Taxes, volunteers fix Placid Bay roads
For the second year in a row, residents of Placid Bay Estates have seen two new taxes appear on their property tax bill. The first is a $40 road use tax on every lot owner. The second is a flat rate sanitary district tax that is based on personal property value and has been earmarked to pay for reconstruction of the dams that were destroyed in the 2011 Tropical Storm Lee.
While residents may understand that the assessments are part of their property tax bill, some may not know that part of the road use tax money has already been used for road improvements.
The roads in Placid Bay are in need of improvements and it looks work is underway to do accomplish that task.
Christina Gruszecki, president of the Placid Bay Civic Association, said representatives of the group met with County Administrator Norm Risavi, other county representatives, and VDOT to discuss the best use of the road tax. Once a plan was developed, the Placid Bay Sanitary District Board members held a public meeting to discuss and approve the plan.
During the public meeting, it was decided that 55 percent of the 2012 road use tax would be used for local repairs and 45 percent would be used for revenue sharing. Based on the number of lot owners in Placid Bay, the estimated yearly income was $59,680. Using statistics, plans for revenue sharing, and reports from residents, utility companies, and mail service, roads were prioritized for local repairs.
First on the list was Bay View Drive because it was selected for the revenue sharing program and had to be brought up to standards. Azure Drive was also selected because of mail service delivery issues as well as sections of the road made impassable by the storm. Multiple bids were obtained for tree removal and stone services. Two local firms, R.C. Tree Service and Walker Sand and Stone, put in the lowest bids and were selected for service.
Next, emergency work began on Woodmount Drive and Lakeview Drive. Gruszecki indicated that work on Woodmount Drive was considered an emergency because a severe storm in August started washing out the dirt road due to clogged culverts and ditches. She noted that Larry Sprouse and Artie Newlon (longtime owners of Placid Bay Estates Water Supply) donated their time and equipment toward cleaning out the ditches and culverts. The only expense to this road, she noted, was the gravel. In addition, Sprouse and Newlon were also responsible for filling in the potholes before stone was placed on Lakeview Drive. When asked why Lakeview was chosen, Gruszecki indicated that mail service had contacted the association expressing concern over the number of potholes on the road that were impacting delivery.
Gruszecki and other civic association members are currently working on a flyer to let residents know how their road use tax is being used and what residents can do to help.
PBE Road Repair Days
In addition to work done using the road tax monies, the civic association also held two volunteer repair days. According to their Roads Committee plan, the association wanted to “get as many roads as possible in condition to be transitioned to the state while continuing to maintain the rest.” They also wanted to maximize “the benefits of road tax funds by leveraging volunteer labor.” The first volunteer day was March 23rd with work focusing on Placid Road and Holly Way.
Work on Placid Road focused on removing easement infringements so that the road could continue to transition to the state. It has since been paved by VDOT. Work on Holly Way included removing trees, cleaning culvert pipes, and removing ditch obstructions. Stone paid for by the civic association was also put down. The cost of the stone and the success of the volunteer effort demonstrated the feasibility of accomplishing local repairs thus providing critical information for the plan that was later developed. A total of 35 volunteers showed up to help, along with two businesses, R.C. Tree Service and PBE Water Supply.
The second volunteer day focused on repairing Chrystal Lake Dam. Smaller groups of volunteers with equipment and support from PBE Water Supply worked on weekends through June to complete the work on Chrystal Lake Dam.
Placid Bay Road Facts
There are 42 roads in Placid Bay totaling approximately 13.7 miles. When funds from the road use tax first became available in 2013 only 10 roads were paved and four partially paved, leaving 28 roads entirely dirt or gravel and 10 having sections that are not passable. In 2013 one road was paved and two roads were added to the list to be paved.
In 1975 when ownership of the roads and lakes was transferred to the Placid Bay Civic Association, membership dues were the sole means of maintaining common property including the roads, dams, lakes, boat ramp, docks, and other recreational and gathering facilities. With membership dues amounting to less than $6,000 annually, the task became impossible and serious road deterioration began. The road use fee was instituted after the storm to help with road repairs. Not only do the funds contribute to local repairs such as tree removal, compactable base material, and gravel, but also to help transition roads for takeover by the state. Gruszecki said roads must meet criteria for transition and that these local funds are helping to make it happen.
Once the roads meet the criteria, they can become eligible for the revenue sharing plan and matching funds from the state. Two roads are currently in line for a grant, Striper and Bay View, for a total repair cost of $139,000. Bay View Drive (Lane) is approximately .14 miles in length and Striper Drive (Rue Petite) is .05 miles in length. Local funds were divided into $47,655 in County Match Funds and $21,845 from road use taxes with the state providing the matching $69,500 funds. Gruszecki indicated that these two roads were chosen for potential takeover by the state because they not only met the criteria, but were also affordable with regards to local fund availability.
A resolution regarding the VDOT Revenue Sharing Program for fiscal year 2015 was adopted on September 9, 2013 by the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors and was sent to the VDOT transportation board. The VDOT board will analyze all the applications and make recommendations regarding localities they will fund and then notify them.
According to County Administrator Norm Risavi, VDOT requested they submit their application in October this year rather than the usual submission date. Because they changed the normal process for this resolution application, Risavi said they can’t really say when notification will be provided, but he expects it to be before June. He was also unsure of when the work would begin because even after the approval, there is usually a long delay before the work actually commences. Like the dam projects, the government shutdown also impacted this project.
Gruszecki was quick to praise all of the volunteers and members who have made the current progress possible, but hopes that more people will consider becoming members of the civic association. In an update to current members, Gruszecki agreed with a statement from Risavi who said, “We have a long way to go, but as the old saying, ‘Yard by yard is hard, inch by inch is a cinch!’ goes, we will eventually solve these long neglected problems”.
The defining question may be however, is how do Placid Bay residents feel about the taxes and the improvements? One resident who actually lives on one of the paved roads, but walks on the gravel roads was very complimentary of the improvements that have been made. She noted that while she did not want to have to pay any more taxes than necessary, she realizes someone has to pay to keep up the roads and now repair the dams, and that people living in any other subdivision have some kind of subdivision fee, so the fees are probably fair.
Gruszecki also noted that the residents along Woodmount and Lakeview have been friendly, and are happy to see Sprouse and Newlon working on the roads. They will undoubtedly be even happier soon as Sprouse noted that another 17 loads of stone is scheduled to be spread on Lakeview Drive this week, and work on Azure Drive is slated to begin the end of this week or the beginning of next.
The Placid Bay Civic Association website is www.placid-bay-estates.com. Followers can sign up to receive updates as well as post road issues here.