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Halifax supervisors tee up school borrowing of $135 million, employee pay raises

Halifax County is poised to borrow $105 million to build a new high school with an additional $25 million set aside for elementary school upgrades — the recommendation of the…

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Johnson fills emergency director post / September 09, 2021

Jason Johnson has been tapped as Halifax County’s new emergency services coordinator, filling a vacancy created when Steven Dishman, the former department head, resigned in February. Johnson is a county native and Virgilina resident active in fire and EMS since 1988.

Johnson has worked in an EMS supervisory position for the past 10 years. His hiring was announced by County Administrator Scott Simpson at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors.

Ralph Murray, former chief of the Virgilina Volunteer Fire Department, described Johnson as a task-oriented person. “I am very proud he earned this position,” said Murray.

In another change for county administration, Olivia Epps has been hired as Strategic Programs Coordinator. Epps most recently has worked as executive administrative assistant to the county administrator.

While the Board of Supervisors approved both of those personnel decisions, another leadership change — the Industrial Development Authority’s hiring of veteran employee Kristy Johnson as new IDA executive director — drew criticism from some supervisors.

ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon criticized IDA directors for spending $10,000 from the county to hire an executive search firm, then turning around and choosing a leader from its ranks.

“I was not pleased with $10,000 that we gave, even if the [search firm] said we got the best in the country,” said Brandon.

He called the process “very disturbing” and added, “I think we need to look at other alternatives — I feel like we have put the fox back in the hen hole.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Hubert Pannell said he has heard a lot of criticism of the county’s contribution of $10,000 toward the search effort, and there are a lot of unhappy people who think the IDA went into the wrong direction.

“It’s just a $10,000 loss,” said Pannell.

“To me it’s bigger than just a $10,000 loss,” replied Brandon

Brandon recalled reaching out to Johnson when she was serving as assistant IDA director, to discuss the possibility of bringing an Amazon distribution warehouse to Halifax County. Brandon said his inquiry was rebuffed.

“She said we did not have enough space for an Amazon,” said Brandon, who claimed the online retail giant went on to build smaller satellite locations in Burlington, N.C. and Danville. No such Amazon project has been announced in Danville, although Amazon is building a delivery center in Guilford County, N.C., near Burlington.

“It makes me curious as to why we can’t and never do with the same people we have relied upon up to this point. That’s some of my concerns, I was just hoping we would try something new,” said Brandon.

“I’m not happy about it, but when we are attempting to move forward we don’t look back,” said ED-8 supervisor William Bryant Claiborne.

In other matters at Tuesday’s meeting, Brandon asked VDOT to install signs for school bus stops on Melon Road. There is a dangerous curve near the Hilton/Hudson farmhouse on Melon Road, Brandon said, and he recently received call from a parent concerned there may be potential for an accident in the curve near the location of the bus stop.

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Same thing every time. County hires a local who has no sales experience. Same with previous employee. Career Govt wanks who can't sell yet are told to "lead" this role. Leading to govt wanks is pretending you have all these hush-hush deals, spend some money with local contractors to "spruce Up" buildings and then admit later , we didn't have a signed commitment or intent. This county keeps deliberately missing the ball on the vital need is true broadband connection NOW, now some bloated old style school.

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