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Halifax County supervisors offer up $150,000 match for tobacco grant

SoVaNow.com / December 06, 2012
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors on Monday night agreed to put up $150,000 in matching funds to support a grant request of $1.3 million from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

The money is being sought by the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to continue the rehabilitation of the Green View Advanced Manufacturing Center, formerly the old Daystrom building in the Sinai community.

The approval came on a 7-1 vote, with only ED-5 Supervisor Barry Bank casting his vote in opposition. ED-4 Supervisor Doug Bowman, who made the motion to approve the $150,000 appropriation, called the Green View rehabilitation project “a pretty good investment, although no sure thing.”

Bowman pointed out that the 429,000 square foot building is by far the largest property owned by the IDA; the next largest features only 60,000 square feet of space. The matching funds, he explained, will come out of the 2014 county budget, and the IDA will work to find other sources of funding to support future improvements at Green View in coming years.

But Bank argued, “We don’t know what we will be faced with next year,” and he expressed concern about obligating future funds for the project. “We’re borrowing future revenues without knowing where the money is coming from,” he said.

Bank claimed Halifax County has put up $50 to $100 million for economic development over the past several years — in fact, most economic development projects rely on outside funding sources — but there are fewer jobs in Halifax County now than there were in 2008. “That doesn’t seem like a good investment to me,” he said.

Bank also worried about staffing of new businesses as he does not believe the community has the resources to train workers for specialized jobs nor does it offer a social climate conducive to retaining highly skilled personnel. “Many of our doctors and plant managers live in North Carolina and commute here,” he said.

IDA Director Matt Leonard cited the various training possibilities offered locally, including those available at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and offered by the two area community colleges.

In other business Monday, supervisors tabled action on a request to move the Republican Grove polling precinct from the North Halifax Volunteer Fire Department across the street to First Baptist Church of Republican Grove.

The board’s action followed a public hearing during which Pat Wingler, chairman of the Halifax County Electoral Board, said poll workers and election officials need several things — heat, air conditioning, bathroom facilities, water and space — in order to function properly. She said that during the November General Election, the fire station had no heat and there were problems using electric heaters. Back in June during the presidential primary, there was no air conditioning, she added.

“We just feel that workers and voters would be more comfortable if the precinct was moved,” Wingler said. Her remarks were echoed by July Rowland, who served as the chief election judge at the precinct.

But NHVFD Fire Chief Ronnie Waller responded that the problem lay in a lack of communication between the two parties. He said the fire department wants the voting precinct to remain as it is, and furthermore noted that the station serves as a vibrant part of the community. He said the new station building has air conditioning and heating so there should be no problem with that.

A resident of the community and voter at the station, Bernard Mitzler, told the supervisors they ought to keep the precinct at the fire department, since he believes in the separation of church and state. “What we need is more voting machines there,” Mitzler said.

ED-1 Supervisor J. T. Davis, in whose district the precinct lies, moved to table the issue, giving the two sides time to work through their problems. “However, if I had to vote tonight,” Davis said, “I would vote to leave the precinct where it is.”

Following a second public hearing, a request by Mrs. Barbara Tucker for a conditional use permit to allow her to operate a beauty salon and school was approved unanimously.

Supervisors also approved a grant from the Virginia Department of Aviation to install an automated weather observing station at the William M. Tuck Airport. The state aviation department will fully fund the project.

County Administrator Jim Halasz reported to the Board that he and County Treasurer Linda Foster have been reviewing efforts to collect delinquent taxes. “She is very willing to try to speed up the process,” Halasz said “and we are looking at ways to collect at a higher rate.”

During the citizen comment period, Ida Terry made three complaints to the board. First, she said, she had been unable to communicate with Treasurer Linda Foster about hiring extra help at her office during periods of heavy traffic such as tax collection time, Second, Terry said State Route 716 is a very dangerous road which needs to be improved; and thirdly, the new logo for Riverstone Park makes no sense to her.

“All I see is three little blocks. If they had put a river and a stone in it, then I could understand it. But a lot of money must have gone somewhere else.”

Also addressing the Board was Fay Satterfield, who asked supervisors for their support in raising funds to bring The Wall That Heals to Halifax County next April. The exhibit is a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C. that bears the names of the war’s casualties. To bring the exhibit to Halifax County, Satterfield said $6,000 would have to be raised to cover the expenses.





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