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Building Projects Prompt Board Financial Decisions

BUCKINGHAM – With construction underway on the new county administration complex and bids being solicited for the elementary school project, finance issues commanded the attention of the Board of Supervisors at its September 13 meeting.

Karl Carter, assistant county administrator and finance director, advised supervisors that the county's bond counsel recommends the County should reimburse itself for the money already spent on the administration complex project.

Carter presented a proposed resolution stating the BOS reasonably expects to reimburse advances made or to be made to pay the costs of the project from the proceeds of its debt or other financing, at a maximum debt of $5.7 million.

Following his report, supervisors, in a roll call vote, approved the resolution. Supervisor Danny Allen was absent due to illness.

Carter then presented a similar resolution for the school project. That resolution declared the county's intent to reimburse itself from the proceeds of financing for the upper and lower elementary school project, with a debt of up to $25.1 million.

With another roll call vote, the Board unanimously approved that resolution.

Hearing Set for School Bonds

After the Board approved the resolutions, County Administrator Rebecca Carter presented a request from the School Board asking supervisors to schedule a public hearing for the issuance of general obligation school bonds for financing the school project.

Although Mrs. Carter advised there might be other financing options available, she said that in order to meet Virginia Public School Authority's fall deadline, a hearing must be held by October 13.

In turn, the Board voted to set the hearing for its October 12 meeting.

After the vote, Supervisor Brian Bates asked if the School Board was aware that the County needed to be reimbursed for the $1.5 million.

The County Administrator said she advised school officials that the $1.5 million the County has put up so far came from the general fund checking account and needed to be repaid as soon as possible.

Reiterating that there are other financing options to explore such as Build America Bonds and Qualified School Construction Bonds, Carter said she encouraged school officials to develop a relationship with Davenport & Company to look at such options.

She added that the School Board voted last week to move forward in seeking interim financing with assistance from Davenport & Company.

Mrs. Carter assured, “We are going to be looking at any options we can to come up with a good financial package for the school project.”

After the meeting, Carter explained that when the school board proposed the project, they anticipated receiving approximately $14.4 million in literary loans at a two percent interest rate. However, Carter said it now appears that the Literary Loan funding may not be available for the project.

Referencing some of the other grant opportunities, she offered, “But these are very competitive programs. Davenport & Company are financial experts in pursuing these opportunities and also in bidding out the financing of projects.”

She explained that Davenport & Company would put together a proposed financing package. In turn, the proposal would have to be accepted by both the School Board and the Board of Supervisors

“Their fee is one half to one percent depending on how many grant applications they pursue,” explained Carter. “The County could perhaps recoup these fees in one year's savings on the debt service payment.” She noted that Davenport is acting at risk and would not be paid if the financial package were refused.

Carter concluded, “The County used Davenport's assistance for the courthouse project. And, in a 6.8 percent interest rate climate our courthouse bonds were sold at 3.9 percent.”

250th Anniversary

Martha Louis, spokesperson for the recently formed committee to help plan the county's 250th Anniversary celebration, asked the Board for $2,500 to help with the committee's expenses.

Louis said the celebration would include monumental events throughout 2011, beginning with a huge birthday party in April on the Courthouse Green. Plans include appearances from special guests such as Thomas Jefferson and Peter Francisco.

Additionally, Louis said the Buckingham County Lions Club would be using the 250th Anniversary for its annual Buckingham County Day celebration held on the second Saturday of May. She added that other 250th Anniversary events would be planned throughout the year.

Supervisor Bates led with the successful motion to grant the funding request with the money coming from the contingency reserve account.

Louis, who serves as president for Historic Buckingham, Incorporated, also expressed its appreciation for the board's $1,000 donation to the Hatton Ferry project. In spite of the low water levels, which have stalled the crossings, the Ferry has drawn over 300 visitors this summer, she stated.

“You really contributed to something wonderful and unique-the last poled ferry in the country,” offered Louis.

JAUNT Update

Donna Shaunesey, executive director for JAUNT, a regional transportation system based in Charlottesville, provided an update to the Board.

Shaunesey said Buckingham's ridership increased by seven percent even though fares on both routes rose from $2 to $3 on July 1. “So clearly it is a very much needed service,” she added. “The ridership continues to be strong and continues to be growing.”

According to Shaunesey, JAUNT has been working on a needs assessment for Buckingham. She said a draft of document should be ready by late fall or early winter.

Sharing that one of the needs is for greater access to medical care, Shaunesey said JAUNT was working on several grant applications to seek funding to help meet that need.

She advised that the bus stop at the old middle school on Route 20 is moving due to the school construction project.

“We will be moving that bus stop to the Food Lion in Dillwyn. And they have agreed to let us put a bus shelter up there,” said Shaunesey. “That will be our very first bus shelter.”

Shaunesey concluded by explaining JAUNT would need an additional $3,900 to keep both routes running year around in the County. She said if they did not get the additional funds, they would have to stop the second route, the later route, during the months of April, May and June.

VDOT

Kevin Wright, maintenance manager for the Dillwyn Residency, introduced Jorg Huckabee-Mayfield, who will serve as VDOT's local government liaison to Buckingham County. Wright said Ms. Mayfield has been with VDOT for 24 years.

In his report, Wright said crews were continuing with mowing primary and secondary roads. He said they would also be working on cutting and clearing brush all fall and into the winter.

He advised that surface treatment to reseal secondary roads would begin in the next several weeks.

Wright said re-decking work on a bridge on Route 642 between the intersection of Route 24 and 641 should be completed by week's end; and the construction project on Route 613 is finished.

According to Wright, the Dillwyn Residency has five new employees. He said the new employees should help VDOT meet the county's road maintenance needs.

Supervisor John Kitchen shared that he received a request from Fork Union Baptist Church on Route 638 for reduced speed zone adjacent the church. However, he said he realized that probably wouldn't be doable and, in turn, was asking that Children at Play signs be placed in that area.

Subsequently, the Board agreed to proceed with his request with a resolution to VDOT.

Forestry Update

Gwynn Tyler, forester specialist with the Virginia Department of Forestry, provided an update on forestry activities in the County and other VDIF activities.

He began with the department's number one goal of protecting forests from wildfire. “As part of this goal we provide financial resources to rural fire departments to help with the acquisition of small equipment and personal protective equipment,” shared Tyler. “This year, two of our departments received this assistance.”

Moving to the number two goal of protecting water quality of forested land, Tyler stated, “Overall we have found that the loggers are doing a very good job of following the best management practices that pertain to water quality.”

Explaining that conserving the forestland base is also near the top of the department's list of goals, Tyler said the statewide goal this year is for 3,500 acres to be protected from conversion to other land uses. “Over the last few years, there have been eight tracts of land in Buckingham that have been put in conservation easements for a total of 2,322 acres,” said Tyler.

He advised that the VDIF will continue with its four-day workweek, with offices remaining closed on Fridays. Additionally, Powhatan County has been added to the region. Noting the resultant increase in responsibilities, Tyler shared they will receive some assistance from Appomattox County with fire suppression work.

So far this year, they have responded to 19 fires, with those fires burning approximately 15 acres of woodland and 22 acres of open land, reported Tyler. “Most of these were the result of debris burning,” he stated, adding that the quick response of the county's volunteer fire departments continues to keep most of the fires small and helps protect homes threatened by fire.

Reminding that the fall fire season is just around the corner, Tyler said it officially begins on October 15 and extends through November 30. He advised, “We would like to remind everyone that fire conditions can change quickly this time of the year, especially when the leaves begin to fall.”

Tyler reported very little activity from pine bark beetles and gypsy moths. He said there were 35 pine-planting projects this year involving approximately 1,700 acres.

He continued, “For the fiscal year from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, we received notification on 211 logging jobs for 11,552 acres. Our records indicate that 6,705 acres were clear cut; 3,770 acres were thinned; and 1077 acres were biomass cuttings where wood chips are used for fuel.”

Tyler said during that same period, the logging database indicates Buckingham is ranked fourth in the state in the number of logging jobs and fifth in the state in the number of acres where some type of timber harvesting has been done.

“These numbers reinforce the fact that the timber industry is very important for the economy of Buckingham,” emphasized Tyler.

Noting that data indicates Buckingham and surrounding counties are slightly over-cutting their volume of pine timber, Tyler said concerns over the cutting of timber are nothing new. “These concerns were discussed in The Farmville Herald back in 1901,” he shared.

Tyler concluded, “Keep in mind that timber is a renewable resource, and that with good management techniques and the landowner's desire to keep his land for timber production, we will continue to enjoy our forest resource for years to come. Good management of our forest land is vital to our local economy as well as our environment.”

Drought Designation Sought

Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution requesting Governor McDonnell designate the County as an agricultural disaster area.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Service agents and the FSA County Emergency Board report that as of July 30, potential yield loss estimates for pasture and grazing land stand at 60 percent; hay loss at 45 percent; corn for silage at 45 percent; corn for grain at 99 percent; soybeans at 50 percent; and pounds of cattle sold at 5 percent loss.

Resolution in Memory of Gordon Lee Baldwin

Supervisors adopted a resolution in memory of Gordon Baldwin, who died on August 12, at the age of 93.

Baldwin, a veteran of WW II, came to Buckingham in 1946 to teach agriculture at BCHS. From 1966 until 1978, he was an agriculture agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension. He also served on the Planning Commission and was its first chairman.

Baldwin was the first and longest serving president of Historic Buckingham, and, was instrumental in the acquisition and restoration of the Housewright House. He was also an active member of the Ruritan Club and helped organize its Memorial Day Observance.

In Other Board News

Concurring with a recommendation from the Finance Committee, supervisors authorized advertising a Request for Proposals for design and construction service and any other services that the Board may deem appropriate to provide adequate and workable recommendations for a communication system for fire/rescue and law enforcement. The action comes on the heels of recurring problems with the current system.

Karl Carter reported on the PPTRA, personal property tax relief amount for 2010/2011. He said the County would be receiving $1,136,299; and, the Commissioner of the Revenue has set the PPTRA credit rate at 43.22 percent. He noted that last year's rate was 45.39 percent. In response, the Board adopted the 2010 PPTRA rate.

Supervisors awarded the bid for cleaning, sealing, and restriping the courthouse parking lot and driveways to Kirby L. Stinson, Paving Inc. with a bid of $7,725, the only bid received.

At the request of Vice Chairman Joe Chambers, the Board approved a memorial resolution for Samuel Irle Jones.

Chairman Monroe Snoddy agreed to be the board's voting delegate at the upcoming annual business meeting of the Virginia Association of Counties at the Homestead.

Supervisors agreed to continue coyote bounty program. The program is offered in conjunction with the Buckingham County Farm Bureau and the Cattleman's Association, which offer up to $3,000 a year in financial support.

During her report to the Board, Carter announced the Stewardship Virginia fall campaign runs from September 1 through October 31. The statewide initiative focuses on projects Building a Better Outdoors. She encouraged citizens to visit the county's website or dcr.virginia.gov/stewardship for more information.

Carter encouraged supervisors and the public to participate in a Virginia Cooperative Extension survey about maintaining a local VCE presence. Visit www.ext.vt.edu for more information.

The County Administrator also shared that the county's water system received a very good report following a recent state inspection.

Supervisor Bill Talbert asked that the County research if there is any way an itinerant tax or fee could be required of auctioneers who come into the county, sell property, and charge a buyer's premium.

Supervisor Bates asked for an update on a case involving a campground that was operating without proper permits.

Zoning Administrator Rebecca Cobb said the property owner pled guilty to two misdemeanors, with each carrying a $500 fine.

Noting it was his understanding the owner could be fined for each day the camp operated illegally, Bates offered, “A $1,000 is a pretty light fine in my opinion.”

Before adjourning, Chairman Monroe Snoddy reminded that the board's next meeting will be held on October 12, the second Tuesday of the month rather than the customary second Monday due to Columbus Day.