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Reassessment Is Postponed

BUCKINGHAM – During Monday night's meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, a lengthy discussion on the upcoming reassessment and which company to hire to do the job not only included comments by board members but also input from the audience.

After discussing the merits of the two firms, Wampler and Eanes Appraisal Services and Pearson Appraisals, and commenting on previous appraisals and the respective economic conditions, the board postponed any decision until more information is gathered and reviewed.

During her presentation on the reassessment proposals, County Administrator Rebecca Carter said the committee interviewed and negotiated with the two firms and was recommending Wampler and Eanes.

According to Carter, Wampler and Eanes, who performed the last reassessment and currently work with the county to update new construction assessments, submitted a per-parcel cost of $14.50; and, Pearson Appraisals submitted a per-parcel cost of $13.70. <br />
Noting that there are 13,236 parcels, Carter stated, “This brought a total price of $191,992 for Wampler and Eanes; and, $181,333.0 for Pearson. The total difference in the proposals is $10,658.80.”

During the board's discussion, when someone in the audience attempted to interject a comment, Chairman Monroe Snoddy silenced the interruption with a few taps of the gavel.

However, shortly after that, another member of the audience, Pat Bowe, an experienced real estate broker who is also a member of the planning commission and served on the board of equalization during the last reassessment, asked if anyone was allowed to speak on the matter.

Although Snoddy said no and explained the discussion was a board matter, Supervisor Donnie Bryan suggested they listen to the comments and his fellow supervisors concurred.

After Bowe offered his opinion of the last reassessment, other members of the audience, including former supervisors John Kitchen and Bobby Jones followed suit.

One speaker, Pete Kapuscinski, who shared that he had served on the Corporate Advisory Board at Longwood University, recommended supervisors utilize the resources and expertise of the LU school of business' real estate department.

“The people who head that department are licensed, skilled real estate people,” he stated.

When the discussion switched back to the board, Talbert suggested they consider working with Cumberland County and each county would be able to have a reassessment every two years.

As the discussion ensued, several proposed motions were offered. In the first motion, Supervisor Bill Talbert, noting Supervisor Joe Chambers was unable to attend due to a death in his family, moved to postpone the vote until the work session on Tuesday night. Talbert's motion died without a second.

Another motion, made by Supervisor Danny Allen, called for accepting the low bid from Pearson Appraisals. However, after a second from Talbert, Bryan, addressing Kapuscinski, asked for more information about the possibility of tapping into the resources of the real estate department at Longwood University.

At that point, Allen withdrew his previous motion and moved that the board postpone any action until they receive more information and check with Longwood.

After a second by Supervisor Cassandra Stish, Bryan asked Kapuscinski about working with him to meet with representatives at Longwood. Kapuscinski agreed to do so and suggested Supervisor Staton go with them. Subsequently, the motion drew the board's unanimous support.

Declaration of Emergency Status

Advising that Governor McDonnell issued a Declaration of Emergency Status for the state, Carter asked the board to consider a Declaration of Emergency Status for Buckingham. She explained that doing so could assist with any cost incurred by the county during and following the recent storms.

After a motion by Talbert and a second by Staton to do so, Stish shared that she wrote something conveying her thoughts in the aftermath of the storm and would like to share it with the board at the appropriate time.

When Snoddy gave her the green light, Stish clarified that her observations were not intended to censor anyone but were intended to help the county not only enhance its emergency plan but its communication efforts during such emergencies.

Stish began by expressing her pride and gratitude for the county's volunteer firefighters and rescue squad personnel, the sheriff's department and the deputies, and linemen.

Noting that the county was blessed that it did not suffer the extended whole-community outages like many areas, Stish said her concerns focus on longer lasting outages and disasters.

Stish, stating that it appears that Buckingham citizens take care of themselves and each other in times of emergency, said that might be the best course in the average power outage but she did not feel it would be sufficient to see to the public health, safety and welfare in a long-running event.

“I'm not talking about offering social programs here; I'm talking about offering appropriate, reliable, predictable, emergency relief,” stated Stish.

She called on her fellow board members to join her in working with the county administrator and the emergency services coordinator “to restate, renew, and redouble” their effort “to establish emergency response protocols and implementation practices that are widely known, advertised, predictable, reliable and effective.”

Following the comments, Carter responded that the county's emergency operation plan does provide for procedures to provide for both short-term and long-term emergencies, which, she said, includes calling in the Red Cross and the VDEM, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Carter said she was made aware that there were some problems with the county's Red Alert notification system during the aftermath of the recent storm and they were being addressed.

She agreed that in this rural area, it is hard to get the word out to all the people.

Carter encouraged supervisors who did not have a copy of the county's emergency operation plan to let her know and she would provide them with one. She offered that by reviewing the plan, supervisors would see how the county would react in a disaster or emergency when people would need to seek shelter.

Subsequently, the chairman called for the question on the Declaration of Emergency Status for Buckingham County and the board offered its unanimous approval.

Hearings Set for August 13

Supervisors scheduled a combined public hearing with the planning commission to coincide with the board's August 13 meeting, with the hearing set for 7:15 p.m.

According to Zoning Administrator Rebecca Cobb, the hearing will focus on proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance including amendments to the Agriculture (A-1) District and Article 9, Telecommunications; and, changes to the Subdivision Ordinance regarding definitions and street and right-of-way requirements.

The board also set a hearing for a proposed revision to the county's Concealed Handgun Permit Ordinance. That hearing will follow the one scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

According to the county administrator, the revision is necessitated by recent state legislation, HB 754/SB 26, stating that fingerprints can no longer be required for an original application and thus repeals the statute that allows localities to do so.

Public Comment Segment

Former supervisor Bobby Jones opened the public comment segment with a request for help from the board to address what he described as, in his own opinion, “the biggest eyesore our county has ever had.”

According to Jones, the property includes an old gas station and is located off Route 15 near the James River.

Noting his health and safety concerns, Jones speculated that the reason nothing has been done at the property is due to the costly proposition of the old underground gas tanks. However, he added that federal funding might be available to help with that process.

He asked the board to task the county administrator with contacting the owners and request that they either tear down or fix-up the building. “Let's do something to make it right,” Jones concluded.

Pete Kapuscinski was next to the podium. He began his comments by highlighting economic development efforts by Prince Edward County that were recently included in an article in The Herald.

“Their residents ought to commend their board and development committee,” he stated.

Referencing the board's upcoming work session, Kapuscinski stated that their discussions on revenue generating ideas seem to focus on taxes such as a meals tax and cigarette tax.

Kapuscinski told the board, “Please, for the fourth time, I am asking as a taxpayer and a concerned resident of this county that you take up your responsibility to us and get something started in economic development.” He added, “And, please find a way to keep us, the taxpayers in Buckingham, informed as to your progress.”

He told supervisors, “I am asking that you do this as an actively sought alternative to raising our business and personal taxes-all of which does absolutely nothing to help generate jobs and business development in our country.”

Kapuscinski concluded by asking that the board kindly respond to the request now or at the latest at its August meeting.

Stish assured Kapuscinski that supervisors would be discussing economic development during its work session.

The last speaker, Jessica Parker Carroll, shared that she was speaking on behalf of children who were not accepted into the Project Four program for this year.

She told supervisors that at first she began fighting for her own child but now her efforts are focusing on the other 27 children as well who are on a waiting list for the program.

Offering that she realized the program was not mandatory, Parker expressed concerns about the inequity of those 28 not being able to attend pre-K while the other 108 do; and, how it would affect their performance in kindergarten the following year and for years to come.

Carroll said she was told because the program must adhere to federal guidelines, no more than 18 children can be in a classroom staffed with one teacher and one aide.

She asked that supervisors provide the funding for two more classes for Project Four so that all the children who were registered may attend.

When Supervisor Bryan asked her if she had contacted the school board about the situation, she responded she had and was told they were looking for the money and it was suggested that she talk with the board of supervisors.

County Administrator Carter said she had also heard from several other parents and had talked with Dr. Blair, who told her at that time there were 25 on the waiting list.

Carter said she was later informed that if the division could fund the additional teachers and aides, the classes would have to be housed in mobile units because the school has obligated two classrooms at the former Buckingham Primary School, where the pre-K program will be housed, to Head Start.

The county administrator offered that she was advised the school division was not moving all of the mobile units from that school just in case. She added, “But they have not requested any more money.”

Administrator's Report

In her report, Carter advised that they are hoping to move into the new administration building by the end of the month or sooner. She added that the offices would have to be closed for several days during the transition.

According to Carter, the scheduled meeting with the Buckingham Agricultural Resource Network Committee regarding its proposed multipurpose agricultural facility was cancelled by BARN due to an emergency. She said the meeting would be re-scheduled and she would report to the board.

Responding to a request made by Stish last month for information on the VDOT Revenue Sharing Plan, Carter explained that if the county wanted to participate it must submit an application.

If VDOT approved the application and allocated money for the project, the county would be responsible for 50 percent of the project cost, stated Carter.

She said paving the road in question, Midland Road, Route 662, could cost anywhere from $625,000 to $1,250,000, which does not including engineering or design.

Stish said her intent in requesting the information was to find out about the revenue sharing plan. She added, “And, we do not have any money to share right now.”

She said that she wanted the public to understand the process and whether they would want their tax dollars to be allocated to the revenue sharing plan.

Carter reported that the county received $6,975 in grant funding from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to support local emergency management.

The administrator shared that a recent state inspection of the animal control facility resulted in two minor findings that involved filling in two different blanks on a form. The blanks referenced animal tattoos and collars.

Carter also reported that building permits for June indicate a bit of good news with four permits for stick-built homes.

In Other Board Action

Supervisors approved a resolution in memoriam for Roy E. Loving, Sr., who died on May 18. Along with his service in the United States Army, a distinguished career in education, a strong commitment to his church and community, Loving also served on the Board of Supervisors for several years.

After the county administrator provided a review of the only bid received for solid waste vehicle repairs, maintenance, and towing service, supervisors awarded the two-year contract to Aarons Auto and Equipment Repair.