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Mecklenburg County, South Hill strike tax revenue deal / March 10, 2021

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors has agreed to enter into a revenue sharing arrangement with the Town of South Hill as a tax incentive for Microsoft Corporation to expand its data center operations into Hillcrest Industrial Park in South Hill.

In December, Microsoft purchased most of the land at three of the county’s six industrial parks — Hillcrest, Lakeside Commerce Park near Clarksville and the Roanoke River Regional Business Park located between La Crosse and Brodnax.

One factor in Microsoft’s determination of whether to purchase the 132-acre property in Hillcrest Industrial Park was being able to avoid having to pay taxes to two separate taxing authorities, the county and town.

The other two industrial parks are located outside of town limits in unincorporated areas of Mecklenburg County, so no town-county revenue sharing agreement is needed.

To address Microsoft’s concerns, the Board of Supervisors, South Hill Town Council and the South Hill Industrial Development Authority, owner of the Hillcrest park, reached an agreement for Mecklenburg and South Hill to share all tax revenues generated from the property that are due to county. South Hill agreed not to separately assess real estate or personal property taxes against Microsoft’s holdings in the Hillcrest Industrial Park.

Microsoft would still pay the assessed county taxes each fiscal year in two installments, mid-year and at the end of the calendar year. Mecklenburg County would, in turn, pay South Hill its one-half share of the tax revenues each year on or before Jan. 5.

Supervisors approved the agreement at the monthly board meeting Monday in Boydton.

In other business, the board also agreed to serve as a co-applicant on a grant request by EMPOWER Broadband to the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, also known as the Virginia Tobacco Commission. EMPOWER is requesting $880,643.45 from the Commission’s broadband fund, which has $5.5 million to make available during the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

The project calls for laying high-speed fiber in three underserved areas of the county in the vicinity of Baskerville and Palmer Springs. It is projected to cost $1,761,286.90. EMPOWER would pay one-half, $880,643.45, with the tobacco grant covering the balance. By signing up as co-applicant, Mecklenburg County does not commit local taxpayer dollars to this project.

The tobacco commission is expected to announce a new round of broadband funding in May.

A resolution adopted by supervisors notes that effective broadband access is an essential part of any community’s infrastructure and since EMPOWER was formed to provide essential services to rural localities, such as Mecklenburg County, this is in keeping with its mission. The funds, if awarded, would be used to provide high-speed broadband internet to over 215 potential customers.

Supervisors also agreed to support moving the voting precinct in ED-2 from Gator’s Store on Highway 49 in Skipwith to Bluestone Middle School. The board also adopted a resolution in support of the local police, fire and EMS and 911 staff for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, April 11-17.

Concerns about the amount of litter deposited at convenience centers and along the primary and secondary roads in Mecklenburg County prompted supervisor Charles Jones to ask what steps could be taken to address the problem. Carter said prisons no longer have inmates who are available to pick up trash, due to COVID-19 restrictions, and county sanitation crews are working overtime to keep up with the overflow of garbage dumped at each convenience center, particularly on the weekends.

Sheriff Bobby Hawkins said unless officers catch a person in the act, it is impossible to ticket a person for littering or illegal dumping.

Temporary employees have been brought on to help with the trash collection. They may turn into permanent staff if the county can no longer turn to prison labor for litter control work.

Mecklenburg Emergency Services Coordinator Jon Taylor said the state health department is no longer providing daily updates on the number of new cases of COVID-19, only the number of active cases. He also said that CVS Pharmacy in Chase City is now offering vaccinations for people 65 and older. Some physicians offices have also been authorized to vaccinate individuals, but the locations of available vaccines is “fluid and ever changing,” Taylor said.

To date, 5,514 people in Mecklenburg County have received one dose of the vaccine and 3,349 have received two doses, according to Taylor. That represents about 18 percent of county residents who have gotten the first shot and 11 percent who have gotten both shots. The figures, from the Virginia Department of Health, does not include county residents who have ventured into North Carolina to get inoculated.

The COVID-19 death toll in Mecklenburg County now stands at 58 since the pandemic started a year. One person has died in the past week, according to VDH.

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