Congressman Scott Taylor was on the Eastern Shore Saturday. Taylor attended a stem event with Wallops personnel at Eastern Shore Community College and then conducted a meeting with local town and county officials at the Eastern Shore of Va. Chamber of Commerce.
At that meeting Taylor informed the mayors and county officials that the recent spending bill contains $4 billion for rural development projects. Taylor wanted them to not only know about the available opportunities but work together for regional projects that would enable the Shore’s towns and counties to qualify for a portion of the available funds.
Local mayors gathered prior to the meeting to discuss possible needs. Those needs include the extension of the Onancock Sewage system to include Onley and along Lankford Highway south as far as Exmore. Onancock Mayor Russell Jones said that the system has an excess capacity of half a million gallons per day.
Cape Charles Mayor George Pronto talked about the need for affordable housing not only in the Cape Charles area but also adjacent to Wallops. Pronto said that the lack of affordable housing for teachers is making retaining them a serious problem for both counties. Congressman Taylor said that one reason for the loss of the drone project at Wallops to Florida was the lack of available affordable housing for the labor force. Pronto also mentioned the importance of extending natural gas service to both counties.
Mayor Arthur Leonard of Chincoteague underscored the need for moving the public beach north on Assateague along with suitable parking. Leonard also said that Chincoteague will have to install a new water system in the future and the real need for a central sewage system for the island. Leonard also discussed the need for dredging in some state and federal channels. Accomack County Board Chairman Robert Crockett and Chincoteague Supervisor Billy Joe Tarr and Eveluyn Shotwell of the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce said that Assateague attracts 1.4 million visitors per year to Chincoteague.
Tangier Mayor Ooker Eskridge discussed the erosion issue and the need for a seawall. Eskridge said he has been in contact with General Kelley of the US Army Corps of Engineers and is optimistic that the project is progressing. Chairman Crockett of the Accomack Co. Board of Supervisors said of his home town, “the Tangier way of life is disappearing fast.”
It was suggested that re-establishing the local mayor’s association be considered. Curt Smith of ANPDC said his office is already compiling a list of contacts for each town and he would look into getting mayors and local officials together on a regular basis.
Representative Taylor explained that congressional earmarks are no longer permitted but earmarks enabled congress to directly fund projects like those discussed. Taylor said that earmarks were considered wasteful spending he would support their return as long as legislation to prevent abuse was also included.