County To Market Gold Hill School

Published 4:28 pm Thursday, May 23, 2013

BUCKINGHAM – Gold Hill Elementary School, which was closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year, is now in the hands of the county.

During the May 13 meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Rebecca Carter shared a letter from Superintendent Cecil Snead stating, “On behalf of Buckingham County Public Schools, please consider this correspondence as the formal request to return the Gold Hill Elementary School property and structure to the control and governance of Buckingham County.”

Subsequently, after Carter recommended supervisors respond officially, Supervisor Bill Talbert led with a motion to accept the property.

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During the ensuing discussion, Talbert, referencing suggestions for marketing the property made by Alice Gormus during the public comment segment, recommended giving the county administrator and assistant county administrator the authority to market the property.

After a unanimous vote on the initial motion to accept the Gold Hill Elementary School property, supervisors also unanimously approved authorizing the county administrator and assistant county administrator to begin marketing the structure and property.

Gold Hill Elementary School is located along Route 15 in the northeastern section of the county.

Public Comment Segment

During the public comment segment, Alice Gormus encouraged the board to “think long and hard and have an exit strategy” regarding the two schools, Dillwyn Primary and Gold Hill Elementary, that were closed when the Carter G. Woodson Education Complex opened.

She suggested that the building that housed Gold Hill Elementary School would be an ideal location for medical offices due to its proximity to the Central Virginia Community Health Center and Gold Hill Village.

However, she requested that supervisors consider turning the playground area and field over to the county's recreation department. Gormus added that if the playground area is turned over to the recreation department, the swings, which were removed when the building was vacated, be put back.

Monetary Incentive for Training Proposed

Sharing her concerns about the rigorous training programs required of volunteer firefighters, Supervisor Cassandra Stish introduced a proposal to provide them with a monetary training incentive of $500.

She explained that the incentive would be available to each volunteer firefighter who is an active member in good standing and has maintained current certification in Firefighter I, Firefighter II, or Emergency Vehicle Operation Certification, EVOC.

According to Stish, the money for the incentives would come from the budgeted training fund.

“And if there is a need for more funds, I would hope that the board would approve using some of our year-end balance,” she stated, adding that the incentive would reward those individuals who not only are willing to volunteer as firefighters but must spend a lot of time in training programs required by the state.

Stish shared that the idea was reinforced in April after 24 individuals came forward to start a Firefighter I certification course being offered at the county's fire training facility. However, through the evolution of the first week, there were only seven individuals, which did not meet the minimum number of students required by VDFP to hold the class.

After presenting her incentive proposal, Stish stated, “So that's my motion.”

Before a second from Donnie Bryan, the discussion began with Supervisor Joe Chambers asking if the county had ever done that before.

“Never,” replied Stish.

Talbert noted, “This is a discussion and we don't have a second.”

However, Supervisor John Staton said he had a question about the minimum class size, which Stish replied was 12.

“I have a question, too,” stated Bryan, who asked if authorizing the incentive would tie them into saying the county has paid firefighters.

Stish replied, “No.”

The county administrator offered, “The money would go to the fire department. The fire department would distribute it to the members. The county would not write a check to each person.”

At that point, Bryan seconded the motion, stating, “I know the training is difficult for them to maintain.”

Stressing the need to get a legal opinion on whether they would be “paying those people to take training,” Talbert said, “I'd like to ask our county attorney.”

Responding, Wright offered that Talbert was asking a very complicated question. He added there was a second question that also needed to be addressed as to whether they could directly appropriate money to individuals.

Talbert told his fellow board members, “I think we ought to hold off on this.”

Stish explained that the departments would be requesting the money. “That's where it's going,” she said.

Chambers questioned, “What about the rescue squad? They are going to want the same thing.”

Stish replied, “They have their own training.”

Talbert reiterated that they needed to wait for a legal opinion regarding how the state stands on the issue. In turn, Wright explained that he would need some time to do the research.

“I don't see how an incentive given to each department is in anyway obligating us to do anything. It's training money-it's money we have set-up for training,” stated Stish.

Wright offered, “You are designating a use for it by saying give it to these people who do this.” He continued, “That adds another level to it. It's not just offered for training, it is offered as a reward for training, which is a slight subtle difference.”

As the discussion ebbed, Staton reminded that there was a motion on the table.

Stish, noting that she could either choose to withdraw her motion or bring it to discussion pending the county attorney's input, said, “I'd like to explore how we can do this.” She added, “This is a critical situation.”

Chambers stated, “I agree but it is also critical for the rescue squad.” He added, “But it's opening a can of worms.”

Stish replied, “No, it's not opening a can of worms. It's going to be a can of worms if we don't have anyone trained…”

When Chairman Monroe Snoddy asked if Stish wanted them to vote on the motion, she said she was rescinding it but would like to put the issue on the agenda for the June meeting.

Absentee Precinct

No public comments were offered during a hearing on a proposed amendment to the Buckingham County 2011 Redistricting Ordinance. Subsequently, the board approved the amendment.

The proposed change calls for locating the Central Absentee Voter Election Precinct in the basement of the former county administration building.

With the planned move of the voter registrar's office from its location in the Housewright House to the County Administration Complex, the change is necessary to adhere to a requirement that the central absentee precinct be in close proximity to the registrar's office.

A central absentee voter election precinct is used for receiving, counting, and recording absentee ballots in all elections.

Reassessment Update

Chris Venable, with Wampler Eanes Appraisal Group, the firm hired by the county for the 2014 reassessment, provided an update on the process.

Venable said the fieldwork began in January and as of May 13, they have visited 69 percent of properties in the county with roughly 4,000 more properties to look at between now and the end of the year.

“Our data entry process is around 58 percent complete,” stated Venable.

The assessor said he would be reporting to supervisors every couple of months so they can keep their constituents informed about the process.

He concluded, “We are probably looking at sometime in the early fall to mail the notices out and having our hearings.”

VDOT/Road Matters

Although a VDOT representative was not present at the meeting, Supervisor Talbert reiterated his previous concerns about trees that pose potential hazards along area roads.

Noting signs in mountainous areas that warn of falling rocks, Talbert said he though that tree-lined roads like Routes 636 and 640 merited similar warnings regarding the possibility of falling trees in windy and icy weather.

He shared several examples of dead trees that should be cut down to avoid becoming road hazards. “As a board, let's stick together and see if we can't do something about this dangerous thing,” stated Talbert.

Supervisor Stish, noting that she didn't think they could put signs on every road, offered that maybe they could add a warning about the potential hazard of falling trees when the automated weather alerts are issued.

Later in the meeting, Carter advised that the Department of Parks and Recreation was seeking the board's approval to submit a request to VDOT for the installation of caution signs along the Main Street corridor adjacent the industrial park in the area of the community park/picnic pavilion and fields used for soccer practices and games. She added that the county might have to pay for the signs.

Agreeing with the need for the caution signs, Supervisor Stish moved and the board concurred to request VDOT install signage in that area.

Administrator's Report

Carter began her report by sharing a letter of appreciation from Vermont Structural Slate Company.

In that letter, dated April 22, Craig Markcrow, president, expressed his appreciation for the board's unanimous vote to waive the building permit fees for James River Slate Company's new mill in Arvonia.

“It is a big help for us at a time when we are making a substantial investment,” wrote Markcrow.

He added, “Everyone at Vermont Structural Slate Company and James River Slate Company is excited about this new venture and we look forward to producing a range of slate products from one of the highest quality deposits in the world.”

Carter advised that the county sent a letter to Piedmont Regional Jail thanking the facility for its assistance in helping with the moves to the new county administration complex and the respective locations for the health department and social services.

Continuing, Carter offered, “We are proud to report that our water system has received from the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water, a 2012 Excellence in Waterworks Operations and Performance Award.”

Carter also shared a letter of appreciation from the Anti-Litter Task Force for the board's approval of the 2013 Tire Day. According to Charity Manis, chair for the task force, 1,646 tires were turned in for recycling.

Supervisor Stish recommended that next year the event be announced through social media and the county's website.

In Other Board Action

Supervisors authorized the county administrator to request bids for a 3/4-ton truck for the recreation department. Carter explained that with the purchase of the new truck, the truck currently assigned to the director of recreation would be transferred to the general properties maintenance department.

Responding to a question from Supervisor Talbert about whether the process would involve the state contact price, Carter said it would be open bid but they would also look at the state contract price. She added that all the information would be brought back to the board.

With a unanimous vote, the board approved a bid of $6,100 from M. E. Fencing to fence in the pond at Gene Dixon Park. Carter explained that the fence would provide a protective barrier around the pond to help prevent small children from entering the area.

Carter added that the public will be able to access the pond for fishing and other recreational activities but its use would require adult supervision.

The board unanimously approved a request presented by Assistant County Administrator Karl Carter, who serves on the Buckingham County Fire Training Committee, for funding not to exceed $5,415 to purchase supplies to be used at the Buckingham Burn Building Training Facility.

Responding to a request from STEPS, the board designated STEPS, Inc. as the local 501c (3) entity to receive state and federal housing funds for the region.

According to County Administrator Carter, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development's housing division has been looking for a local not-for-profit organization to provide homeless prevention, rapid re-housing, and shelter services. In turn, STEPS expressed interest in serving in that capacity for Planning District 14, she explained.

With a motion by Supervisor Talbert, the board unanimously recommended that Joseph Gemiski be reappointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals, representing District 3. The actual appointment is made by the Circuit Court Judge.

Supervisors appointed Robert and Donna Clayton to the Buckingham County Anti-Litter Task Force.

Show of Support

Supervisor Chambers expressed his appreciation to citizens who attended the recent open house hosted at the construction site for the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, located off Route 659, Ranson Road.

Conversely, Chambers shared his disappointment with some of his fellow board members for not attending and showing their support.

“This project has brought thousands and thousands of dollars to our county,” said Chambers, who represents District 6 where the seminary is being constructed. “Let them know that you appreciate them being here.”