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Options for HCHS, sales tax initiative top supes’ agenda

SoVaNow.com / August 05, 2019
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors will hear Monday from the architectural firm they hired to offer an independent assessment of Halifax County High School and options for upgrading the outdated facility.

OWPR Architects and Engineers, based in Blacksburg, submitted a report in late June that lays out a $73.3 million plan for renovating the 41-year-old high school. The firm was hired by the Board of Supervisors to offer a “second opinion” on HCHS after the School Board retained Moseley Architects, based in Richmond, to study the high school facility and develop a master plan for all county school buildings, in both the elementary and secondary grades.

The 2018 Moseley report led to a recommendation, since adopted by the School Board, to replace HCHS with a new facility. A school facilities committee is currently reviewing design proposals by architects and builders for a new high school, with the aim of recommending a choice to trustees at their Aug. 12 meeting.

In contrast, OWPR’s plan calls for making extensive renovations to the existing HCHS facility without resorting to construction of a new high school or reconstruction of major parts of the building. Company officials are expected to go into detail about their ideas for HCHS with supervisors at tonight’s meeting.

The board allocated up to $96,000 for the OWPR study; according to County Administrator Scott Simpson, the bill for the work that the firm came back with is $75,000.

The OWPR presentation is only one part of the Board’s discussion tonight on the high school.

Supervisors also are preparing to go forward with a November voter referendum to establish a 1 percent local sales tax. Revenue from the tax would be used to pay for capital improvements to the high school.

The proposed wording of the voter referendum states that “revenue from the sales tax shall be used solely for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools in Halifax County” — skirting, for now, whether the plan is to renovate or rebuild HCHS.

The referendum wording also notes that the sales tax will expire by Sept. 30, 2051, after a 30-year period, and revenues will support the repayment of bonds and loans taken out to pay for construction work.

The local sales tax is the product of legislation championed by Del. James Edmunds at the General Assembly earlier this year. Signed into law, it allows Halifax County to tap a revenue source other than property taxes to pay for school upgrades. If voters approve the idea, Halifax County would become the first locality in Virginia to levy a sales tax for the purpose of funding school capital projects.

Tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting will take place at the second-floor public meeting room of the Bethune Office Complex. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

In other items on the agenda:

» Supervisors will review recent developments with the courthouse renovation project, described by Simpson as “progressing well.”

» Board members will be asked to endorse a state grant application by Empower Broadband, which is seeking money to build a fiber optic broadband network in its southern Virginia service area.

Empower Broadband, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, plans to extend the ultra-fast broadband network to MEC’s infrastructure in Halifax County. The proposed expansion would made high-speed internet service available to 741 premises located in the project vicinity: on Howard P. Anderson Hwy., Hunting Creek Rd., Clarkton Rd., Mount Laurel Rd., Stage Coach Rd., Bull Creek Rd., Chathan Rd., Leda Rd., Bill Tuck Hwy. and Aaron’s Creek Rd.

Empower will be asking for funds from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) and is seeking the county’s support for the grant request.

» Supervisors will also consider streetscape changes at the War Memorial in Halifax to minimize damage to the curb where the memorial park stands.

Time will be set aside at the beginning of the meeting for citizen comments.



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