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Land taxation, courthouse fees rise to top of Halifax County supervisor’s agenda / August 06, 2018
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors meets tonight in Halifax with a busy agenda on tap for the regular monthly August meeting:

» Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the repeal of the 2009 county ordinance that established agricultural and forestal districts for local farm and timber producers. Earlier this year, the Board agreed to discontinue the AFDs, which allow rural landowners to save on their real estate tax bills by setting tax assessments on open land tracts based on their productive use, rather than market value.

The AFDs cost the county $221,000 in deferred tax revenue last year, prompting supervisors to discontinue the program with passage of a new county budget in June. The ordinance would be deleted from the county code effective Dec. 31.

The public hearing on the repeal of the AFD ordinance is one of the first items of business with tonight’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Bethune Office Complex second floor meeting room.

Interim County Administrator Dan Sleeper said this week that he will use tonight’s meeting to discuss options with the supervisors for land use taxation, a related but separate issue from AFDs. Sleeper said Halifax County was unusual in having AFDs but not a system of land use taxation, which generally applies to agricultural and timber-producing land tracts of any size and requires applicants to prove that their property is being used for agricultural purposes.

The county AFD program was restricted to land districts of at least 200 acres, which could be comprised of single large land tracts or a collection of smaller, contiguous farm parcels owned by several different parties. The AFD program was capped in 2012 due to the rising cost of the tax break, and no new entrants have been allowed since that time.

» Also tonight, Sleeper is set to present options to the Board of Supervisors for payment of $35,700 in unforeseen fees to CJMW, the county’s architectural firm that designed the courthouse renovations. The cost overruns occurred as county officials and architects negotiated with the Town of Halifax on parking and traffic issues that the Town sought with the courthouse renovation and expansion project.

In a note to supervisors, Sleeper said CJMW has “clearly documented” the “additional and significant work” the firm undertook to satisfy the Town of Halifax’s demands, “trying to get clarity and establish justification for the additional requirements [Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy] had been insisting upon ….

“The County Attorney, [Building Inspector] Otis Vaughan and the former County Administrator can all attest to the time and significant confusion that evolved because of specific positions taken by the Halifax Town Manager during this period,” wrote Sleeper.

In past comments, Espy has defended the Town’s requests for parking, traffic and streetscape changes as the product of the county’s refusal to grant the town any input during the early phase of the courthouse redesign project.

While Sleeper said the architectural firm has established the basis for seeking to recoup additional fees from the county, he also wrote supervisors that “there is some expectation that as our partner in the courthouse project they do have some responsibility to inform us of when project work may be anticipated to exceed what they anticipated. This did not occur.”

He also noted that questions remain over the design of courtroom holding areas for both the permanent and temporary courthouse facilities, and recommended withholding payment to CJMW until a review of the holding area design can be completed.

» In another courthouse-related matter, supervisors are set to review Request for Proposals (RFPs) for the renovation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s building, which is part of the courthouse square but separate from the historic courthouse itself.

County staff received proposals from engineering and architectural firms by July 30 and Sleeper is set to present recommendations tonight on the best option for fixing up the century-old building.

» Supervisors also will consider plans to upgrade the water line and related infrastructure to the County Event Center, at the old fairgrounds property. Supervisors agreed earlier to run a six-inch water line from Plywood Trail to the property, but the sale of timber at the fairgrounds site has yielded enough money to run the line all the way to the event center ticket booth and extend two more two-inch lines to RV parking areas. The entire project is budgeted at $83,375.

» Supervisors also will be asked to award a paving contract to APAC-Atlantic for the resurfacing and rehabilitation of runway 19 at William Tuck Airport. APAC-Atlantic was the low bidder on the runway project, which has been approved for federal grant funding by the Federal Aviation Administration.

» Supervisors will be asked to pass a resolution that establishes a moral obligation to back the Town of Virgilina’s debt in upgrading its sewer system. Virgilina is issuing $287,600 in low-interest bonds through the Virginia Resources Authority to pay for the sewer system upgrade.

Also on tonight’s agenda is a public hearing to consider amendments to Foxhound Solar’s conditional use permit for a renewable generating facility at Green Valley Road ad Mt. Laurel Road, and a number of appointments to county and regional advisory boards.

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Here goes the courthouse fcost increases. Again the idiots on the Board have no mechanism or auditor to ensure qoutes and estimates are honored. Bet some pf the increased costs are winding up in cash back schemes.....

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