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Mecklenburg supes turn to YouTube for monthly meeting

SoVaNow.com / April 15, 2020


The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors established regulations for the creation of no-wake zones on both Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake, and adopted an ordinance for conducting future meetings via electronic means during Monday’s monthly board meeting which was live-streamed on YouTube.

It was the first meeting of supervisors since Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency that, among other things, limits the number of people attending public gatherings to ten or fewer.

County Administrator Wayne Carter, who also serves as director of emergency management, issued a declaration of a local emergency on March 20, which allowed the board to convene certain meetings solely by electronic means, or to limit attendance at its meetings to 10 or fewer people so long as attendees were separated by at least six feet.

On Monday, supervisors confirmed Carter’s declaration with the condition that the public should be allowed to participate or otherwise offer comment about the business being conducted at any meeting where their attendance is restricted because of the declared state of emergency. The ordinance adopted by the board will remain in effect for 60 days.

Three days in advance of any meeting conducted electronically, the Board must provide notice to the public explaining how people can participate or comment. For Monday’s meeting, the public was invited to submit comments in writing in advance, or to call the county administrator with comments.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Mecklenburg IT director Alex Wells arranged for the April session to be livestreamed on YouTube. Carter said that since the meeting was recorded, the public can access the video online at their leisure.

Tackling the regular agenda, Emergency Services Coordinator Jon Taylor updated supervisors on the work undertaken by his office during the COVID-19 pandemic. The office has weekly teleconferences with fire, police and EMS agencies to update them on the latest information from the state and to assess their needs.

The emergency services office has collecting PPE (personal protective equipment) and cleaning supplies for local first responders. Taylor thanked the Home Depot store in South Hill, Michael Vaughan with the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Lake Gaston Fire Chief Ricky Elmore, Chase City Fire Chief Charles Magann, and Major Terry Edmonds and Deborah Clark with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office for their efforts to secure PPE and other supplies.

Taylor said he’d initially reached out to the state for equipment and supplies, but was told to source these items locally since the national stockpile was not sufficient to fill the needs of every locality.

According to the latest trending models, Taylor said Virginia’s COVID-19 outbreak is expected to peak around April 20. He stressed that was only an estimate based on current data.

Supervisors adopted of an ordinance regulating the placement and maintenance of “no wake” buoys in waterways of Mecklenburg County, including Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake.

The request to have the county adopt policies and procedures for the creation of a “no wake” zone on any county waterway came from nearly 40 residents living near the narrow creek. They saw a substantial uptick in boat traffic after a boat launch and non-fuel marina were added at the end of the creek. These residents worry about the safety of swimmers, kayakers and paddle-boarders as boaters speed through the waterway.

Supervisors, after studying the issue, agreed that certain waterways, such as those with narrow channels or “S-curves” that create blind spots might warrant a “no-wake” designation.

The approved ordinance authorizes supervisors to approve, at their discretion, requests for “no wake” buoys after reviewing an application from any member or members of the public. Final approval of a buoy request rests with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The person or group applying for the buoy will bear all costs associated with placing, maintaining or removing of one or more buoys.

Supervisors said it is not their intent to unduly restrict the use and enjoyment of the lakes. For that reason, they will only approved requests where there are significant public safety concerns. They also made clear that they would not consider applications for seeking “no wake” buoys on waterways such as Poplar Creek, which lies partly between two counties, unless both counties adopt a similar ordinance.

Supervisors created the Mecklenburg County Lake Advisory Committee (“MCLAC”) to oversee the implementation of this ordinance. Members will include the county administrator, zoning administrator, and either a planning commission member or a member of the Board of Supervisors representing Election Districts 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9.

Supervisors also adopted an emergency ordinance to limit the discharge of certain devices, including air cannons, carbide cannons, or other loud explosive devices which are designed to produce high intensity sound percussions for the purpose of repelling animals.

These devices cannot run during a period that begins 30 minutes prior to sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise, and the devices cannot be discharged within 500 feet of a residential dwelling.

The request for the ordinance came from Terry Preston and Sam Walker, who live on or near Oak Road in Brodnax. They said their neighbors, Jerry and Margaret Askew, have a propane cannon that fires off every 45 seconds from 5:45 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. seven days a week. Even worse, the cannon is pointed directly at the bedroom window of Preston’s house, the couple said.

The Sheriff’s Office had asked the Askews to limit the use of the canon but without any ordinance prohibiting or restricting its use, deputies were powerless to take action. The Askews chose to ignore the suggestions that they move the cannon or discontinue its use during the nighttime, according to Tom Tanner.

“These people had to endure many months of these blasts,” Tanner said, referring to the Preston and Walker. David Brankley added, “These people need relief.”

The Sheriff’s Office will notify the Askews of this new ordinance and that violations of the ordinance are a Class 3 misdemeanor. It goes into effect immediately and lasts for 60 days unless extended by the board.

Carter reviewed the scope of work the county will undertake to renovate the former Bruce Library building on Washington Street in Boydton. It will become the new home of the Mecklenburg County Elections Registrar.

Before the Elections office can move into the former library, Carter said trees and other plantings around the building must be removed, an expanded parking area has to be installed, and a handicapped accessible ramp must be built to allow access to the building. Carter said the county will also paint the inside and outside of the building, lay new carpet, and install new electrical wiring and a new HVAC system. Much of the work will be performed by county maintenance staff.

Carter did not give an estimate for when the work would be completed.

Supervisors amended the terms of a $39,300,000 general obligation bond, which is being issued to finance a portion of the cost of construction of the consolidated secondary school campus in Baskerville.

Under the initial terms, the Board agreed to pay up to 5.5 percent interest on the bond being purchased by the Virginia Public School Authority. With interest rates now dropping to around 2.5 percent, Supervisors decided to reduce the amount they would agree to pay in interest on the bond to no more than 4.11 percent per annum, which was, according to Carter, “the planning amount.”

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