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Halifax County supervisors grapple with rising courthouse bills

SoVaNow.com / February 07, 2019


The cost of renovating the Halifax County courthouse went up on Monday as the Halifax County Board of Supervisors fielded more spending requests for unanticipated work.

Board members agreed to one item — an $11,360 contract with Hurt & Proffitt for asbestos abatement at the soon-to-be demolished Commonwealth’s Attorney office building — and they braced themselves for more asbestos-related costs, as well as construction setbacks from the unprecedented run of recent wet weather.

“Right now, we’re behind schedule,” interim County Administrator Dan Sleeper told board members at their regular monthly meeting on Monday night.

Work to dismantle the century-old prosecutor’s office has been suspended while the county and its contractors figure out what to do about the building’s asbestos problem. Hurt & Proffitt, a Lynchburg engineering and environmental services firm, will monitor the removal of materials for environmental and workplace safety. The general contractor still must find a specialist in asbestos removal to handle the main portion of the project.

“You don’t have a choice — someone has to monitor the air,” said Sleeper of Hurt & Proffitt’s role.

Sleeper said it is not uncommon for asbestos to crop up as a problem during building renovations, especially when older structures are involved. “Unfortunately, any time you go through a building of that age, you’re going to find asbestos contamination that has been taken out,” he said.

The county is tearing down the dilapidated building to free up room for a new wing of the courthouse that will house the Commonwealth’s Attorney office staff and a portion of the Clerk of Clerk’s office.

Tim Burge with Skanska, contractor on the Courthouse Renovation Project, promised supervisors that he would try to save money for the county when his firm hires a specialty contractor to take out the asbestos.

Meantime, renovation work has been set back where the old county jail once stood. Sleeper said the heavy rainfall in recent months has filled the gaps left behind when workers dug out the footings to the demolished structure.

It will take some $27,000 to pump out the water and fill the 12-foot holes with grip material to take the place of clay.

“We need to put back good soil for what we’re taking out of there,” said Sleeper, who assured board members that the work will serve to shore up the courthouse foundations.

“It’s pretty hard to get water out of a confined space like that,” Sleeper said, adding that the $27,000 cost is just an estimate for now.

In other business at their Monday night meeting, board members tackled an assortment of matters:

» They tabled a request by local home developers for tax incentives to promote the construction of new residential subdivisions. An ad hoc committee studying the issue has recommended a rebate program through the Halifax Opportunity Fund, which is administered by the Industrial Development Authority. The ad hoc panel suggests payments to the developers equal to one-half of new real estate tax proceeds created through new subdivisions. Developers would be eligible to received payments over 15 years, provided certain conditions are met, including the timely payment of tax bills to the county.

The program, which would offset some of the cost of building infrastructure such as roads and water and sewer lines in new subdivisions, would help Halifax County improve its housing stock, Sleeper told supervisors. Modern upscale homes are a must for Halifax County to attract more professionals to the local workforce, he said.

“Our top executives and our top professional people who are coming here [to work] are not living here,” said Sleeper.

Supervisors Chairman Dennis Witt said the proposed incentives would be similar to what the county offers to industries and businesses to locate here. “This is not an unreasonable request,” he said. “We do incentivize all kinds of businesses and industry to bring jobs to Halifax County.”

However, Witt said the policy “needs a little tweaking” and the county should complete a fiscal impact statement on the developer payments before deciding on the matter. He referred it to the finance committee headed by J.T. Davis for further review, ahead of a possible board vote next month.

Witt also asked that South Boston town officials be consulted on the policy change.

» The board approved a plan for using an $803,745 community development block grant for the Meadville Road Housing Program. The project calls for the rehabilitation of eight homes in the Meadville Road area, along with construction of three new homes and demolition of four homes. The federal block grant program, administered through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, requires beneficiaries to contribute a share of private funding.

» Supervisors agreed to pay a $250 fine to the state for deficiencies with the floor at the county animal shelter, and explore options for fixing the problem.

» The board took no action on the planned sale of the shuttered Cluster Springs Early Learning Center after discussing bids for the property in closed session. The matter is likely to come up again in March.

» The board also agreed to retain Sleeper for 12 more days as interim administrator at a cost of $500 per day. Sleeper will assist new County Administrator Scott Simpson, who presided at his first board meeting on Monday night after officially starting work Feb. 1.



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