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Halifax County supes back broadband grant, mull money matters / August 08, 2019
Aside from weighing options for upgrading Halifax County High School and authorizing a November ballot initiative to pay for school improvements with a 1-cent sales tax, Halifax County supervisors tackled a busy agenda Monday night.

Supervisors agreed to support a grant application by EMPOWER Broadband, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Co-op, for state funding to extend fiber optic broadband to five areas in the county, serving around 800 people.

Empower Broadband is planning to run fiber optic cable to their Omega substation, Crystal Hill North substation, Lower Liberty substation, Meadville substation, and Bull Creek substation. Homes and businesses that lie in the path of the expansion be able to sign up for service when and if the project is completed. The cooperative cannot service Turbeville because it is in Dominion Power’s territory.

By endorsing the grant application, the board is not promising to provide county financial support for the effort.

“You’re not committing any funds,” said County Administration Scott Simpson.

The finance committee, chaired by J.T. Davis, ED-1, offered five recommendations. The first waived Habitat For Humanity’s building permit fees of $426.69 for a dwelling that the group will build. The second recommended that Mid-Atlantic Broadband come before the September board meeting to make the case for a real estate tax exemption and tax exemption for computer systems at their new office building in downtown South Boston. Third, the committee advised against a Health Department request to carry over funds from the prior year. Fourth, the committee recommended that the board restructure erosion and sediment control fees.

“Erosion and Sediment Control is different than Stormwater Control. They are two separate programs,” Simpson said.

The fifth item was what Simpson called “some better news.” The county was approved for a $50,000 USDA grant that will be used to purchase vehicles for the Halifax County Sheriff’s Department.

After their action was completed, supervisors heard a series of reports and updates that lasted the rest of the meeting, beginning with a notice that the Environmental Protection Agency had come to clean up wells at Shiloh Church Road.

“This had nothing to do with our county or our resources,” Simpson said. “The EPA had been called in by some people in the area that had some well issues and they traced that to the site that was used for cleanup.”

“Tuesday, July 16, EPA representatives were on site as were a clean up contractor and clean up crew … They have heavy equipment as well as roll off containers on site. There are some drums that contained rainwater and residue that are going to be pumped for disposal,” Simpson explained.

“There are some small radioactive items that are on site, some old batteries, and it’s an overall clean up site,” he said.

On Friday, an email update from the EPA said that they had focused on removing “radioactive debris,” and that the removal was “95 percent complete.”

“We’re not actively involved in the project,” Simpson reiterated.

He also provided an update on the courthouse project. The steel decking on the southern third of the project is now complete, as has the stormwater line on Edmunds Street, the grating at the building pad, the stairwell block, the soil nailing holding up the foundation, the removal of several concrete walls, and the pouring of new concrete walls. More steel decking will be laid in August.

“With good weather, the later part of August or early September, we’ll likely see steel erection,” Simpson said.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Witt.

“I am so glad, with all the millions of dollars we’ve given them, they’re finally going to work. I believe the statements from some of our fellow board members at the last meeting paid off,” said vice-chair Hubert Pannell.

Simpson also updated the board on the county recycling program, which he has now resumed. Recycling containers are painted bright yellow, placed at only six sites, and labeled with new signage, but Witt questioned Simpson as to why glass was not mentioned as a recyclable material on the new signs. Simpson acknowledged this had been an oversight and said he would make the change.

Virginia Department of Transportation made its monthly report to the Board of Supervisors, as did the War Memorial Committee.

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