By Linda Cicoira — The floorboards of their cars are rusted and the frames are shot from driving through salt water as they make their way home every day.
That’s the plight of people who live at Bell’s Neck in southern Accomack County. A discussion at Wednesday’s board of supervisors’ meeting disclosed the project to remedy the situation has been held up by a clerical error. The mistake was made six years ago.
Back then, Chairman Donald Hart, of District 8, made a motion to put the project on the top priority six-year plan. It was seconded by Supervisor Reneta Major, of District 9. The road is split with half being in District 9 and the other half in District 8.
But when the resolution was put on paper, it didn’t include the name of the road. And no one caught the omission.
“The VDOT people were here that night,” said Supervisor Ron Wolff. “They knew what the intent was.”
“We have to accept the responsibility, as it is that the staff that did not incorporate it,” said County Administrator Mike Mason, who was finance director when the error occurred.
Rod Hennessey said he goes through saltwater twice a day to make it home and out to work. Hennessey said he can’t put more than a quarter of a tank of gas in his Chevy Silverado because the eroding tank is hanging. “There are school buses going through it twice a day” too, he added, remarking about the high cost to replace those vehicles.
There are 12 houses at Bell’s Neck. “Everybody has a couple of cars,” said Hennessey. “We’re waiting. But we’re running out of time … You have to be able to work on the ditches” on the Eastern Shore — “the road to Saxis … to Chincoteague.”
State law allows for normal ditch maintenance, Hennessey said. Because of the wetlands there, permission would have to be given for construction of any new drainage ditch, he explained.
“It’s not sea level rise,” said Anthony Giorgilli, Hennessey’s neighbor. “A simple ditch digging would” fix it.
Giorgilli said he’s tired of being sent from agency to agency. He was told VDOT is seeking permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the work but when he called the USACE he was told they hadn’t gotten an application.
“I call them untruths,” Giorgilli said. VDOT tells him “Accomack County dropped the ball. … Everyone is passing it around in a circle.” He wondered what other resolutions may have been lost. “Maybe it’s a mistake somewhere … The road is getting worse … That’s my frustration thank you for listening to me.”
“We’re trying to find another way to get this done,” said Hart. “This is very important to me. There are things on the list that were put on there 30 years ago. That’s how much the (state) money has dried up.”
“I feel the pain, I’ve rode the road,” said Major. “Get a meeting (of VDOT and county officials and residents of Bell’s Neck) set up and I will definitely be there as well,”
Major said. “I will do anything I can to help.”
Mason said he recently met with local VDOT head, Chris Isdell. “I did ascertain that this is in the permitting process,” Mason said, adding, there is a “three-prong” approach in the works “to reclaim the ditches subject to marsh intrusion,” raise the road, and post warning signs about the high water.
“We went back and listened” to a recording of the session where the resolution was made, Mason said. “It’s clear that this board wanted to make Bell’s Neck a focus point.”