PE Board Talks Internet

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012

PRINCE EDWARD – County supervisors, seeking an update on the progress of high-speed internet service that would provide service to rural areas, received information at their November meeting.

Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) was awarded a stimulus grant in 2010 and the Tobacco Commission grant, according to their company website, to construct a wireless broadband network infrastructure. The stimulus award totaled $18.9 million.

County Administrator Wade Bartlett reported that he had contacted the Tobacco Commission for help, and he noted that the Commission did receive an answer from the company.

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“Buggs Island ran into an issue where they were experiencing interference from another company who is serving western Virginia and parts of North Carolina using the same newly licensed spectrum,” Bartlett detailed.

He explained that they had put up all of the equipment, turned it on to test it, and had interference with the other company already under operation. He noted that they had to turn it off.

“Buggs Island is in compliance with the FCC standards and they and the other company's engineers are working diligently to resolve the situation,” an email from the Tobacco Commission's Grants Program Administrator Sarah Capps to Bartlett detailed. “This is apparently par for the course when operating within a new license. Best estimate at this time is that they will have everything ready by the end of the year.”

She further noted, “They became aware of the interference when they began turning the system on in certain locations including Mecklenburg County and some of Charlotte County where they have new customers.”

Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) had previously announced a September 15 official commercial launch date for their 4G WiMAX broadband network.

Public Hearing Set

When a county amends its budget to exceed more than one percent of the total expenditures in its adopted budget, a public hearing is to be held.

The board will hold just such a public hearing in December.

The reason behind the budget change: Route 786 and its spanning two budget years.

The revenue sharing project for the new road that will serve as an alternate Route 628, began last year. The current budget did not contain funds associated with the project, according to a memo to the board, “because the amount of work that would be completed and expensed and the amount of funds received from VDOT on June 30, 2012 was not known.”

While the exact amount required for the budget amendment was still being nailed down (consultation with the county's auditor is ongoing), the auditor, the memo cited, “is still processing which expenditures will be charged to the last fiscal year and determining the exact budget adjustment required for the current fiscal year.”

The exact figures are expected to be available prior to advertising for the public hearing. A proposed budget amendment included $1,759,980 in state revenue sharing funds, $500,000 in Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) funds, and $65,376 from VDOT revenue sharing fund balance in revenues with the $2,325,356 (equaling the total revenue) in expenditures for the Route 786 project.

The December 11 hearing date was approved by the board with Farmville District (801) supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones abstaining.

Discussion Revisited

Last month, supervisors reviewed a proposal to increase the salaries of workers cleaning the agriculture building by two steps each, but defeated the committee recommendation on a 4-4 tie vote.

They revisited the matter and, after a lengthy discussion, approved the proposal with the caveat that they not consider such things as bonus or pay increases until their budget discussion.

The duties of the workers increased when the part-time worker who maintained about half of the building retired. That position will not be filled and with the increase in pay and savings with the retirement, the County was projected to save a little over $15,000 annually.

Still, in last month's discussion, it was noted that all County workers received a bonus almost a year ago and a raise July 1. Comparison figures were also presented on school custodial and maintenance salaries, where the average salaries were higher for the County.

The time to do raises, Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt offered, is when they do their budget.

It was noted that the annual net savings to the County in not filling the position was $19,639; increasing the employees the two steps, it was also cited, is approximately a 4.5 percent increase for each employee-or a total increase (including benefits) of $4,640. The County, in granting the increase, is expected to have a net savings of $15,179 annually.

Supervisors approved the increase for the workers with the stipulation that the board take as policy not to increase pay, do bonuses, change vacation days, not change benefits-having no monetary changes in pay except as spelled out through the County budget.

Engineering Contracts

Following some discussion and a split vote, the board approved a list of firms to provide engineering services.

The County had issued a request for proposals and received responses from eight firms. Bartlett cited that he reviewed the proposals based on criteria and recommended that they award an annual service contract to Draper Aden, Hurt & Profit, Resource International, LTD, Maxey & Associates, and WW Associates.

“They are just on call in case we need an engineer,” Bartlett detailed.

Farmville District Supervisor Jim Wilck offered that he had a “major problem” by including Draper Aden and, following some discussion, replaced the firm on the approved list with the Timmons Group.

The motion was approved on a 5-3 vote, with Chairman William “Buckie” Fore, supervisors Charles McKay and Robert “Bobby” Jones opposing.

In Other News…

*Supervisors agreed to formally request the county school allow the fire departments and rescue squads to purchase diesel fuel. (The school and the county together put in a gasoline tank and are sharing in the purchase of gas and diesel.)

*Henry Shelton, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, expressed his concern with the upcoming reassessment.

*The board approved a consent agenda that included a certificate of refund for an erroneous assessment for Patrick Henry Boys & Girls Plantation, Inc. covering three years, totaling $6,338.88.

*The approved consent agenda also factored appropriations that included funds from the sale of property ($152,400) to the Virginia Department of Transportation. A memo to the board explained that the land was contained in three parcels fronting Route 15 and was needed for the expansion project they will start next year. Two of the parcels were owned by the County and one by the Industrial Development Authority. The county's properties were sold for $100,260 and the IDA's for $52,140.

The board agreed to expend $22,500 from its monies in the sale to restore land in front of one property owner. The balance, with the board's action, puts $77,760 in the County's general fund; the IDA's portion from the sale will be placed in the economic development fund to be used as authorized by the board for future projects.

*Prospect Supervisor Howard “Pete” Campbell noted complaints of speeding on Route 693. VDOT will be asked to conduct a study. Supervisor Gantt noted needs for Route 628 and that some sections would have to be reworked. Chairman Fore also asked about the speed reduction status on Business Route 460 through Pamplin.

*The board agreed to advertise upcoming vacancies on the Old Dominion RC&D. The current representative, Mildred B. Hampton, has indicated that she is not interested in continuing to serve.

*Following a lengthy discussion, the board agreed (with Gantt abstaining) to appoint Assistant County Administrator Sarah Puckett as the Acting Emergency Services Coordinator. Prince Edward was awarded $9,436 in grant monies from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (requiring a local match of $9,436, but would not require an increase in the County's local costs) that includes $8,686 for salary expenses.

After much debate over the increase in workload for Puckett (she would be stepping in for the planning director who typically handles the responsibilities) and pay, the board agreed to appoint Puckett as the acting emergency services coordinator (a position required by state code), increase her salary by $7,170, and approved a budget amendment to appropriate the funds.

Puckett will need additional training and has already taken nine classes online; others she will need are not offered online.

The appointment is temporary and, upon the return of the planning director or they have a new administrator, Puckett's salary would return to the previous level.