Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Rudolph Jefferson is running unopposed for reelection to the Hardy District seat on the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors.
- Can you briefly summarize how long you’ve served on the Board of Supervisors and what initially motivated you to run for the office?
I was motivated by one of the most distinguished board members of Isle of Wight County, Mr. Henry Bradby, who represented the Hardy District for about 29 years. Mr. Henry Bradby shared an abundance of information with me while serving on the board and as President of Rushmere Volunteer Fire Department. Mr. Bradby felt like I was the person to represent the citizens of the Hardy District. I have been a lifelong resident in the Hardy District and was aware of the needs of the people. I believed my people needed someone that would visit and communicate to discuss and help resolve the concerns of the community. As of December 31, 2021, I will have served as representative of the Hardy District for eight years.
- The groundbreaking of a new Hardy Elementary was supposed to begin in March of this year but has been delayed twice, and the estimated cost, originally thought to be around $27 million, had risen to $34 million — the entirety of what the county borrowed last year — as of June. The county’s estimate of the cost to buy water from Smithfield for the school has also nearly doubled from $2.2 million to $4.29 million, and the school now isn’t slated to open until 2023. Do you feel building a new school as opposed to renovating the existing one or postponing the project is still the right way to go?
Hardy Elementary School is not a want, but a necessity to provide the teachers, students, parents and other staff the ability to provide equity, as the other most recently built schools with the most updated features and technology. As a child, I attended Hardy Elementary. I am now 68 years of age, whereas Hardy cannot function and provide all the services required to inspire and educate or motivate our teachers and kids in that current environment. The cost of the school and water will only increase with time, due to the high cost of material, labor shortages and other factors inclusive in the construction phase. Our staff is doing all in reason to reduce cost, but should not stop the project if the county can afford to pay the cost. I truly support the construction of a new Hardy school in the year 2021.
- Same question for replacing Westside Elementary, which is currently grades 4-6, with a new middle school for grades 5-7 and making the current Smithfield Middle/High complex grades 8-12. Replacing Westside was budgeted in the current IWCS capital improvements plan at $28 million, with the first round of funding in the 2022-2023 school year, but now is anticipated to cost at least $40 million. Is replacement rather than a renovation or postponing the project the right way to go?
We will provide more information about Westside Elementary after finalizing the contract for Hardy Elementary. A new Hardy school could provide relief to Westside. I will support the construction of a new Westside Elementary School. Westside is an aged facility and doesn’t provide equity to our staff, students and others using the facility.
- Per the 2020 Census data, Isle of Wight’s population grew 9.5% from 2010 to 2020, but housing growth is up 12.4%, which far outpaces the rate of new construction in the region and statewide. Have Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors approved too many housing developments or are all the projects in progress needed?
As you are aware, many projects were approved years ago. Due to the market in 2008, many projects were postponed. With a booming market, many developers want to take advantage of the current market. The Service District is where the county had invested funds for many years. The developments offer an opportunity to get a return on our investment. If you review the consensus report versus the growth rate, it is only a 2% difference. The developers have been considerate with the proposal reduction of density. I support the building of affordable housing that meets the salary demands of our county workforce, teachers, and meat processing and other workers in Isle of Wight County.
- What is your position on whether Isle of Wight County should require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly?
As a board member, I respect the rights of citizens and county employees. Currently Isle of Wight County is in a crisis and at high risk for COVID-19 infections. I support the vaccinations, masking and personal hygiene requirement. As a board member, we are to provide a safe and secure workplace for all employees. If a person chooses not to be vaccinated, I support the weekly testing at the county’s expense within CDC requirements.
- Gov. Ralph Northam has announced $700 million in American Rescue Plan funds for broadband expansion with the goal of providing universal access statewide by 2024. Do you feel that goal is feasible for Isle of Wight County? If so, how should the county go about bringing access to unserved rural areas?
COVID-19 exposed the lack of equity to accessible broadband throughout the county and state of Virginia. The lack of access affected our students, teachers and many homeowners in Isle of Wight County. The America Rescue Plan funds made the goal more achievable. The county is seeking grants, utilizing stakeholders, and investing county funds to provide assurance that every home in the county will have the ability to have access to the internet. If desired, this is a great benefit to our county and those parents that work from home and homeschool their children.
- Can you explain why Isle of Wight should or shouldn’t exercise its authority under a 2020 change in state law that allows localities to ban firearms in government buildings, parks and at public events with limited exceptions?
Whether you are in a government meeting place, medical facility, park and or other public places, guns should not be allowed. Guns sometimes intimidate people. That results in bad decisions or misinformation. We have law enforcement officers to monitor these facilities when required. The presence of guns at these facilities increases the risk for decision makers being hurt due to the person’s decision that someone feels is inappropriate.
- Per the terms of Isle of Wight’s 2009 Norfolk Water Deal, the county was allocated and required to pay for 1.5 million gallons per day of surface water from the city in 2020, but only used about 700,000 per day. By 2022, Isle of Wight’s allotment will be up to 4 million gallons per day. The deal is intended to wean the county off its dependence on groundwater, which the state Department of Environmental Quality says has reached unsustainable usage. But the $11.20 per 1,000 gallons the county currently charges residential water customers is nearly double the $6.55 per 1,000 gallons it charged in 2008 prior to the deal — and more than Smithfield or Windsor charge. Should Isle of Wight County stay the course with the water deal as it was written, or look into other solutions for reducing its dependence on groundwater?
The DEQ provided ample notice that the ground water withdrawal permits would be reduced. The previous board had foresight to seek an alternative source of water for the citizens of Isle of Wight County. This water deal, although costly, will provide assurance of a source of water for years to come. Water rates, like many other utilities, increase to help pay for cost and maintenance of the source and system. This deal gave the county and towns the ability to trade water with overall cost affecting the user of the product. Hopefully with more users, the water rates should decrease in the near future.. Hopefully, we would soon be able to consume the amount of water we are paying for. I support and honor the current contract.