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Reassessment Decision Is Still On Hold

BUCKINGHAM – A decision on who will do the county's upcoming reassessment is still on hold.

During the August 13 meeting of the Buckingham Board of Supervisors, a motion regarding which firm would get the job drew a three-to-three vote, stalling the process another month.

Prior to the vote, County Administrator Rebecca Carter, referencing the board's decision last month to table proposals for the reassessment until more information could be obtained, advised that she and Supervisors Donnie Bryan and John Staton meet with Bennie Waller, associate professor at Longwood University.

Carter shared that during the meeting, Waller said the university's real estate department was unable to help with the task.

However, Carter noted that Waller did advise that in the future, if the county decided to have its own reassessment department, the university might be able to assist with its formation.

After hearing from Carter, Supervisor Cassandra Stish moved to accept the initial recommendation from the committee appointed by the board to review the proposals. That recommendation was to award the project to Wampler and Eanes.

Although the firm submitted a price of $14.50 per parcel compared with a proposal by Pearson Appraisals for $13.70 per parcel, the committee reasoned that Wampler and Eanes performed the last reassessment.

Additionally, the committee noted that the county uses the Wampler and Eanes assessor to update new construction assessments and that assessor, who is familiar with the most recent information on the county, would be the lead assessor for the reassessment.

Moreover, the committee pointed out that the county staff is familiar with the firm's data entry personnel and has full confidence in their performance.

With a second from Supervisor Bryan, the motion drew a tie vote with Stish, Bryan, and Staton voting in favor of Wampler and Eanes; and, Chairman Monroe Snoddy and Supervisors Bill Talbert and Joe Chambers casting opposing votes. Supervisor Danny Allen was absent.

Talbert shared that he could not see voting for Wampler and Eanes because it would cost the county an additional $10,658.

He reminded that last month Allen made a motion to go with the low bid from Pearson. However, Allen withdrew that motion and moved that the board postpone any action until they receive more information and check with Longwood.

Carter, explaining that they were already about a month behind schedule for beginning the reassessment, said the delay could set them back and move the reassessment into another year.

Chairman Snoddy suggested checking with Allen regarding the possibility of a special meeting. However, due to scheduling conflicts, the board will revisit the issue at its September 10 meeting.

Later in the meeting, supervisors nominated Alan Anderson, District 1, and Alvin Thomas, Jr., District 2, to fill two of three seats on the Board of Assessors; and, Harry Bryant, Jr., District 5, to fill one of four seats on the Board of Equalization. The board will make the remaining nominations at its September meeting.

Although the board offers its nominations, the Circuit Court Judge makes the appointments.

B.A.R.N. Resolution

In a unanimous vote, supervisors approved a resolution of support for the B.A.R.N. Project.

During the board's May meeting, Jennifer Ligon, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent for Buckingham County, presented the B.A.R.N. proposal on behalf of the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association and the Buckingham Agricultural Resource Network Planning Committee.

At that time, Ligon shared, “It is the intention of the BCA and B.A.R.N. Planning Committee to construct this building to house the BCA's two yearly sales, bring a home to the Buckingham Farmer's Market, provide meeting space for large groups of people, and to provide an event space large enough to host a wide range of agri-tourism and agricultural economic development activities.”

During her May presentation, Ligon asked the board for a resolution of support for the project to accompany the BCA's application for funding through the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

After approving the resolution on Monday night, the board also authorized the county administrator to request the Commonwealth Regional Council assist the B.A.R.N. Committee with grant opportunities, grant compliance, and the implementation of any grants it may receive.

Moreover, the board voted to request that the CRC also adopt a resolution of support for the B.A.R.N. Project.

State Forest Pays Dividends

Michael Womack, forest management specialist with the Virginia Department of Forestry, presented the county with a check for $13,391.49, representing the county's share of proceeds from state forest revenues.

Prior to presenting the check, Womack shared that Virginia has 22 state forests encompassing approximately 68,000 acres. He added that the Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest is the largest with approximately 20,000 acres.

According to Womack, the state forests, which are self-supporting, offer not only opportunities in forest management and research but also provide recreational and educational opportunities with their trails and outdoor classrooms.

Emergency Radio System

Supervisor Staton explained that during the process of working on the emergency services radio system for the sheriff's office and fire/rescue, the county has acquired the ability to lease two needed tower sites.

“The sites are critical to the system,” offered Staton. He said that one site, which is located at Spears Mountain, could be leased for $600 a month with a three percent increase in ten years. The other site, which is located at Alpha, can be leased for $250 a month.

Staton requested that the board consider the proposals and, if agreeable, authorize the county administrator to sign the necessary documents.

In turn, the board in separate actions unanimously voted to accept the terms of the leases and authorize the county administrator to execute those leases.

In related action, the board, concurring with a recommendation from the finance committee, unanimously voted to send out Requests for Proposals for the radio system.

Meals Tax Referendum

Could a tax on meals and beverages be on the menu for Buckingham?

Supervisor Staton explained that in looking for ways to increase revenue, he asked that the possibility of enacting a meals tax be explored. He noted that other forms of revenue enhancement would keep it off real estate.

He requested that the board adopt a resolution petitioning the Circuit Court of Buckingham for a court order to place a non-binding referendum on the November ballot. The referendum, offered Staton, would generate input from citizens regarding their stance about a tax on food and beverages sold by restaurants.

Staton explained that a 4 percent meals tax was, by law, the most the county could levy. He noted that incorporated towns could set a higher tax.

Supervisor Talbert shared, “I have some reservations but I'm going to vote for Supervisor Staton's motion just to get it on the ballot to let the people decide.” He added, “If I had to vote on it tonight, I'd vote against it.”

Supervisor Bryan offered, “This is basically a tax that if you eat out you are going to pay. You don't have to pay the tax if you don't eat out.” He added, “If you go to Prince Edward County, you are paying it right now. If you are going to Richmond, you are doing the same thing.”

Talbert explained that his concern was for the restaurant owners and how the tax, as well as the necessary bookkeeping associated with the tax, would affect them.

Subsequently, Staton led with the motion to adopt the resolution calling for the referendum. His fellow board members concurred with a unanimous vote.

The question on the November ballot will ask, “Should the Board of Supervisors of Buckingham County, Virginia adopt a tax on food and beverages of up to FOUR (4) PERCENT, as authorized by Section 58.1-3833 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended.”

RFP for Waste Options

Supervisor Bryan shared that he went with Staton, Karl Carter, Rebecca Carter, and Carolyn Amos, solid waste supervisor, to tour the Recycling Facility at Zion Crossroads.

“Currently, they recycle every part of the trash that is brought in,” said Bryan.

He explained that the preliminary numbers indicate the county may be able to save approximately $200,000 by going with recycling. “Not only will it save us money, it would save us in the long run from putting stuff back into the ground,” stated Bryan.

Bryan noted that Prince Edward increased the dumping fees that the county is paying, which, he said, means the $800,000 budgeted for waste management will go up. He added that several surrounding counties are using van der Linde Recycling.

Subsequently, Bryan moved and the board unanimously agreed to put out a Request for Proposals on alternative ways for solid waste disposal.

Administrator's Report

During her report to the board, Carter shared, “We hope to be in the new building by the end of this month.” She said the furniture was being delivered and work on the wiring connections has begun.

Carter added that although there were a few items on the punch list the building is ready for occupancy. She said that once the move is completed, crews would be able to begin Phase II of the project, which calls for the renovation of the existing building for the Health Department and Social Services.

Carter also advised the board of a meeting with school officials about their budgetary concerns regarding an unexpected significant increase in the number of kindergarten students and some additional fifth graders that resulted in the need for additional staffing.

She explained that prior to the increased enrollment in kindergarten the division was dealing with not having enough Project Four classes. However, Carter said that because Project Four is not a state mandated program, the focus had to be placed on meeting state mandates such as the guidelines for class size in grades K through third.

The county administrator shared that during the meeting they discussed various options. She noted that increased enrollment should generate more state funding and figures for the amount of money the division will receive from sales tax should be forthcoming. With that in mind, Carter said plans include meeting again in the near future to discuss and revaluate the budgetary issues and options.

Assistant County Administrator Karl Carter updated the board on the Courthouse Streetscape Project funded through the Transportation Enhancement Grant Program.

He explained that several years ago the county received grant funding for the first phase of the project, which calls for repairing the sidewalks between the courthouse and the administration complex.

“We submitted those final plans to VDOT about a month ago,” he stated, explaining that once they receive VDOT approval, the project will be put out to bid.

He shared, “You should begin to see some work by the beginning of the year.” Carter added that recently the county was advised that its application for Phase II was successful with a grant award of $403,000.

In Other Board Action

Agreeing to a request from the school division, supervisors approved payment of an invoice from Honeywell for $1,453.50.

The bill covered services provided to reset the automated HVAC system at Buckingham County Middle School during the weekend following the June 29 storm. In response to countywide power outages caused by the storm, the county opened a cooling station at the middle school.

Supervisors authorized the county administrator to sign, after a review by the county attorney, the Crossroads Services Fiscal Year 2013 Performance Contract.

Supervisors approved a list of budget transfers requested by Sheriff William G. Kidd. In his letter to the board, the sheriff explained that the transfers would help his department end FY12 with less than two percent over budget.

Concurring with a recommendation from Karl Carter, the board voted to handle the estimated $79,809 in reduced state funding by taking the reductions from the programs listed by the state.

The assistant county administrator explained that he continues to believe the county should deal with the actual reductions and not create more work by accepting the excess funds from the state and then have to give the money back to the state.