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Decision sought on bid for Halifax County Courthouse project

SoVaNow.com / January 08, 2018
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors will meet tonight to reorganize for the new year and consider the next step in the county’s ongoing plan to renovate the courthouse — the award of a construction bid.

The meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. in the second floor meeting room of the Mary Bethune Complex, will begin with the election of a chairman and vice chairman. The incumbents are Dennis Witt and J.T. Davis, respectively.

Courthouse matters dominate the agenda — topped by the expected award of a low bid from Blairs Construction to carry out the renovation and expansion of the historic but tattered courthouse.

The Gretna-based general contractor last month submitted a low bid of $14,824,000 to complete the work. The only other contender for the project, J.E. Burton Construction, submitted a bid of $15,941,395.

County Administrator Jim Halasz is recommending that supervisors accept the Blair Construction bid. He pointed out that Blair is currently finishing up a courthouse construction project in Charlotte County, and it is “a significant advantage to both Blair and Halifax County as Blair is likely to be able to retain the subcontractors and project staff from the Charlotte project for the similar work here in Halifax.”

In his notes to supervisors, Halasz also said the county will need to borrow more money to complete the courthouse renovations, and supervisors must still decide what to do about the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, which stands next to the main courthouse building and is in a state of severe disrepair.

Supervisors have made no decision on whether to renovate or replace the building for the prosecutor’s office.

Two other agenda items are related to the Courthouse Project:

A public hearing on a VDOT request to convert Edmunds Boulevard behind the courthouse into a one-way street. Under the VDOT plan, traffic would enter Edmunds from Main Street and exit onto Mountain Road.

The other courthouse item on the agenda is a request by Clerk of Court Cathy Cosby to discuss safe relocation of court records and furnishings during the renovation period. During construction, the local courts system will move into the Bethune Annex, the refurbished industrial arts building at the former Mary Bethune school.

In other business, the Board of Supervisors will

» host a public hearing on a conditional use permit request by Crystal Hill Solar, which is seeking to build a 65 megawatt solar farm on three parcels of 629 acres on Crystal Hill Road (Route 610) and Woodchuck Trail.

Urban Solar Grid, the project developer, has asked the county to reduce its bonding requirements for covering the long-term cost of decommissioning the solar array at the end of its useful life.

Urban Grid is asking to post a security bond of $25,000, but supervisors have asked for a bond that will cost $187,031 over an extended span.

» the board will hear from Beth Engelhorn of the Southside Community Services Board, which is seeking more money from the county to provide behavioral health services to county residents. The SCSB is seeking a county contribution of $196,694, which will be used to meet a 10 percent matching requirement for state funding. The requested amount is based on the percentage of clients served by the SCSB in Halifax County, according to Engelhorn.

» Also seeking financial support is Matt Leonard, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority. Leonard is scheduled to appear before supervisors with a request that they approve a moral obligation pledge of $11.8 million which will allow the IDA to take advantage of tax-exempt financing for three projects.

The loans include a $5.7 million, 15-year loan on the ABB Line 3 property, a $4.6 million, 15-year loan for the new ChemQuest Technology Institute which is being built in the Southern Virginia Technology Park, and a $1.6 million, 15-year loan for a new shell building that is under construction at the technology park.

The moral obligation pledge is required for the IDA to get the best terms on the loans, Leonard explained.

Both the ABB and ChemQuest Institute buildings have leases that cover the costs of loan payments and maintenance, and the IDA is currently marketing the new shell building with the expectation that it will be leased by the time it is completed.

» Supervisors also have numerous appointments to make to various boards, including two on the Halifax County IDA. The terms of current IDA directors Chris Lumsden and Butch Blanks expire on Jan. 31.

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