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Mecklenburg supervisors delay next steps on Confederate statue removal / December 16, 2020

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors has put off for 30 days any decision on the future owner and location of the Confederate soldier statute that stands at the Courthouse Square in Boydton. In November, supervisors voted to remove the statue from the courthouse site where it has stood for more than for more than 112 years.

Organizations had 30 days to ask to take possession of the statue. Both the Town of Boydton and the Sons of the Confederacy stepped forward with a request, though neither party identified a new site for the monument.

Supervisors agreed to give both groups an additional 30 days to acquire a suitable site and for County Administrator Wayne Carter to get estimates on the cost of moving and building a new base for the monument. Board member David Brankley said the Town of Boydton and the SCV chapter are working together on the project.

The Board of Supervisors previously agreed to have the county pay the cost of moving the statue, but not the additional cost of constructing a new base. Brankley said that could cost as much as $11,000, based on what Brunswick County paid to relocate a similar statue.

In other business, supervisors approved a special exception permit application from US Re-Tire Inc. to operate a tire recycling center in an existing building at 350 Golden Eagle Drive in La Crosse.

Tom Tanner asked the board to support the request, which had been recommended by the county planning commission, on the condition that there be no outside storage of tires or debris. The motion passed without opposition.

Supervisors amended the County Zoning Code as it relates to solar energy projects to allow Mecklenburg to assess a revenue share of $1,400 per megawatt on any solar photovoltaic project that generates more than 20 and less than 100 megawatts of power.

Carter said this change to the zoning ordinance would provide a steady stream of revenue from solar projects and more revenue after year five of a project than the current machine and tools tax which is assessed against depreciating equipment.

Carter said the $1,400 assessment does not impact the county’s ability to locally fund its schools through the composite index, a formula set by the State of Virginia that establishes the share all localities must pay into their school budgets. Mecklenburg County currently has one of the highest composite indexes of any rural county in Virginia, which means it receives fewer state dollars for its schools.

The composite index is calculated from three revenue sources — sales tax, real estate values and the average income of its citizens.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols shared a video timeline of the construction project for the county’s new secondary school complex on Wooden Bridge Road in Baskerville. He said the project remains on budget and on schedule.

Supervisor Charles Jones asked Nichols when teachers might be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine being distributed. Nichols said he did not know the answer, only that teachers were not in the first prioritized group.

Chairman Glenn Barbour asked about the confusion that stems from comments by CDC officials calling for kids to return to school in person, and the current status of most school divisions that have opted to keep students at home for virtual learning.

Nichols said the CDC’s recommendation comes with the unstated requirement that children wear masks and be socially distanced while at school. Mecklenburg County does not have the resources or the space to adhere to those safety conditions, except at the elementary school level where students can be contained in one classroom for their entire day.

Once students matriculate to the secondary level, their varied class schedules force them to intermingle with a wider group, and potentially exposing more people to the virus.

Additionally, the school system does not have enough buses to transport every student to school since no more than 21 students can ride on a 63-passenger bus at one time, due to social distancing requirements.

Supervisors agreed to buy an additional half-acre of land at the corner of Highway 58 and Route 4 near the new consolidated secondary school for a price of $5,000, and will pay $100,000 to purchase additional property next to the County Administration offices in Boydton.

Tourism Coordinator Tina Morgan asked the county to serve as a co-applicant on a grant for a new trailhead at Skipwith and Park Roads in Boydton and for the county to work with the Rails to Trails groups to acquire additional easements of private property for the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

H.G. Reynolds was awarded a $405,893 contract for the waterline extension project on Ridge Road.

Three supplemental appropriations were approved — $27,441 to the Mecklenburg County Circuit Court Clerk, $686,595 to the Mecklenburg County Public Schools and $15,090 to the Mecklenburg County Library Systems.

The supplemental appropriation for the school division comes out of coronavirus relief funds received from the Virginia Department of Education. The money for the court is for its microfilming project from the State Compensation Board, and the library funds are additional state aid.

Voter Registrar Jason Corwin said the county had a 72 percent turnout at the General Election in November, and 50 percent of those voted in person at the registrar’s office in Boydton. On their busiest day, Corwin said the office voted 500 people and the longest wait time was about eight minutes.

For the most part, Election Day was uneventful, Corwin said. There were few complaints and only two instances where voting machines were temporarily down. He credited the 129 election officials working at the polls for this success.

Coming in 2021, Corwin said his office will have to purchase new electronic poll books to conform to state law, and it will be notifying voters of their new voting location once redistricting is completed. The Registrar’s Office also is preparing for same-day voter registration, which is set to go into effect in Virginia.

Jim Jennings asked the board to approve a resolution honoring Charles S. Johnson, a plant pathologist and professor at Virginia Tech upon his retirement. Jennings said Johnson was an expert in the diseases that impact tobacco, small fruit and hemp.

Jennings also asked the board to consider taking a stand against the legalization of marijuana. He called it hypocritical for legislators who have repeatedly and consistently “trashed the tobacco industry” to turn around and support a product that “gets you high.”

Glenn Wood was named to the Mecklenburg County Industrial Development Authority. He replaces Billy Driggs who died last month.

Tanner congratulated Paul Malone on being named the new executive director of the Roanoke River Service Authority. He replaces Jeffrey Hinkle who is retiring.

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