Board Priorities for the Community
The Board of Supervisors has established priorities for the community: public safety, education, economic development, infrastructure, and service excellence, all encompassed by fiscal responsibility and reducing the tax burden.
Stafford’s 350th Anniversary
Stafford celebrated its 350th Anniversary in 2014. Five signature events were held along with many other programs. Several permanent fixtures emerged from the celebration: a one-of-a-kind amphitheater at Pratt Park; an African-American History Wall at the Rowser Building, also known as the former Stafford Training School; a 350th Anniversary Memorial Brick Garden on the grounds of Rowser; and a movie spanning Stafford’s history. More than 40,000 citizens and visitors attended the five signature events and the movie debut. Thousands of other people participated in other programs throughout the “party of the centuries.”
The Board of Supervisors adopted the Economic Development 10-Point Plan in early 2010 to lay out steps for implementing the Board’s mission of making Stafford a more desirable and business-friendly community through jobs for our citizens, a world-class school system, modern public safety services and abundant parks and recreation amenities. Accomplishments include boosting of jobs in Stafford County over the 40,000 mark, the Community Development Services Center and the trail opened before 2014. Now that the 10-Point Plan is over 90% implemented, it is being superseded by the Economic Development Strategic Plan, scheduled to be considered by the Board and Planning Commission in early 2015.
Retail Attraction Study
Stafford is fully pursuing the recommendations of its recent comprehensive retail attraction study to help increase and enhance retail growth opportunities in the county. In 2014, Stafford County representatives met with more than 70 retailers and welcomed Chipotle, the Verizon Smart Store, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sonic, Wawa, Walgreens and other businesses to the county.
Data Center Attraction
Staff worked to match the needs of data center end users to sites in Stafford that are appropriate for data center development. As a result, seven properties have been identified in Stafford that meet the power, fiber, water and sewer capacities necessary for the type of high technology development that helps diversify opportunities for employment in the county. In November 2014, Dominion Virginia Power certified Stafford’s first data center cite, which means the site is shovel-ready for a center to locate there. The site is expected to attract businesses that house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and digital storage systems.
Connection to Dark Fiber
Dark fiber was added to Stafford’s offerings in 2014 when SummitIG completed the 170-mile dark fiber network making I-95 the "Cyber Highway" delivering the fastest, most direct route between Richmond and Northern Virginia. This fiber will serve the future demand of large enterprises, military, government agencies and academic institutions.
Bond Rating Upgrade
Stafford County’s strong financial management, conservative budgeting, and financial flexibility has led Moody’s Investors Service to upgrade the County’s bond rating to Aa1 from Aa2. This upgrade comes just two years after Moody’s upgraded Stafford’s outlook from stable to positive in 2013. Fitch Ratings affirmed Stafford’s AA+ bond rating.
From 2009 to 2014, Stafford averaged 2.6% annualized job growth, the highest growth rate among the 134 counties and independent cities in Virginia. From the beginning of the recovery in the third quarter of 2009 to the third quarter of 2014, employment increased 15.5% in Stafford compared with a 3.8% expansion statewide. As of the third quarter of 2014, employment in Stafford expanded year-over-year for 20 consecutive quarters compared with 16 quarters of year-over-year growth statewide over the same period.
Lake Mooney Reservoir
Construction on the massive Rocky Pen Run Dam and Reservoir and water treatment facility is complete. The Board of Supervisors named the reservoir after Deputy Jason Mooney, a Stafford deputy who died tragically in an accident on I-95 after responding to an emergency call in 2007. The reservoir is filling and will eventually hold approximately 5.54 billion gallons of water, greatly increasing the amount of water in reserve. This dam will ensure Stafford can meet the water needs of its business and private homeowners for years to come.
2014 was a big year for parks in Stafford. Curtis Park’s first renovation in 30 years was debuted to the public for the summer season. Stafford opened Chichester Park, a five-diamond field complex adjacent to Stafford High School, in the fall. Construction continues on Embrey Mill Park, with a completion date scheduled for early 2016. Embrey Mill will be home to a rectangular field complex and the Jeff Rouse Swim and Sport Center, featuring an indoor 50 meter x 25 yard competition pool. Aquia Landing was named one of four best restored beaches nationally. The bath house/concession stand was renovated there to accommodate the many reunions, weddings and events hosted there. Structures were renovated at other parks, including the Smith Lake concession stand and the St. Clair Brooks Park bathrooms. A dog park was built at Duff McDuff Green Park.
A newly renovated Grafton Village Elementary School opened at the start of the 2014 - 2015 school year. The new Stafford High School is scheduled to open at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. Colonial Forge, Mountain View and North Stafford High Schools all have construction additions scheduled over the next two years.
The big news for 2014 was the opening of the I-95 Express Lanes, which give Stafford commuters easier trips. Stafford and VDOT worked together to more than double the number of parking spaces available at the Staffordboro Park and Ride, bringing the total to 1,850. Currently, there are safety improvement projects underway on Truslow Road and Mountain View Road, with another one in design for Poplar Road. The Falmouth Intersection improvement project is in full swing and is scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2015. Garrisonville Road is gaining turn lane improvements at Onville Road as well as Route 1. Designs are underway to widen Garrisonville Road. Work continues on the Route 17 Widening Project and plans are being made to renovate the Ferry Farm/Route 3 intersection. Designs are in the works for improving Enon Road and access to Stafford High School.
Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail
The Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail is part of a larger trail system that will connect Stafford’s parks and historical resources along the Rappahannock River with those of Fredericksburg, forming the “Heritage Loop.” Work is currently proceeding on the design phase of Section 4 of the Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail, the part of the trail running from Pratt Park along the Rappahannock River towards Ferry Farm. Sections 1, 2, 3 and 5 of this new walking, biking and running trail have been completed. The trail has proved to be a very popular addition to the park system.
The Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Rescue worked together to complete a public safety staffing plan last year, designed to detail how many personnel are needed to meet the emergency needs of Stafford’s citizens. Officials are using those results to better utilize resources to serve citizens. Fire and Rescue performed an Advanced Life Support Pilot Project to see how they could move around personnel in an innovative way to improve staffing and response times. Their efforts won a national award from the National Association of Counties. Stafford received the Heart Safe Community Award from the International Association of Fire Chiefs for creative approaches in managing and treating Acute Coronary Syndrome and Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Stafford County was designated Virginia’s first Heart Safe Community by the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services.
Master Redevelopment Plan
The Board of Supervisors adopted the Master Redevelopment Plan in 2011. The Plan, approved as an economic development element of the County’s Comprehensive Plan, identifies four key areas - Boswell’s Corner, Courthouse, Falmouth Village, the Southern Gateway - that offer unique opportunities for development. The County supports the redevelopment efforts through greater flexibility and quicker approval times for projects locating in the designated areas. Since its adoption, implementation of the plan’s recommendations has progressed with major infrastructure projects: the improvements to US 1 at Boswell’s Corner; the I-95 Express Lanes project; the Falmouth intersection improvements; and the US 17 widening project. The area around Stafford Courthouse and the Government Center was renovated as a precursor to future plans to redevelop the whole courthouse area when the new Stafford Courthouse/I-95 interchange is built.