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Health insurance premiums hold steady for Mecklenburg County staff

SoVaNow.com / February 15, 2017
Mecklenburg County government employees will see no increase in the cost of their health insurance for the second year running, members of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors learned Monday at their monthly meeting in Boydton.

Although still in the early stages of setting the budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1, supervisors have moved far enough along in the process to gain assurances that health care premiums will not be rising in 2017-2018.

In other action during the short morning meeting, the supervisors also approved the final version of a false alarm ordinance. On the fourth and every subsequent instance where a building alarm is triggered that requires fire, law enforcement or rescue personnel to respond in the absence of an emergency, the owner of the alarm will be fined. The fines start at $100 and climb to $500 for the sixth occurrence and beyond.

Also, Tri-County Community Action director William Coleman thanked supervisors for their ongoing support of his organization, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. With the funding and other support that Tri-County received from the board and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, the organization is able to boost outreach with their Head Start early education and domestic violence programs, said Coleman.

Tri-County is also in the process of improving the systems by which the agency measures the impact of programs it offers to the community.

Tri-County Community Action is a multi-purpose organization committed to providing quality, comprehensive social and advocacy services to individuals and families in need while promoting their self-sufficiency. Tri-County partners with the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) in South Boston and the South Central Workforce Investment Board to provide job training for unemployed individuals.

The agency, which operates in Charlotte, Halifax and Mecklenburg counties, employs more than 70 employees with an operating budget of over $12.5 million.

Supervisor Jim Jennings gave an update on the recent meeting of the board’s Ag Committee. At that gathering, Charlotte County agriculture teacher Jim Pugh described the farm-based educational programs available to students at Randolph-Henry High School.

Supervisors appropriated $3,200 from the county’s roof fund to the school division to replace the shingled roof on the bus depot transportation building.

Board members also provided an additional $56,607 to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office to cover the costs to microfilm and digitize some of the county’s old deed and will books. This project has been ongoing for years.

Clerk of Court Michelle Gordon said her hope is to make 100 percent of these records available online and accessible through a paid subscription service. The cost for the service is $300 for six months or $500 for a full year. She believes the service will be a cost saver for the legal community, with members now required to come to the courthouse to access deeds or wills and pay $0.50 per page for copies.

Supervisors approved two supplemental appropriations — both reimbursements for vehicle damage. One went to Animal Control Department for $5,017.30 and the other to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office for $4,265.20.

Supervisors Vice Chair Gregg Gordon said he and Andy Hargrove, who together represent the Clarksville area on the board, will be scouting locations for a manned convenience center in the Clarksville area, similar to ones that exist in South Hill and Chase City.

Dennis King, who oversees the county’s solid waste disposal program, is working on mapping the sites of all dumpsters in Mecklenburg.

Proposals from the 911 Director Ben Duncan to expedite the process for dispatching first responders to calls involving locked vehicles with children inside and for carbon monoxide calls were approved.

Billy Smith, local residency manager for VDOT, said Mecklenburg County has an additional $152,000 available in the highway budget to make safety and operational improvements. He asked the supervisors to provide direction on how they would like the money to be spent.

Smith added that a decision needs to be made as soon as possible, but no later than June 30, or the county risks losing the funds.

Jim Jennings said he would like to see the money used to make improvements to the intersection of U.S. 58 and Route 15 across the bridge from Clarksville. He called it “the number one problem spot” in the county. It is not uncommon for people heading north on Route 15 to turn into the wrong lane of traffic when turning east on to U.S. 58. At the very least, he said, VDOT should erect a sign clarifying where to turn.

Supervisors also learned the county has more than $560,000 available for paving roads, which means, Smith said, there is enough money to pave the next four roads on the county’s six year plan: Red Store, Parsons and Old St. Tammany and Turtle Roads. There may be funding left over to improve one or two others.

Smith recommended against using the extra money to make repairs to Old Cox Road, which he said would cost more than $1 million “to be done right.”

Tourism coordinator Jacob Bower provided an update on the activities of his department. These include redesigning the county’s tourism website, working with photographer Sam Dean of Roanoke to capture images of local life, and meeting with the founder of the Dallas/Fort Worth Restaurant Week to discuss steps for launching a Restaurant Week in Mecklenburg. Target date for the launch of this event is December.

Other activities include hosting two travel writers with the Wine Trail Traveler that were set to tour the region Feb. 8-11. Three wineries will be featured: Three Sisters of Shiney Rock (Clarksville), American Way Country Wines (Chase City), and Rosemont of Virginia (La Crosse).

The writers will also be highlighting Bondurant Brother’s Distillery (Chase City) and Springfield Distillery (Halifax) for a brand new sister site, Distillery Trail Traveler.

Several local attractions are drawing attention and support from outside organizations, Bower said. The Tobacco Heritage Trail was honored with the Scenic Tourism Award in December at the 2016 Scenic Virginia Awards at the Richmond Capitol Building. Scenic Virginia is a non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to preserve, protect, and enhance the scenic beauty of Virginia. The Tobacco Heritage Trail has been used as an example by several trail systems on how to implement trails throughout an area responsibly and with as little impact on the environment as possible.

The Southern Virginia Wild Blueway was among the recipients of Riverbank Fund Grants through the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region. These funds will be used to create new and enhance existing boat launches on the river systems that feed directly into Kerr and Gaston lakes. The new boat launches will provide much needed access to regional waterways and create awareness and focus on waterborne activities, according to advocates.

The Southern Virginia Food Hub, also in the formative stages, will be an incubator for new and aspiring agricultural producers and give them the necessary tools and retail space to produce and sell their wares.

Bower also is working with a group of students from Park View High School who are building an all-inclusive, handicapped-accessible playground at Centennial Park in South Hill. The idea for the playground started with a project by the school’s Future Business Leaders of America Club. Already, the Park View students have raised $20,000 of $100,000 needed to expand and build the park. They hope to have the project completed within the year.

Mark Warren was named to replace Sam Piercy on the Mecklenburg County Planning Commission. Piercy resigned his position due to health reasons. Warren resides on the family farm and is a third generation farmer. He is also a member of the Buckhorn Volunteer Fire Department and the Mecklenburg County Farm Bureau.

The county will work with the Town of La Crosse to pursue grant funds to pay for a central sewer system for residents living in the Quail Hollow subdivision. Previously, the area received a community development block grant, but the grant award did not provide funding to upgrade the sewer system.

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