The Upside—Scoring a Few For the Taxpayer
Early in his tenure, Sili was able to leverage some positive accomplishments for the county and its citizens both in transportation and in the area of retaining existing business. In 2009, a road improvement plan was approved and subsequently near completion which eliminated the turn lane into a major anchor business in the Carmel Church Growth Area. The business in question, Petro provided significant tax revenue and employment to the county. An excellent community and corporate citizen, Petro partnered with the county in the late 1980s, to apply and win a grant which jump started the original Utility system, enabling growth to occur in Caroline County.
In spite of Petro’s owners request to redesign the plan to include access to the business, the Caroline Board of Supervisors in a 4-1 vote (with Sili voting no)approved the original plan, actually eliminating the turn lane. Working with VDOT, Former Lt Governor Bill Bolling and Senator Ryan McDougle, Sili within a few months of the project’s competition was able to offer an alternative turn lane for “Cars Only” and was able to get Board consensus and a resolution of approval. The lane was added and has provided much needed access to the Travel Plaza, which includes a Wendy’s Franchise. Petro has since been sold to Flying J, but the turn lane is still a valuable commodity to reach the business at the Carmel Church intersection.
Marketing Business In Caroline-Patriot Farms Signage
In 2011, high winds from several storms damaged the Patriot Farms Travel Plaza billboard on Rt 207, signage vital to attracting customers to do business at Caroline’s Interchange. The contractor hired to repair the sign removed most of the damaged materials and applied to Caroline County for a “new construction” sign permit. According to state regulation, billboards which are removed cannot be replaced. However the old billboard while needing extensive repair was not entirely gone. Jeff applied to VDOT for permission to rebuild the sign and this was eventually granted. He also got special permission to have the sign lighted so that it could more readily be seen at night. The sign was competed in 2012, proving that working together accomplishes significant goals.
McKesson distributes pharmaceuticals and health care products to independent retail, national retail accounts and institutional accounts.
During the construction process for a brand new Fortune 500 company business called McKesson, Sili learned a state “right of way” permit for a water line had been essentially ignored by VDOT for five months. Sili contacted Martin Kent, Chief of Staff for Governor Bob McDonnell who put him in touch with Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade. When that office weighed in with the VDOT office in Fredericksburg, the permit was issued in five days and a fifty million dollar, 340,000 square foot project that created 150 jobs moved forward.
Secondary Road Improvements-Byrds Mill Road Restoration
Bryds Mill Pond is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the Commonwealth in the Bowling Green District near the community of Passing, adjacent to valuable business property once the site of Remuda Ranch. In 2011 a combination of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee took out the old dam which was a part of Passing Road. Due to murky regulations regarding the repair of old dams which provide road beds to the state maintained highway system, owner Walton Mahon contacted Jeff Sili. In researching the problem, Sili went to view the damage and said, “As an engineer I can see the solution to the problem should be fairly straightforward and I don’t think we really need reams of red tape here. The solution is simple and could be permitted through Caroline Building and Planning.”
On Feb 22 , 2012, County Planning deemed the project “Emergency Repair” in order to rebuild and stabilize the roadway with minimal disturbance to any new or surrounding land. Whittaker Construction was able to remove the old materials from the pre-1930 structure and replace the dam, preparing the area to be paved by VDOT. Both Delegate Margaret Ransone and Senator Ryan McDougle helped to expedite the last phase, the final finished product by VDOT.
Completed in the Spring of 2012, the road is a great example of the ability of local government officials to work with agencies to accomplish a goal that is positive for residents and businesses alike.
More Secondary Road Improvement-The Sparta Road Bridge
Near the community of Central Point in September of 2011, Tropical Storm Lee destroyed the bridge connecting far eastern Caroline with the Sparta area and beyond. Folks living at the lower end of Sparta Road and some of those that interconnect like Jeter and Passing Road were forced to go as much as 12 miles around to reach their homes. Travelers from Essex and King and Queen were in the same situation coming into Caroline. Floods had undermined the old structure of the bridge, driving water under the pipes and lifted them up destroying the foundation. Initially there were plans to build a temporary bridge, but Sili, in discussion with VDOT, realized that heavy farm trucks during harvest season passing over the bridge would not be safely supported by such a structure. Discovering that the bridge did not need a lengthy redesign plan, Jeff was able to get an emergency construction agreement working with District VDOT Engineer, Jake Porter to have the bridge rebuilt. The brand new bridge opened in December 2011, three months early.
Minimizing Government Regulation
One of the most successful economic develop initiatives by local volunteers is the Bowling Green Farmer’s Market now in its sixth year. From April through October, the market brings visitors to town on Saturday morning drawn by everything from homemade breads, pies and cakes to a huge variety of locally grown produce, herbal teas, handmade soaps and an incredible variety of flowers. Early in the planning process of the market, the managers met with representatives of the VDA (Virginia Department of Agriculture) for a sign off and until 2012 had not had any issues.
In the summer of 2012, on two separate occasions Virginia Department of Agriculture inspectors made visits to the market unannounced. When pressed for problem areas or how issues could be resolved, information was not forthcoming or duplicated previous answers which had already been addressed. Sili set up a meeting with Delegate Margaret Ransone who represents the Town in the 99th District and the VDA as well as market manager, Mark Mallin to clarify what, if any issues remained.
After the meeting, Sili said “As a regular patron of the Bowling Green Farmer’s Market I realize how much activity this event brings to Town and would not like to see a state agency undermine the market without cause. Hopefully we have been able to come to an understanding and to be solution oriented to address any concerns the VDA might have with vendors.” Delegate Ransone has also discovered redundancy in some requirements between the VDA and their health department, which may be eliminated with legislation. The meeting was very productive. To date, the Virginia Department of Agriculture has not expressed any concerns about the Bowling Green Farmers Market.
Broadband in the Bowling Green District
An initiative of Verizon, plans for a cell tower in the Sparta area began in 2008 with a rezoning of the Fogg property on Maracossic Road, one of the highest points in the community. In subsequent months the project was put on hold due to the economy, but in 2010 Verizon went forward with a building permit, but unfortunately the project stalled again. While campaigning for reelection in southern Caroline (in the newer part of the recently redrawn Bowling Green District), Jeff meet Verizon Engineer, Roland Holcomb who was familiar with the original tower project. Holcomb suggested a petition to convey the community’s interest in the tower and to project the level of usage to Verizon officials. Sili called members of the community together and drew up a petition for folks to sign to show that interest had not waned in better internet and phone service. Petition carriers worked door to door and at local community events and churches and obtained over 400 names. Sili, with help from Senator McDougle’s office, sent the petition to Verizon who were interested enough to revive the project. The tower was completed in November of 2012 and was live by January of the following year, enhancing service within a 6 mile radius.
Open Communication-Town Hall Style Constituent Meetings
In keeping with a promise made to voters in 2007 to maintain an open line of communication and inform citizens about issues relating to Caroline County Government, Town Hall meetings are are hosted by Jeff Sili in several locations throughout the district four or more times a year.