Board of Supervisors - March 12, 2009 Workshop Meeting

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The Wise County Board of Supervisors met in a Workshop meeting on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors meeting room located in the Wise County courthouse.  The following were present:

Honorable Robert E. Robbins, Jr. – Chairman
Honorable J. H. Rivers – Vice-Chairman
Honorable Fred Luntsford
Honorable Steve Bates
Honorable Virginia Meador
Honorable Robert E. Adkins – members of said Board and
Shannon C. Scott – County Administrator
Karen T. Mullins – County Attorney
David Cox – Finance Administrator
Annette Underwood – Executive Secretary

ABSENT

Honorable Ronald L. Shortt
Honorable Dana Kilgore

PRAYER

Bob Adkins led in prayer.

PLEDGE

All led in the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

AGENDA

The following items were added to the agenda:

  • Resolution –Scenic Guest River Gorge Trail

  • Update on exterior courthouse improvements

IN RE:  WISE COUNTY TOURISM COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES

Stan Botts, Chairman of the Wise County Tourism Committee, introduced the Committee members and the role each one has on the Tourism Committee.  Mr. Botts gave an update on the accomplishments and the goals that are being discussed to promote tourism in Wise County.  Funding sources for the brochure were discussed.  He asked that the Board, when making appointments to this Committee or adding additional members, that consideration be given to individuals that have expertise in tourism which would help in securing grants and doing administrative duties.  He noted that Bill Smith the Marketing and Tourism Director will be an asset in moving things forward with tourism.

Supervisor Rivers suggested making Bill Smith an exaffico member of the Tourism Committee if possible. 

Mr. Botts said that perhaps Delegate Phillips could offer some recommendation as to how changes could be made to allow such a member.

IN RE:  PRO-ART ACTIVITIES

Bonnie Elosser, Executive Director for Pro-Art, thanked the Board for its support during Pro-Art’s difficult financial crisis.  She explained that in the past two years great strides have been made in repaying the debt.  Pro-Art is now in good financial standing and is moving ahead with its programming as usual.  The two (2) main goals are to repay the full financial debt that is owed and to maintain the full programming in the public schools.   She provided the Board with a handout of upcoming events in the area and the response that each program has received thus far. 

Mike Abbott, President of Pro-Art, explained that Ms. Elosser has used her expertise in moving Pro-Art forward and reducing the debt that has overshadowed Pro-Art in its efforts to move forward.  The staff is forgoing any increase in salary this year to assist in this endeavor.

IN RE:  APPALACHIA CULTURAL ARTS COUNCIL

Gary Bush, President of the Appalachia Cultural Arts Council, gave an update on the activities at the Center and the many functions that take place in the center.  Its goal is to further the arts and our heritage for Appalachia and surrounding communities of Southwest Virginia.  He noted repairs that are presently ongoing to make the facility more accessible for different events.  Funds are being raised to put a cover over the amphi ?? theatre including lights and dressing rooms.    There is a critical need for an elevator which would allow the use of the two upper floors that is not handicapped accessible.  Mr. Bush thanked the Board for its continued support.

IN RE:  RESOLUTION – SCENIC GUEST RIVER GORGE TRAIL

Don Greene addressed the Board regarding the need for benches on the Guest River Gorge Trail.  With the trail being six miles long, it was suggested that a bench be place every half mile.  The trail is utilized by hundreds of people for hiking and biking and has proved to be an asset to recreational activity in southwest Virginia.  The Vocational Tech School has been asked to build these benches which will cost $250.00 each.  Since this is a six mile walking trail, there is also a need for restrooms along the trail.  The Forest Service has agreed to do the EPA work regarding the restrooms but a resolution of support from the Board of Supervisors would enhance this endeavor.  Mr. Greene noted that anyone interested in purchasing a bench in memory of a loved one or for someone special can call the Chamber of Commerce for further instructions. 

IN RE:  LONESOME PINE ARTS AND CRAFTS

Barbara Polly, representing the Lonesome Pine Arts and Crafts, thanked the Board for its continued support of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama which will be celebrating its 46th anniversary this summer.  Brochures are distributed throughout different states to promote the Outdoor Drama and to further tourism in Wise County.  She reviewed the different events that are attended by people from other states and the surrounding area.  Improvements to the theatre have been addressed to make the Outdoor Drama safe and more inviting to the public.  She praised the young people from this area that are participants in the shows and the talents they have pursued after leaving the area.

IN RE:  COURTHOUSE EXTERIOR RENOVATION UPDATE

Mark Swecker, representing Thompson & Litton, provided the Board a sample of the metal ballast that will be replaced above the original 1896 courthouse due to extensive deterioration of the original ballast.  He explained the strengths of this type ballast compared to the original which was vulnerable to the elements of weather.

Mr. Swecker asked the Board to consider allowing T& L to remove a portion of each of the stone walls at the entrance sidewalks to the original 1896 courthouse and the annexed addition.  Taking out approximately a 10’ section of four (4) walls to allow construction access to the front of the building for erecting of scaffolding, bringing in materials, etc as well as improving the foundation  drainage system would be a benefit.  At the close of construction, rather than reclosing these openings, T&L recommends that the walks be terminated about 10’ short of the steps.  By doing this, maintenance would have access in the future for repairs, special events, etc. 

Mike Ball, Contractor for the exterior renovations, reported that scaffolding is on site to be erected on Monday morning which will take approximately two (2) weeks.  At this point in time, construction will begin on the building.  The expected construction time has been estimated at nine to ten months, weather permitting.

Administrator Scott advised that the County has a rare opportunity to have the restoration contractor who specializes in brick, mortar, and stone restoration on site during this time of construction.  That is the reason for having the Board to look at a slight modification of the stone walls in front of the courthouse.  The two court yards at present are not handicap accessible, and by modification of the stone walls, provisions can be made to make both court yards accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Chairman Robbins asked that this item be place on next week’s agenda for discussion.

IN RE:  PUBLIC HEARING – REAL PROPERTY TAX INCREASE

A public hearing was duly advertised for this date to receive citizens’ input regarding a proposed real property tax increase.

The following individuals spoke regarding the recent reassessment and the increase in their property:

  • Thelma Gilley           Gary _________         Blake Whitenack

  • Doug White              Billy Brown                 Kyle Fletcher

  • Ronald Mullins         Sherrie Meade              Harold Greear

  • Marlene Bush           Angela Honeycutt        Bob Harrison

These individuals were opposed to any tax increase for the following reasons and asked the Board to consider lowering the tax rate to offset the increase in the reassessment:

  • Bad economy

  • Proposed school consolidation/renovation of the schools

  • Loss of Jobs

  • Wise County is a depressed area

  • Reassessment of property is too high - property value has decreased not increased

  • People on fixed income cannot afford such an increase

  • Need more responsible management of tax payers money

  • Board needs to consider lowering tax rate due to high increase in the reassessment

  • There are many elderly living in Wise County and they cannot afford higher taxes

  • Many families live below poverty level

  • Properties were not assessed the same in all communities

There being no further comments, the public hearing was closed.

IN RE:  STIP TENT – HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Michelle McFerrin, representing the Wise County Health Department, advised the Board that the Wise/Norton Health Department will host an open house for the public and any Board members wishing to stop by on March 24, 2009 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Wise County Health Department to familiarize the community with services that are provided by the Health Department.  Services of the Health Department are not only for low income but for all citizens of Wise County.  She provided an overview of the services that are available to the citizens and fees, if any, for said services.

A ceremony is also planned on April 21, 2009 at 11:30 a.m. for the STIP tent that was purchased by the Health Department to be used as a District resource which is able to serve a number of potential uses ranging from a mobile hospital to an incident command post. 

IN RE:  ROADS AND HIGHWAYS

Jeff Sams, representing VDOT in the absence of Residency Administrator T. G. Branson, had no remarks for the Board.

Board members provided needs in their districts for VDOT review and response.

RECESS

The Board took a brief recess at 8:05 p.m.

The meeting reconvened at 8:18 p.m.

IN RE:  CONSENT AGENDA

The following items were reviewed under the consent agenda:

  • Recess meeting until Tuesday, March 31, 2009 @ 5:00 p.m.

  • Set public hearing (April 2, 2009 @ 6:00 p.m.) on a proposed ordinance setting deadline for filing with the Board of Equalization

  • Set public hearing (April 2, 2009 @ 6:00 p.m.) on a proposed ordinance exempting Mountain Community Radio from taxation

  • Set public hearing (March 31, 2009 @ 5:00 p.m.) on a proposed CDBG Grant application for the Wise Inn Project

IN RE:  CIP FIVE YEAR PLAN

Administrator Scott explained that the CIP Plan is only a plan of projected projects for the next five years.  The Board can pick and choose which projects they want to pursue, if any.  The Plan is a way for the Supervisors to identify things that need to be done.

After tweaking the Plan Mr. Scott noted that he removed the recycling/storage building for one year.  A few of the major projects remaining include construction of three high schools, sewer expansion projects, a new cell for the landfill and courthouse renovations.

There were several questions regarding the construction of the three new high schools and the funding source for these projects.

Supervisor Luntsford stated he was not for consolidation and was with the understanding that this CIP Plan did not include building of three high schools and further that this Board was not committed to consolidation.  He said he would not vote for a plan that included school consolidation.

After a lengthy discussion on the funding sources, revenue and debt service, it was suggested that more information be made available before any action is taken on adopting this Plan.  

IN RE:  SCHOOL BOARD – CARRY OVER OF FUNDS

Ron Vicars, Director of Finance for the Wise County Schools, addressed the Board regarding carry over funds from the School system for FY 2008-2009.  Mr. Vicars stated that there was a part of the Governor’s budget that allows localities to carry over any of the SOQ funds into next year to help offset operating expenses during this time of financial difficulties.  He asked the Board to consider allowing the School Board to comply with the Governor’s budget at the end of the fiscal year and utilize those funds in next fiscal year as they try to work out some type of plan on how to address the short comings with the budget.  The estimated carry over funds amount to approximately $500,000 that will be taken from replacement items, and one time cost items of that nature that can be put on hold for a year. 

Supervisor Luntsford asked Dr. Perry for a copy of the letter that was mentioned regarding the Board’s commitment toward consolidation.  

Dr. Perry stated that this was a letter to Governor Kaine.  Basically, the content of that particular letter evolved around the Stimulus money and possible money that could be used for renovation/consolidation/modernization funding.  Not remembering the exact wording, he said something to the affect that it may seem that the School Board has the commitment of the Board of Supervisors if a responsible financial plan can be provided to go forward with this project.  This commitment means a responsible financial plan being brought to the Board of Supervisors for consideration.  At this point in time, the School Board knows that this Board of Supervisors has not made any formal commitment or dedication of any financial resources to this particular plan.  Dr. Perry said he would be willing to send a letter back to the Governor to clarify that particular statement if the Board so desires.  It is understood that if the stimulus money is available and the Board cannot commit to the plan, then the stimulus funds would be refunded.  School officials believe time is of the essence with regard to stimulus funds and must act quickly to obtain these funds if available.

Dr. Perry spoke briefly on the proposed sites for the schools that will be made public within the next month or so at which time the School Board and the Board of Supervisors will be provided appropriate financial numbers. 

When asked about minutes of School Board meetings, Dr. Perry noted that minutes of all their meetings are posted on their website for public view.

Chairman Robbins requested the minutes be sent to the supervisors by email.

Dr. Perry asked that the Board appoint a member of the Board of Supervisors to serve on the Actuarial RFP Committee to assist with the selection process for Actuarial RFP Services.

IN RE:  CNW BOARD MEMBERSHIP

The Board was provided a memo with steps to be taken for Wise County to become a member of the CNW Authority.  These steps will be reviewed for consideration by the Board at its next meeting.

IN RE:  OTHER ITEMS REVIEWED

  • Town of Wise Sewer Hookups

  • Coal Severance Tax Receipts

  • Set public hearing (April 2, 2009 @ 6:00 p.m.) on a proposed amendment to FY 08-09 County Budget

  • Appointment of individuals for local interview of Wise County Agricultural Extension Agent candidates

  • Update on Economic Stimulus Programs

  • Update on status of Clay Soil advertisement responses

  • Pump and Haul for the Pine Camp Community Church

  • Treasurer’s request to destroy personal Property and Real Estate tax tickets for period of January 2003-December 2003

  • Resolution establishing the property tax rate for FY 2009-2010 (March 31, 2009 meeting)

  • Proposed amendment to ordinance exempting qualified elderly and disabled from taxation

  • Set public hearing (March 31, 2009 @ 5:00 p.m.) on a proposed amendment to ordinance exempting qualified elderly and disabled from taxation

  • Authorize signature for Agreement – Fairground Sewer Project- Transfer to PSA

  • Authorize signature for Agreement – Fairground Sewer Project – IDA Administration/Construction

  • Budget Amendments #31 thru #37

  • Appointments

  • Finance Administrator’s Report

  • County Attorney’s Report

  • County Administrator’s Report

  • Board Comments

ADJOURN

There being no further business to come before the Board the meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

ATTEST:                                                         WISE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

____________________________________            _______________________________________
Shannon C. Scott, Clerk                                               Robert E. Robbins, Jr., Chairman

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