Minutes of the September 16, 2019
PNK2030 Strategic Planning Committee
at 5000 Farmers Drive, Barhamsville, VA 23011
At 6:00 pm, the Chairman of PNK2030 Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), Mo Gauthier, called the meeting to order. The attendees were Bob Jeremiah, Charles Karow, and Chuck Ward. The first order of business was a report by Bob Jeremiah and Charles Karow on the two most recent meetings of the New Kent County Broadband Advisory Committee (NKCBBAC). At the August 29 meeting, Chuck Ward and Charles Karow presented a backgrounder on rural broadband that explained technological and business issues, leading to the conclusion that an open access fiber-to-the-home network, supplemented by fixed wireless where feasible, owned by a county-owned “authority” would be our best solution. The presentation was well-received, however three members of NKCBBAC were absent (Kevin Eddowes, Ron Durrer, and Mark Flynn). The next meeting of the NKCBBAC, on September 11, was a lunch meeting, where the chairman, Chris Stone, took the lead and summarized the progress made at the previous meeting and focused on getting to action steps. There was general agreement on technology of “fixed wireless where feasible, fiber where necessary,” recognizing that fixed wireless is not feasible in much of NKC because of the trees. It was felt that the next step in gathering information would be to get specific proposals with real-world figures for what it will actually cost to implement rural broadband in NKC. Rodney Hathaway took the action to draft an RFP, and a subcommittee (Chis Stone, Kevin Eddowes, Charles Karow and Bob Jeremiah) was appointed to review and edit the RFP in preparation for presentation to the NKC BoS.
The next challenge is likely to be the formation of a business case analysis to establish the financial feasibility within NKC resources. The case needs to be made that 1) a fiber network represents the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) over the long term, while providing the best service to the citizens; 2) the economic benefits of broadband access to the current and prospective inhabitants of NKC are significant; and, there any many other ways of funding the installation other than taxes, including the county’s income from Colonial Downs, revenue bonds, tax increment financing, and consumer ownership.
The SPC then discussed the NKC Strategic Plan Steering Committee (NKCSPC), and its composition. At the urging of PNK2030, a NKCSPC has been established, and the appointees by the BoS have been identified. Our request for appointments of PNK2030 members to the NKCSPC were ignored. Concurrently, there has been a competitive solicitation for a NKC Strategic Planning Consultant, with proposals due on August 8th. Due to the remarkable success of Goochland County, PNK2030 urged Mr. Ken Peterson, the current Chairman of the Goochland County BOS, to submit a proposal. Mr. Hathaway reports that NKC received 20 proposals, including Mr. Peterson’s. We hope the NKCSPC will be assigned the task of evaluating and ranking the proposals, and that final selection will be that proposal offering the best value to NKC, with both the technical proposal and bid price weighing equally as selection criteria. As of this writing, the NKCSPC has not met and has not been chartered.
During wide-ranging discussions with Mo in August, a Supervisor shared that the BoS was working on a significant decision they were likely to defer to after the election. Mo asked him to describe the decision. He said he couldn’t disclose the issue because they were under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This runs counter to any concept of transparency, and we should oppose any discussions on land use requiring an NDA by our elected, appointed or hired county officials. The PNK2030 SPC will recommend to the PNK2030 Chair the submission of FOIA request for the purpose of identifying all NDAs signed by our county leaders.
The meeting adjourned at 8:00 PM with the following conclusions:
- Critical Infrastructure: Our request for focus on Broadband has generated positive and promising movement. The current NKCBBAC is the county’s second run on this critical infrastructure issue. Since that time, NKC has only fallen further behind. PNK2030 is committed to assisting our county leadership in succeeding this time.
- Strategic Plan: PNK2030 has successfully convinced county leadership that the historical absence of a Strategic Plan prohibits alignment of the dated Comprehensive Plan with the contemporary aspirations of our citizens. The establishment of a NKCSPC is a milestone event. Providing the NKCSPS with a charter assigning its goals and responsibilities is critical to its success. The selection and hiring of a highly credentialed strategic planning consultant will assist the NKCSPC in the establishment of such a Charter leading to the development of a citizen-centric Strategic Plan.
- Transparency: The issue of clandestine land use discussions conducted by our elected, appointed and hired leaders behind the inappropriate veil of “Non-Disclosure Agreements” runs counter to the transparency we expect of our governors. Any enterprise refusing to negotiate with NKC in the public square is an unworthy partner. When and if such negotiations come down to terms, the actual terms can be held close until contracts are awarded. At that point in time, all pricing and terms of all offerors fall into the public domain. This includes all proffers. The citizenry is entitled to every nuance of every deal. In the decision phase, every person participating in the decision making is obligated to fully disclose any personal or familial connections with all offerors. We are all far too committed to accept back-room handshakes and fast-track land use deals. Sunshine on all land use discussions is in the best interests of the citizens of NKC.