goal, prioritized according to the road’s traffic volume. This means that interstate highways will get the most attention and unpaved roads will get the lowest priority. Shinestine told the supervisors that maintenance on unpaved roads will be minimal and grass along the sides of these roads will be mowed annually.
Shinestine said that mowing on all roads will be less frequent. In all, VDOT’s budget for Bedford County has been cut by 42 percent.
“What are they doing with all that money they are collecting in tax?” asked Board Chairman John Sharp.
Shinestine said that VDOT is allocating money giving first priority to maintenance. Interstate highways come first, followed by primary roads and then secondary roads.
Sharp remained skeptical about the magnitude of the cut Bedford County will experience.
District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler expressed concern about the reduction in mowing. He noted that more deer plus less mowing will mean more cases of motorists hitting deer.
“The only person who’s going to profit from deer and tall grass is Roger Cheek,” he said.
District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek owns an auto body shop.
The supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution of concern over the VDOT cuts. It expresses particular concern about the lack of money to surface unpaved roads. The resolution will be sent to VDOT with Sharp’s signature as board chairman.
The supervisors also voted to schedule a public hearing on the VDOT six year plan for Bedford County. The hearing will be held Tuesday, April 28.