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Halifax County supervisors acquire radio system, support drought declaration

SoVaNow.com / October 10, 2019
Halifax County supervisors took action on several agenda items and heard updates on other matters as the county governing board convened Monday night in Halifax for the regular October monthly meeting.

Among the highlights:

» Supervisors voted unanimously to purchase a new emergency communications radio system for $2.9 million to replace the outdated analog radio system that local firefighters, rescue personnel and police now use.

The Motorola system replaces “18 year old technology,” said Ron Wells of Mobile Communications America, the equipment vendor, and it will provide much-improved coverage throughout Halifax County. Wells said the improvements in radio communications will be noticeable not only in the county’s most remote areas, but also indoors — “things happen inside buildings, too,” he said.

The $2,945,910 expenditure will buy six transmitter sites spread around Halifax County, plus hundreds of new radios for use by local public safety personnel — police, EMTs and fire department personnel. The package also comes with a five-year warranty and regular maintenance, training, installation and hardware and software updates.

The system is similar to one that has been in use in Mecklenburg County for several years, and Halifax is using a piggyback procurement clause in Mecklenburg’s contract with MCA to acquire the equipment. The $2.9 million cost will be spread out over 10 years through a lease-purchase agreement; funding for the first-year payment has already been added to the current budget.

The system does “a good job enabling public safety people to respond when it matters,” said ED-1 supervisor J.T. Davis, a member of the board’s 911 committee. Davis said the committee, comprised largely of local emergency service personnel, was successful in reducing the price tag for the communications upgrade.

“We’ve come down quite a bit and we think we have a system that will do an adequate job for a very long time,” he said.

» County Administrator Scott Simpson reported on two items: the ongoing success of the county’s revamped recycling program, and his efforts to come up with new options for providing broadband internet throughout the county.

On the subject of recycling, Simpson said the county has transported more loads to its vendor that have been graded 100 percent recyclable — a turnaround from the spring, when shipments were being rejected due to the amount of trash mixed in with the recyclable content.

On the subject of broadband internet, Simpson conceded that progress in bringing coverage to unserved portions of the county has been slow: “We have an agreement with a wireless provider that in all honesty hasn’t made the strides I think we should have [made] over the past eight or nine months,” he said.

It was a reference to the county’s agreement with SCS Broadband, a Nelson-based firm that has been slow to expand wireless coverage in specified county areas.

Simpson said one solution to the problem could be to work with Dominion Virginia Power to launch a system based on its fiber optic network, connecting the utility’s electrical installations in the area. This “middle mile” network matches what Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is doing through its EMPOWER subsidiary. With EMPOWER, MEC is laying fiber optic cable to link together its infrastructure, while leveraging the investment by becoming an internet service provider (ISP). EMPOWER customers are able to get ultra-high speed service with connections to MEC’s fiber optic network.

Dominion is looking at a similar model, Simpson said. The utility “is extremely interested in partnering with Halifax to further broadband in the county,” Simpson said.

“I’m working on all different angles on broadband in all eight [election] districts to get us where we should be,” he added.

» In response to a petition by 66 residents of North Terry’s Bridge Road to lower the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph, VDOT Resident Engineer Kenneth Martin said he would send the request to the department’s traffic safety office. But Martin cautioned that VDOT likely won’t lower the speed limit on a roadway that was engineered for higher speeds: “If we artificially lower the speed limit, courts will say we’ve created a speed trap” and render the lower speed limit unenforceable, Martin said.

Petitioners in the area complain that motorists are using North Terry’s Bridge Road as a cut-through to go back and forth from Bethel Road to Route 360. Recently, a speeding pick-up truck struck a dog that had wandered into the roadway, hurtling the animal some 75 feet as the driver continued on his way, residents complained.

» Supervisors approved a resolution asking the governor to declare Halifax County a drought disaster area, which would allow agricultural producers to qualify for disaster assistance.

With little comment, supervisors also approved a property tax exemption for the SOVA Innovation Hub that Mid-Atlantic Broadband is building in downtown South Boston. The vote followed a public hearing in which no one spoke.

» Carol Gravitt, vice president of the Community Arts Center Foundation, gave a presentation on the economic impact of The Prizery and data that illustrate its appeal as a tourism draw. Gravitt explained that The Prizery conducts surveys of its audiences to find out where people are coming from — and 41 percent traveled from outside Halifax County for Prizery performances.

Data also show that guests spend hundreds of dollars each while in Halifax County, on food, lodging, gas and shopping in addition to Prizery ticket prices. “In fact, the data exceeded our expectations,” said Gravitt. In the four-week span of Summer Theatre, The Prizery sampled 3,200 ticket holders.

Gravitt attributed the success to the reputation that The Prizery has built with its summer stock theatre performances: “You saw Broadway-quality shows for rural Virginia prices — and it was fantastic,” she said.

“We want to be the Barter Theatre of Southside Virginia, and we think we can do it,” Gravitt said.



» Halifax County NAACP President Barbara Coleman Brown pressed the supervisors on hiring and procurement practices, questioning whether minorities have been excluded from projects such as the courthouse renovations.

Brown said she has seen only a handful of African Americans working on the courthouse project, and suggested that county officials haven’t done enough to include minority contractors on the project.

Noting that taxes are levied equitably to pay for projects, Martin told supervisors, “Please do what is within your authority to see that all segments of the business community enjoy some equity.”



» J.T. Davis provided an overview of Virginia’s recent efforts to obtain crop insurance coverage for hemp growing, a business still in its infancy. This is the first year of widespread hemp farming in the U.S., following approval of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized industrial hemp, a close cousin of marijuana without the drug-inducing effects.

Virginia was at risk of being left out of a crop insurance pilot program for hemp until local farmers and government representatives got involved, said Davis.

Davis, fellow supervisor Jeff Francisco and Board chairman Witt met with members of Virginia’s congressional delegation to urge them to push for expansion of the crop insurance expansion program. Southside growers also led the way, resulting in meetings with U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, and 5th District Rep. Denver Riggleman, a Republican to discuss the matter.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate responded by pressing for Virginia’s inclusion in the program, which is being offered in 2020 through a private sector insurer, Texas-based AgriLogic Consulting. Virginia was added to the list of about a dozen other states where hemp crop insurance will be available next year.

By having access to crop insurance, Southside hemp farmers should find it easier to obtain bank financing for growing the cannabis crop. Hemp is a ready source of CDB oil, which is gaining widespread use in cosmetic and health products.

With increase production, Halifax County also has a better chance of attracting a hemp processing facility to prepare the crop for market — potentially bringing new jobs and investment to the area.

“It is, I would say, a game changer,” said Davis.



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Comments

So the NAACP says there is racism because, in their opinion, blacks are under represented on the job site? what about Asians and Hispanics are the underrepresented as well?
I see the NBA suffers from diversity...Asians are greatly under represented.just sayin

Comments

The NAACP is exactly right, there IS no diversity in hiring and promotional practices by Halifax County and it has been that way a long time. They are referring to bids and contracts not being awarded to minority run/owned businesses as well as the internal struggles that County employees endure. WAKE up and realize that it is a major issue in this community and take your blinders off. As long as the good ole boys run the show in this County, the rich will get richer and the poor taxpayers will get poorer.


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