BOS Meeting, February 23, 2016


Click here for the meeting agenda

All Supervisors were present for the entire four hour meeting, which started at 6:30 pm and ended at 10:30 pm.  Some routine things were taken care of without controversy:  the granting of a permit to Smyth County Ambulance Service to do convalescent transport in Washington Co.; approving a discounted tax rate increase for elderly and handicapped persons; approval of minutes with a correction by Mr. Hernandez,  and approval for Highlands Community Services  to borrow money to build a Children’s Campus (loans are already approved and facility will be located on land behind the Coomes center).

The public comment period mainly hosted speakers against the proposed Sugar Hollow quarry: Jackie Williams, Jenny Grant, and Toby Jordan.  Ms. Williams reminded the Supervisors about the Westinghouse Road controversy at the Feb. 9th meeting and said traffic issues would be the same on Bordwine Road if the quarry goes through.

There were a number of presentations on which no action was taken.  The first was a presentation by Gordon Jones about the audit of financial reports from fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.  It was a clean audit, but he highlighted the reports now include a different way to state the liability for pensions as a result of a new accounting standard (GASB 68) that went into effect.

A second very lengthy presentation was made by Fred Parker and David Henry with a dose of humor.  They outlined in detail (over an hour’s time), what revenue the BOS could expect from every tax, tag, or source, down to ones producing only a couple hundred dollars, saying estimates were conservative.  Finally, there were presentations by two organizations, Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing, and the Center of Excellence.  The first promotes manufacturing education, training, and promotion in the community, while the second establishes specific training sites and programs.

Finally, toward the end of the meeting, we got to action items on which Supervisors disagreed and votes were divided.  The first was a proposed contract for a security service at the Washington Cty. Government Center Building and at the Courthouse for an active shooter alert system.  This is a contract which the Sheriff’s department is funding with a grant for all the schools and is paying for out of his budget.  It was a question of whether the Washington County buildings should be included.  Four voted in favor with Ms. Mays moving acceptance and Mr. McCall seconding (Mays, McCall, Hernandez, and Pennington) and three voted against (Smith, Baker, and Copenhaver).  Jeff Blevins presented a plan for Cardboard Recycling that has been undergoing testing and it was approved with divided vote.  

The Board made appointments to the Mount Rogers Planning Commission.  Mr. Pennington will be reappointed and Jason Berry will check with current members as to who is interested in continuing.

Ms. Mays reported that Mickey Tyler was not interested in continuing on the Board of Zoning Appeals.  She nominated Dr. John Lentz to serve.  McCall seconded the nomination, and five voted in favor with Baker and Smith voting no.  Mr. Charlie Hargis is to finish Ms. Lambert’s term (decided at January BOS meeting).  Ms. Donna Bailey was nominated to replace Mr Dando (Baker/Smith) and all approved after a discussion of the woman’s poor record of meeting attendance on a committee due to her father’s health.

When Supervisors made their reports, Mr. Hernandez reported on a meeting held with the Dollar Store developer, Jason Berry, and citizens that he felt was helpful in clarifying issues.  Mays and Pennington reported on an inspection of the courthouse and plans for renovation being initiated.

Some general comments made by observers:  Allison Mays is playing a more active role by offering motions and seconding them;  Dr. Baker seems to have a large number of detailed questions; this meeting is somewhat pleasant; BOS members need to use their microphones; there was no bickering or tit for tat. 

Recessed BoS Meeting and Workshop, February 20, 2016


All Supervisors present from 8:30 am until about 12 noon, when Vernon Smith abruptly left after a vote didn’t go the way he wished.

Click here for the meeting agenda

The first 2.5 hours were taken with a presentation by Tim Estes about Emergency notification systems, Emergency Medical Systems, and Emergency Management of disasters. We were the only observers, and the Supervisors asked questions and we all learned much about systems in the county. Basically, there are nine fire departments in the county and about that many EMS providers.
There were only two areas where Supervisors need to make decisions soon (besides budgetary ones). One regards buying into a Code Red system where there is federal grant money for one year, or to use that money to purchase the system that the Town of Abingdon uses which is Mixall 360, and which costs $9,000 versus the $15,000 for Code Red. Tim is advocating using the Mixall 360 system and will provide all the details to the Superintendents for a vote at an upcoming meeting. The other decision area is over the county’s 1,900 street signs because most are over 25 years old, and don’t meet current regulations regarding size, font, etc. Besides, many have been stolen. This creates major problems for emergency personnel getting to the right houses, and for businesses having their customers find them. Mr. Estes recommends the county contract for all new signs and then county personnel could manage to make and replace the stolen ones or the new ones needed over the following years.

The second major item on the agenda for the day were proposed changes in the bylaws. Some were handled easily and consensus arrived at. Others were very contentious. The ones we observed were:
1. Allowing up to two substitute motions—agreed by consensus.
2. Committee assignments for the Supervisors should have some rotation so that Supervisors have a chance to serve on committees that interest them. It was agreed that terms on committees would basically be two years, unless no one else wanted that committee, in which case a BOS member could continue to serve. All agreed.
3. They agreed to drop a suggestion to rotate  the chair of the BOS in  a round-robin fashion among all the supervisors.
4. Lengthy (perhaps an hour?) debate about reimbursement for electronic devices and mileage for BOS members. Eventually, Mays, Hernandez, Pennington, and McCall voted down a motion by Baker, Smith and Copenhaver to provide $100 for electronic devices and keep mileage reimbursement the same as it has been. At this point, Smith left the meeting. Remaining members voted 5 in favor and 1 (Baker) against a motion Mays proposed to provide $55 toward a cell phone (county supplies them at this cost to the county) and mileage with a $50 cap on in-county travel/ month.
5. Discussion of “coterminous” appointments to various commissions and boards by BOS members. Lucy Phillips, legal counsel to the board, said they couldn’t pass a rule that would apply to all appointments because different boards followed different sets of state required regulations. She suggested they take up one board or commission at a time and decide how to handle the appointments. Agreed.
6. Closed door meetings. It was generally agreed that the meetings that most interest the public were the ones negotiating with companies interested in locating in Washington Co. Baker suggested that when negotiation was completed (the company refused an offer or accepted it), a “sanitized report” be made public (3-8 months after the meeting) about the content of the closed meeting. No names of companies would be revealed and no dollar amounts of offerings, but there could be project identification and statements like “3 years tax-free” to identify what was offered. Agreed to by all.
There were an additional 9 items on the list to consider for bylaw adjustments, but anything changed will have to come before the BOS at a future date to be ratified, and it seemed the most controversial items had already been dealt with.

Joint Meeting with the School Board, February 18, 2016

This meeting was held for the School Board to present its budgetary needs to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration in their budget meetings next month. All BOS members were present at the meeting.

Mr. Brian Ratliff, Superintendent, prepared and distributed a large bound document to each of the BOS members, saying that it was the full presentation of funding needs by the School Board. However, he also passed out to them and to the observers an 8-page summary. Introducing the documents, he stated that the projections for funds is based on the biennial budget the Governor of Virginia has recommended to the state legislature for fiscal year 2017-2018. The legislature usually modifies this.

The request to the BOS falls into four funds.

The first is the general fund that provides salaries and programs for the schools and the School Board is asking for no increase in funding, but is asking that the BOS budget the same amount as in 2016–$28,158,641.

The second fund is for textbooks, and the School Board is asking for an additional $14,467 over what it received last year (a total of $271,427).

The third fund is for school construction, and the Board is asking for an additional $370,000 which is needed for a sewer treatment plant (none received last year).

The final fund is for school nutrition programs and all of that funding comes from the federal government.

Other comments during the session—Mr. Ratliff stated that this is the first year in the six he has been a superintendent that the state education budget for Washington Co. has not gone down (it went down 6% over the six years). He couldn’t predict what might happen with health insurance for teachers with the merger of the two health systems. In the last several years, he had made cuts in the transportation costs, but this next year will have to put some buses back into the fleet.

A second item on the agenda was a discussion of the five school roofs that need to be replaced. The youngest roof is 20 years old and all the others are at least 25 years old. Toward the end of a lengthy discussion, it became apparent that prior BOS’s had allowed the School Board to put money left over at the end of fiscal years into a Capital Improvement Account. The School Board was requesting that the BOS give it permission to spend some of that money for the $1,200,000 it will cost to replace the five roofs, and also any other capital needs it has. They need to be able to act soon because the bid on the roofs was received Dec. 7th and was very good relative to other bids. The bid is probably good for 12 months for the labor, but material costs could go up for every month the repair is delayed.

BOS Meeting February 9, 2016

All Supervisors were present for the meeting, and the hall was about half full of people in attendance.

All persons making presentations or public comments were treated with respect and listened to.

The issues given the most consideration were as follows:

1. The proposed rock quarry was addressed by Toby Jordan, Betty Roberts, and Chris Robertson, who gave the most extensive argument and documentation about the problems, challenging the re­zoning. This was during public comment and no action was taken.

2. Permits for C­Trans Ambulance and Richardson Ambulance to provide convalescent transportation and back up the Abingdon EMS service for emergencies. McCall abstained because his wife works for one of the providers.

3. Presentation by Mr. Spangler of the Meadows development. Questions were asked by BOS members but this was just an informational session.

4. Tax relief for disabled — a public hearing will be held to discuss having a 2.5% increase in the relief level. All approved.

5. Westinghouse Road safety: Citizens living on the road are concerned because trucks using the road to get to a new industrial park have to cross the middle lines around very sharp curves (road was not designed for truck traffic). School buses and private cars use the road.

Citizens presented their concerns, BOS members asked questions, expressed concern, and the

County Manager was given the responsibility of following up on a number of options after much discussion by BOS members.

6. A new copier and fax machine for the Magistrate’s office was discussed at length—the pros and cons of purchase over leasing. Board finally voted to buy the copier, with Mays and Pennington voting no. Seemed like micro­managing.

7. Voting on whether to accept new CodeRED notification software provided on a federal grant for one year was tabled pending more information and the 2/20/16 meeting on the EMS services.

8. Todd Muncy was appointed to the IDA board on Mr. Hernandez’s recommendation, and appointments to the Zoning Appeal Board were tabled until currently serving members could be contacted regarding their desire to serve in the future.