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Elswick Gives Update on Major County Projects

Ed Elswick speaks at Monday’s Back Creek meeting.

Ed Elswick, Roanoke County Supervisor for the Windsor Hills District, and Richard Caywood, VDOT District Administrator, were guest speakers at the Back Creek Civic League meeting Monday evening.  Caywood addressed the Route 221 widening project along with other VDOT activity in the southwest county area.  Elswick also spoke about issues that he has been involved with during his first four months in office.

Caywood began with the announcement that VDOT is currently in its second round of layoffs this past year, which have affected over a hundred people in the region.  He shared that the state agency is now a little over half the size that it was when he first started with VDOT about 18 years ago.  “As we continue to get smaller, we will probably be doing more work than ever with contractors,” he said. “There are a lot of things that we used to do that we cannot do any longer, or not do as well as we used to.”  He did praise the folks that work for him in their “Herculean effort” in trying to keep the roads clear this past winter.

Caywood said that recent work along Route 221 has involved the movement of utilities in preparation for the widening of the road and softening the accident-prone “S” curve.  The end result will be a four lane road between Route 668 (Cotton Hill Rd) and Crystal Creek Road.  There will be a new right turn lane from Cotton Hill which will continue onto Route 221 as a “free flow right” which is a dedicated lane that will begin the two lanes going north towards Roanoke.  The bulk of the new road will be on the Cotton Hill side of Back Creek.  Two bridges will cross the creek as the curve is straightened.  When the project is complete, Ran Lynn and Cotton Hill will meet at one intersection.

According to Caywood, the project has now been fully funded and was one of the last stimulus projects to get money in the state of Virginia. “It is being advertised for bid next Tuesday and will be open for bid for 60 days,” said Caywood.  He added that work will start late summer or early fall and then will continue through another two construction seasons.  The anticipated completion date is in the fall of 2013.

Caywood spoke about several other construction projects that will begin when school lets out.  One will be the completion of the Colonial Avenue roundabout and road work near North Cross School to add a dedicated right turn lane onto Route 419.  The section of Colonial Avenue between Brambleton and Route 419 will close in June.  Merriman Road at Meadowlark will also be closed for the summer for the construction of the new roundabout at that intersection.  The traffic circle will have five legs which will include the entrance to Penn Forest Elementary School and the entrance to the new South County library.

Elswick said that his job as a county supervisor has almost been a full time job so far –  meeting with county residents and addressing their questions and needs; researching issues before the supervisors;  and attending one or two meetings per day.  He stated that the budget issue has required a major time investment with meetings that often go late into the night.  He had high praise for the county employees that he has worked with, including County Administrator Clay Goodman.

Elswick represents the people of the Windsor Hills District and desires to know the opinions of the people.  He spoke about “Common Sense,” an organization which formed a few months ago with the objective of getting citizens involved in forming a political consensus, and making county decision-makers aware of their views.

He addressed the closing of Bent Mountain Elementary School and emphasized that the school building is the only focal point that the community has.  He added, “It has been there since 1872 and the desire is to keep it as a community center.”  A group of Bent Mountain residents have been brainstorming ideas such as fish fries on Friday nights, Saturday morning breakfasts, bingo nights, and bluegrass concerts – all geared to eventually raise enough money to run the facility without funding from the county.  Much to Elswick’s regret, the School Board is now considering leasing the building to an organization called “June Bug” out of Floyd, for a dollar a year, totally bypassing the wishes of the Bent Mountain community.

Another issue that Elswick has been involved with is the proposed wind farm of fifteen 400+ feet turbines on top of Poor Mountain.  He said that research is continuing and the findings are not all positive; energy grids sometimes cannot efficiently accommodate the output of the windmills and there can be negative effects on people who live within a mile of the turbines.

Elswick praised Pete Haislip, Director of Roanoke County’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism, for the incredible job that he has done recruiting members for the Green Ridge Recreation Center.  It appears that the center’s operating costs may be covered for the first year; however, Elswick added that there is an additional 1.8 million dollars a year due to cover the bonds used to build the facility.

Elswick spoke about the Slate Hill development, now called South Peak, calling it an “eyesore and not a good reflection on Roanoke County or the community.”  He said that the developer, Jim Smith, is willing to put another $100 million into the project if the county will set up a community development authority to borrow 15 million to finance and oversee public infrastructure improvements to the site.

By Dot Overstreet
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