Prior to COVID-19, we were able to gather for Noon Talks to learn something new while enjoying lunch and socializing with our neighbors. In our new safety focused world, we are still participating, but now through Zoom! Our most recent talk was with Officer McDowell from the James City County Police Department on Saturday, Aug. 29th.. (See related Crier story.) Two other talks are being planned for later this year. Check the NTRA website calendar to find details as well as all Zoom IDs and passwords.
Saturday, August 29th, a New Town Virtual Talk sponsored by the NTRA Activities Committee took place, well attended and overflowing with expert advice and safety information. Speaker Alan McDowell, James City County’s Mid-County Safety Officer, has been with the Community Services Unit of James City County as a Crime Prevention Officer for nearly 30 years. A native of Richmond, his career has been remarkably comprehensive with positions ranging from patrol officer and firearms instructor to S.W.A.T. and Defensive Tactics instructor, to name only a few. Little wonder his virtual talk was filled will eye-opening information and useful tips to safeguard life in New Town.
Officer McDowell began the talk by reminding attendees of the county’s free alert app, James City County Alert, whereby county officials are able to deliver emergency alerts and notifications to those who have signed up for the service. All residents need do is search for the app online by its name and sign up as directed.
Office McDowell encouraged residents to create a safer home environment for themselves and for their families by using a Personal Safety Risk Reduction Plan. This risk reduction plan consists of 6 key areas that, once assessed and addressed, significantly reduces a resident’s susceptibility to becoming a victim of crime. Those areas are as follows:
• Drapes and Shades: While light-weight drapes may be fine for during the day, heavy drapes will better conceal interior activities in the home during the evening hours;
• Lighting: Lighting deters crime. Strategically place exterior lighting and assess lighting regularly. Keep lights clean and free of bugs, making certain lights are in clear view and not obstructed by greenery or equipment of any kind. Install motion-sensor lights for evening and nighttime. Sensor lights, once activated, draw attention to an activity taking place—and are far more cost-effective than leaving exterior lights on until morning;
• Landscaping: Keep bushes and tree canopies trimmed, the latter at least 6 feet from the ground. This is especially necessary for bushes and trees near windows or close to doorways to prevent criminals from hiding from sight. “Natural surveillance,” is a great deterrent. Your neighbors or people walking by will be able to alert you or the police of suspicious activity and the potential for a crime taking place.
• Spare Keys: Keep spare keys well hidden. Using ceramics (a bunny, frog, faux-rock, etc.) made specifically to hide door keys is not advised. Criminals shop in the same stores as residents do. They know what these ceramics hold. It is better to bury spare keys in the ground and mark the area for quick retrieval. If ceramics are desired, ask your neighbor to use the same –and switch keys. The criminal may retrieve the key in your ceramic but will fail at gaining access to your home;
• Timers: Use timers for your lights, TV, and radio while you are away from your home, but time them according to what your living schedule has been. Criminals survey homes to see what a person or family’s habits are. Timing patterns should mimic your habits when you are at home—and remember to keep timers in working condition. Test batteries often.; and
• Keeping Friends and Families Informed of Your Whereabouts: Always let a family member or a friend know where you are going and when you will be returning. A phone call or text upon leaving and returning is strongly advised.
In addition to the individualized safety plan above, Officer McDowell spoke at length about the importance of residents working together to make for a community undesirable to criminals. Report suspicious behavior of individuals as soon as possible; do not wait for others to do so. Question the appearance of strangers you have not seen in the neighborhood before. Loitering is difficult to prevent—but suspicious behavior can always be called in, regardless. Call 757-566-0112 to do so. Do not wait for someone else to report a street lamp that has died out. (Note: A simple phone call to Town Management or submitting an issue report on the NTRA website to report the street lamp number, clearly visible on every light in New Town, is all it will take.) In addition, work to maintain your property, keeping doors, windows, and locks in sound working order and making every effort to see that your property is well cared for. A neighborhood with broken or compromised windows and doors, property looking neglected or rundown, or with residents who fail to challenge unusual behavior or individuals will be sure to attract criminals and become targets for crime. Working with your neighbors in all these areas will make for a strong community where little crime occurs.
Some time was spent during the talk on the recent vehicle break-ins in New Town. Officer McDowell greatly emphasized the importance of cultivating the habit of (1) keeping car windows up, (2) car doors locked, and (3) things of value out of sight—all the time. Valuables in plain sight will draw criminals to your car, whether your car is open or not. The best place for valuables, i. e. laptops, purses, and cell phones, is in your trunk. In addition to keeping your car and valuables safe, Officer McDowell also stressed the importance of keeping yourself safe by observing your car as you approach it to enter. Is a window broken? Do you see sneakers underneath the car, indicating someone is crouching on the other side? Try to park in well-lighted areas and keep your keys in your hand as you near your vehicle—being careful, if you have a remote access key, not to unlock all your doors. And have a plan in mind for a potential attack as you are walking towards your car, wherever it is parked. “Advance Techniques” are key to keeping you safe. A plan will keep you from panicking. Without a plan, panic may make you a victim of crime. A wise preventative is storing an old, inactive cell phone in a glove compartment as it will enable you to call 911 for an emergency you may suddenly find yourself in. In addition, if you suspect your car or home has been broken into, call the police immediately—and refrain from destroying the crime scene by entering and touching evidence. Call the police and keep yourself safe. It is a county service we are all paying for. Note: Most residents do not know that 911 may be called for non-emergency issues.
In response to concerns voiced by participants during Q&A period, Officer McDowell also committed to ask the JCC police to monitor speeds on Casey Boulevard and watch whether drivers are heeding the stop signs at the intersection of New Town Avenue and Discovery Boulevard.
Free County Crime Prevention Resources
Officer McDowell shared several of the free crime prevention services available to residents through the county—and two, national data bases for conducting crime and offender searches at any local:
James City County Services:
Project Life Saver—free location devices for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia;
Citizen Police Academy—a once a week, 2-hour session for 13 weeks offering citizens insight into how our police department functions;
Child ID Services;
Crime and Safety Prevention Assessments—free home assessment programs;
Rape, Aggression, and Defense (RAD) Classes--training people in the use of force to prevent abduction (www.rad-systems.com); and
RAD for Kids
National Crime and Offender Databases:
LexisNexis Community Crime Map (www.communitycrimemap.com) --a national data base of crimes by their nature, date, time, and location anywhere in the United States. Just enter your street address, and the information will appear charted on a map of your area. Useful for trips and relocation. Data reloads every Friday night; and
Victim Information and Notification Everyday—VINE Link (www.vinelink.com)-- a national data base of offenders which allows victims of crime and the general public to track the movements of prisoners held by various states and territories. Notifications can be set-up to inform the public of prisoner release dates. (VINEmobile is the app version of VINE)
Please feel free to contact Office Alan McDowell if you have further questions about New Town safety or would like more information about any of the programs or services listed above. His phone number is 757-603-6026, and his email address is email@example.com
Angela Lesnett, Director
This has been an unusual year, so I’m going to forego the standard September essay topic (What I did on my summer vacation) and, instead, focus on NTRA’s budget. In September, the New Town Residential Association (NTRA) will start to prepare its 2021 budget. This is important to each of us because the budget establishes the annual assessment (sometimes called HOA dues) that each owner will pay in 2021. The 2021 budget is especially significant because, as the first budget adopted by NTRA’s homeowner-elected Board, it will start to determine what kind of community we will become, as we move from being a new development to one that is aging.
To develop a budget, NTRA’s Finance Committee takes into account all financial aspects of the association, including both sides of the income/expense equation. On the expense side, the Finance Committee asks NTRA’s Committees to submit estimates of the funds needed to accomplish that Committee’s particular objectives in the following year. Working with Town Management, the Finance Committee considers these requests, along with the known and forecasted expenses that NTRA must incur to continue operations and maintain its assets in a manner that meets owners’ expectations for the development. In other words, the Finance Committee considers what it will cost to accomplish the things it must do plus the things it wants to do.
On the income side, by far the largest source of income is the annual assessment or HOA dues that each owner pays. The NTRA assesses a fee for each home based on the home type: detached homes, townhomes, and cottages. The other significant source of income is fees collected at closing on sales of both new homes and resales. As discussed at the November 2019 Budget Town Hall Meeting, the addition of new homes in NTRA will slow in the upcoming years as the development nears final build-out. This will result in a decline in income from closing fees and that income will have to be replaced with income from HOA dues.
If NTRA’s expenses (for both needs and wants) outweigh its income, the Finance Committee must re-evaluate and prioritize the association’s expenses and also consider what increase in the annual assessment is warranted to fund those expenditures required bring the development up to a level that the owners expect. In prior years this has resulted in an increase in HOA dues. In large part that increase was necessary just to pay for the needs of the association.
A new development’s assets require little maintenance at first, but more maintenance (and expense) is to be expected over time. Our pool is just one example: the NTRA pool was new in 2012 and required little maintenance. Now however, after a number of years of normal wear and tear, the NTRA must incur some expense to maintain that important asset to a standard consistent with the development.
The final steps in NTRA’s budget process are the Finance Committee’s submission of the proposed budget to the Board of Directors for review, presentation of the proposed budget to homeowners at the Annual Budget Meeting (usually in late November), and the Board’s adoption of the budget which includes the annual assessment for the upcoming year.
In my application for the Board election I stressed the importance of balancing current needs/expenses with expenses that are projected for the future. I believe that balance is essential to building a strong community and maintaining property values. Thank you for the opportunity to serve on your Board and to maintain NTRA’s secure financial position.
As the September weather cools, I hope we can all find time to enjoy a stroll in the beautiful neighborhood that we call home and to think about what it takes to preserve it. I hope to see you (socially-distanced, of course) outside this fall.
Isaias Makes His Presence Felt in New Town
Although Tropical Storm Isaias did not produce the widespread damage done to other Williamsburg communities, it did leave its imprint on Charlotte Park in New Town. According to Senior Community Manager, Tim Grueter, there were leaves and bark debris in the pool area and a few sidewalk median strip oak trees snapped and had to be removed.
The most dramatic aftershock of Isaias was the felling of a 50-year old tulip tree on the property of Alice Mountjoy. This 85-foot tree clipped the deck of neighbors Chuck and Susan Stetler but luckily the damage was minor. According to Chuck, the crash came around 8 AM several hours after the tornado warnings when there was just rain in the area. The tree’s root structure had obviously weakened from the storm. This experience was also the Stetlers’ first involvement with Virginia’s homeowner’s insurance, i.e, damage to your property is your problem – even if caused by a tree from your neighbor!
All the debris has now been cleared and both Alice and Chuck know the outcome could have been a lot worse. Good (landing) trees make good neighbors!
Back to School From the Comfort of Your Home
June Dawkins & Mary Cheston
submitted by June Dawkins and Mary Cheston
Looking for some new educational challenges now that fall is approaching? Here are some great opportunities for mental exercise without leaving the comfort of your home. Many are offered by our local treasures:
Williamsburg Regional Library (wrl.org)
Do you have a library card? Check out the library’s website to find a wide selection of virtual programs through various platforms, such as their YouTube channel, WebEx or Zoom, and wrl.kanopy.com for movie access. The Library has its own lifelong learning online page https://www.wrl.org/find-it-online/lifelong-learning/
Informational programs range from travel to finance, even puppet shows for the youngsters. They offer links to 15 non-English language classes if you’d like to learn a new skill while housebound.
College of William and Mary (wm.edu)
• Osher Lifelong Learning
If you have not attended an Osher class in a while, or you would like to know more, now is the time to investigate. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute https://www.wm.edu/offices/auxiliary/osher/coursecatalog.pdf
(formerly Christopher Wren Association) now offers virtual classes at a set time. Even though initial enrollment is over for the fall semester, many classes are still open! Choose from one-class activities and lectures, and 3 to 6 session classes in a wide range of topics from the local history to world affairs, or self-improvement and wealth management and personal hobbies.
• Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance
William and Mary’s virtual fall season begins this month, with ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ from September 17th through the 20thand continues with other performances through October and November at set dates and times. Check out their website for details and instructions for digital access. https://www.wm.edu/as/tsd/_documents/new-2020-brochure-updated.pdf
Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center
Perhaps you are interested in pursuing a new hobby or improving your artistic talent. The WCAC has virtual classes for adults that promise to be “just as interactive and to see each other’s work as if we were in the classroom at the Art Center.” August’s focus was on watercolor painting, but more Zoom offerings will be coming. https://visitwcac.net/classes_gen_info.cfm
RESOURCES BEYOND WILLIAMSBURG
Looking for more diverse or unusual pursuits? Among the resources to check out for intellectual stimulation that aren’t locally based are:
The Great Courses website has a diversity of classes that you can see online or request in catalog form. These classes can be viewed on your schedule and cover a wide range of topics such as Economics to Food and Wine, Health and Fitness, Travel and programs for young people.
Wide variety of challenging topics are covered through free online courses from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.
Thinking about your next Covid-free trip or reminiscing about past adventures, this site has a variety of one-time seminars on museums, culture, art and other international historical events.
Find some fun! Break out of your shell and try something at home without the embarrassment of having to keep up with others in a classroom setting. Need some inspiration? How about:
**Online comedy classes – both Improv and Stand-up Comedy (for all ages)
**Piano (or another instrument like guitar)
**Ballet or Salsa dancing
Minimize what may seem like a long, lonely fall and winter season by exploring what the internet has to offer and finding your niche. Happy Learning!
Ironbound Gym Restarts Community Walking Group While New Town Clubs Cope with COVID-19
With summer ending and the pool closing, many New Town residents will be making changes in how to spend their free time. The neighborhood clubs and groups have been adapting to the COVID-19 environment, some by meeting virtually, some social distancing, others suspending activities until better times arrive, or just meeting when the mood strikes them. The two most active groups have been the Women’s Lunch Club and the Women Who Read Book Club, both of which meet virtually using Zoom until the weather improves a bit for an outside session. You can find their contacts on the NTRA website Clubs and Activities page https://www.ntrawilliamsburg.org/clubs-activities/
In the meantime, do you like to walk? While the weather is still favorable for outdoor exercise, Ironbound Gym is reviving its Walking Club. The Club started up again in mid-August and meets on Saturdays behind the gym, leaving at 8:22am sharp for a slow jog to Veterans Tower where they stop for some stretches. Then it is onward to whatever part of the approximately 3-mile course you want to complete through the New Town trails and streets.
Better yet, after your 10th check-in, you will receive a free t-shirt! There may be other rewards for even greater participation, but you will have to keep coming back to find out. Check out the Ironbound Gym Facebook page for more information.
Do YOU have a hobby or interest that you would like to share? Want to start a new club dedicated to exploring this activity with your New Town neighbors? Contact the Town Crier with your ideas and we can help you find like-minded residents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
. (New Town Clubs operated independently of the NTRA.)
Asset Maintenance Committee's 2020 Review of NTRA's Assets
Fred Lesnett, Chair
The Asset Maintenance Committee (AMC) is tasked by the New Town Residential Association’s (NTRA) Board of Directors (BOD) to conduct an annual inspection of common property (such as the pool and its amenities, playground equipment, streetlights, signs, streets), in addition to the Committee’s supervision of the annual review of homeowners’ properties. In the first year under homeowner control, rather than developer control, the AMC has recently completed its 2020 year review of the association’s physical assets. Results of the committee’s findings on which assets should be considered for maintenance or replacement is scheduled to be presented to the NTRA’s BOD. After the BOD has identified an initial list of maintenance projects for consideration, Town Management will develop cost estimates for completing the work on each project. The cost estimate for each project will be reviewed by the BOD and approval will be given on which projects will be included in the 2021 budget.
Many of us feel New Town is a relatively young community with expectations that its assets have some time to go before maintenance or replacement is needed. However, the weather (sun, rain, along with the freezing in the winter) negatively impacts the stain, paint, construction materials and exposed surfaces on our buildings, fences, park benches, light posts, signs, fire hydrants, streets, pool equipment, etc. In general, as we ride or walk around in New Town, perceptions are that our community assets are in good condition. However, a closer inspection reveals that some of these assets have become tired and weathered in their appearance. When under developer control, rather than the current homeowner control, the association’s assets were not always maintained at a level most optimal for extending their length of service and appearance.
The AMC prioritized the list of assets requiring repair and restorative work by the significance of the projects and the sense of urgency to complete them. Funding has been requested of the BOD for the repair, restorative work, or replacement of identified assets in 2021 and later years. Immediate action in 2020 and 2021 is being requested for some items, like the pergola at the pool where we see significant rot and deterioration in the beams supporting the roof. Other items, such as the weathered wood benches in the park areas of New Town, have been recommended to be restored over several years as the budget permits. Recommended cleaning of the playground equipment does not have to take place immediately, but freshening up their appearance will make them more attractive to children and will ensure they last longer.
It is understandable that some of the assets will not be identified as important to our community’s ongoing functioning, as others. But if their deterioration is allowed to continue, the condition of the unmaintained fences, benches, light posts, and fire hydrants will cast a perception over New Town as being weathered and tired. A program of routine maintenance of assets typically extends their life and costs our association less money over the long run. On-going maintenance of these assets instills a positive image of our community in residents and outsiders when they drive through or walk around New Town. A well-maintained community is more attractive to future home buyers when they are ready to consider purchasing a home in one of our neighborhoods. Over the next several years, work and funding will need to be at a higher level than planned if New Town’s assets are going to catch-up to the standards we have come to expect for our community.
Meet Your Pool Staff (part two)
As the summer draw to a close, we'd like to take another opportunity to recognize and show appreciation for the attendants and lifeguards who made a summer at the pool possible, even in the Covid-19 era.
Dominique Arthur - Lifeguard
While he originally hails from Newport News, Dominique has been a world traveler since graduating from Liberty University in 2015. Though he spends his summers on the peninsula with family working as a lifeguard, Dominique spends the majority of his year living in Istanbul, where he plays American football, teaching English as a second language (ESL), and enjoying Kokorec, his favorite Turkish dish. You'll have to look it up!
Dominique works as a lifeguard at several pools, but says New Town is the busiest of them. He shared that while he loves the water, he isn't a recreations swimmer and add with a laugh "if you see me in the water, something is very wrong."
Jon Rochford - Attendant
Jon is a rising junior student at Providence Classical School in James City County and has just returned to the area after he and his family lived in the Shenandoah Valley for several years. Jon is a musician and plays trumpet in marching band and has interests in pursuing drama and theater. Jon's summer plans to travel were derailed by COVID outbreak. In addition to his summer gig at the New Town Community Pool, Jon is passing his time this summer by taking art classes in pursuit of a future career in graphic design.
Foundation Square Children's Garden Blossoms
For most of the spring and summer leading up to the phased reopening of gyms, the parking lot behind Ironbound Gym on New Town Avenue has been quiet, but for the Foundation Square Landscaping Committee, a group of nearly 20 members, the summer has been a bit of hustle and bustle. The group made some significant expansions and improvements to their Children's Garden.
The Foundation Square Landscaping Committee, led by resident, Master Gardener, and Committee President Jim Kavitz, were honored earlier this year for their notable contributions to the aesthetic of the neighborhood. The Arbor Day 2020 Award of Excellence, presented by the Williamsburg Area Council of Garden Clubs was awarded to the group in the beginning of the year FULL STORY HERE
The expansion includes some improvements to the existing garden as a covered seating area complete with tables and a few socially distanced chairs (undoubtedly a great spot for a small afternoon book club) as well as new planter boxes in the median areas in the parking lot and underground irrigation. The expansion was greenlighted by the New Town Commercial Association. Kavitz noted that the empty median space often ended up being littered by cans and food wrappers and felt expanding their garden would add to the beautification of the area.
The existing garden, home to herbs, artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, has yielded a bountiful harvest this year so far. Kavitz reports the fig trees have yielded hundreds of ripe figs with more on the way. In the newly planted garden area the residents grew corn, squash, carrots, okra, eggplants, and beets. Unfortunately, says Kavitz, a wiregrass encroachment threatened the health of the new planters late this summer and the plants had to be removed.
Undiscouraged and determined, Kavitz and his band of willful and skillful gardeners have flipped the planters, acquired new quality soil and will soon be replanting cooler weather crops to include lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and more.
The Committee is supported by a line in the budget, but has also raised about $900 in unsolicited donations from local residents who are enthusiastic about the garden but may be unavailable to contribute sweat equity to its success. If are interested in contributing financially to the future of the Children's Garden, we will be happy to connect you with Jim Kavitz. Send us an email at NTRA.email@example.com