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SOL test scores: Mixed bag

Halifax makes the grade half of the time with passing rates, but dropoffs outnumber gains

Judge nixes lawsuit by motorsports instructor

Case dismissed after Wilborn contested firing

Jobless rate rises to 8.8 percent in July

Halifax County’s unemployment rate jumped from 8.3 percent in June to 8.8 percent in July. Over 900 people left the labor force, which numbered 15,974 in June, but fell to…

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Comets fall in opener to Jefferson Forest

A quick, athletic Jefferson Forest squad proved too potent offensively for the Halifax County High School varsity football squad Friday night, speeding past the Comets, 50-30, in South Boston.

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Ideas fly for Mecklenburg County’s 250th birthday bash

SoVaNow.com / April 16, 2014
Tourism Coordinator Justin Kearns outlined plans for the upcoming 250th anniversary of Mecklenburg County during the April meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday.

The official kickoff will take place March 1, 2015. Kearns said he envisions a “large signature event involving businesses, schools, historic landmarks and museums. It is a really good way for the county to come together as a community.”

One idea discussed by the Tourism Committee is to hold the opening event at Mistletoe Castle, a late 18th century plantation with outbuildings located just southeast of the intersection of Jeffress Road (Route 702) and Route 58. The home was built by Robert Munford for his son. Munford was a playwright, plantation owner, and one of the first justices in Mecklenburg County. There’s also been discussion of having local theatre groups perform one or both of Munford’s plays, political satires set in the late 1700s.

“Nothing is set in stone,” said Kearns.

Other ideas being considered for the year-long celebration include encouraging local restaurants to offer special menu items along the lines of cuisine served during Colonial-era Virginia, and funding an update of the “Life by the Roaring Roanoke,” considered the definitive history of the area by Susan Bracey.

The one idea that appeared to spark the most interest among supervisors was a campaign entitled “Come Home to Mecklenburg.” It is a promotion focusing on the number of families in the U.S. with roots in Mecklenburg County, inviting them to return to the area to discover their heritage.

Supervisor Glanzy Spain encouraged Kearns to prepare a budget for the events, “but keep it lean.” In response, County Administrator Wayne Carter reminded supervisors that they have funded a portion of the 225th anniversary celebration.

In other action during the Board’s meeting on Monday:

Southside Community Services Director Don Burge discussed the organization’s efforts to establish a mental health first aid program that will train police officers and members of the public to improve mental health literacy. “It will help them identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness in the community,” said Burge.

The need for programs like this, Burge explained, are clear in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook School in New Jersey, as well as the attack on state Sen. Creigh Deeds by his emotionally troubled son, who fatally shot himself after stabbing his father, who survived.

The certification program teaches participants to use a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and secure appropriate care for an individual who is showing signs of mental health problems to minimize the likelihood of “awful outcomes,” said Burge.

This program currently exists in nearly 20 states. For individuals, it is a one-day training. For law enforcement, there is a more extensive program — one that prepares them to be trainers while also teaching them how to better interact with people in crisis, and get to people who need services as opposed to having to arrest them.

By encouraging the public to take part in the training, Burge said, more people will “understand the shroud of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and addiction.” The ultimate goal is to “help rid this community of the associated stigma and move more and more people toward recovery.”

Burge said he was not asking for money for the program, which would be funded through grants, but he was asking supervisors to help him get the word out.

Burge also noted that two SCSB members from Mecklenburg County are retiring from the board after nine years of service. He asked supervisors to help find suitable replacements. Burge said he would like at least one candidate to have a friend or family member who is receiving SCS services, or be someone with an understanding of the nature of the services that SCS provides.

The Southside Community Services Board was established in 1972 by the counties of Brunswick, Halifax and Mecklenburg to assure that community-based services are available to children, adults, and families with mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual disability needs.

In other business, the supervisors voted to rezone 47.732 acres off Ridge Road near Old Cox Road in Boydton from agricultural to industrial use. County Administrator Wayne Carter, who presented the rezoning to supervisors, would not disclose the plans for the future use of the property, except to say that the rezoning is necessary for future economic development.

The site connects to 140-plus acres currently controlled by Mecklenburg County located less than three miles from the Microsoft Data Center in Boydton.

After an animated debate, during which Supervisor Bill Blalock expressed his ongoing frustration with the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year road improvement program, supervisors agreed to add two roads to the county’s existing road improvement list, Old St. Tammany Rd. and Turtle Rd.

The board’s Secondary Roads committee had recommended that Mecklenburg County prioritize its road improvements based on traffic counts — those with the highest usage would be the first to receive paving as funds became available. This idea failed to garner the support of a majority of the supervisors.

Speaking on behalf of those opposed to the plan, vice chairman Gregg Gordon questioned whether relying on traffic counts would mean that only roads near the lakes would receive paving. He said this was not fair to other county residents who have been waiting for years to have roads paved.

Supervisors agreed that all future paving choices would alternate between two lists: one in which the roads are ordered by traffic count, highest to lowest, and the other the existing road improvement list generated by the Board of Supervisors in 2006.

A public hearing on the newly revised six-year road improvement program will take place in May during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Members of the public are invited to give their input, before a final vote takes place.

Blalock asked treasurer Sandra Langford to look into the feasibility of her office mailing out county stickers, instead of forcing people to drive to a designated site for the sticker. He also asked her to send advance notice of when the sticker will expire.

Langford said the notice he wants already goes out with the Dec. 31 tax bills. She added that people who do not pay their taxes cannot receive a sticker. By forcing them to come to her office or another designated site, the treasurer’s office collected nearly $500,000 in property taxes that otherwise may have gone unpaid.

During board member comments, supervisor Dan Tanner praised the county’s Emergency Management Services director, Jon Taylor, for his swift, and efficient handling of the chemical vapor problem that occurred at the Roanoke River Service Authority water treatment plant near Bracey.

Claudia Lundy told Carter that she wants a written update on the status of the convenience center that was to have been installed near the entrance of Tiny Road nearly six months ago.

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