Board approves funding for additional teachers

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By John Barnhart

    At its last meeting in August, the Bedford County School Board voted unanimously to amend the school division’s staffing standards to add an additional teacher to each school with less than 250 students. This will result in hiring seven additional teachers.

    In order to pay for that, the school board had to ask the board of supervisors to move $300,000 from the school maintenance category to the operations category to cover the cost. The supervisors unanimously approved that transfer at their regular meeting Monday night.
    According to Randy Hagler, the school division’s chief financial officer, the school division has an undesignated balance of $1.2 million in its school maintenance fund. The undesignated balance is maintained to take care of emergencies. Hagler told the supervisors that this will leave a balance of $900,000 in that fund, enough to cover any unanticipated problems that may arise during the school year.
    In  other  business, the  supervisors approved a 124-foot cell tower that Verizon wants to build off Va. 43, just south of U. S. 460,  adjacent to the Bedford city limits near the old fire tower. This tower, a monopole tower, will replace an existing 64-foot lattice tower. A Verizon representative said that the height is necessary in order for them to provide 4G cell service. She also stated that there will be space for two other carriers to co-locate on the tower and that the FAA does not require aircraft warning lights on this tower.
    Lee Walker, a county resident who lives near the site said, during the public hearing, that he has no problem with the height, but was concerned about lights. He was assured that there would be no lights on the tower.
    The supervisors unanimously approved the tower.
    In other action Monday, the supervisors unanimously voted to begin the legal process to amend the county’s zoning ordinance. The existing zoning ordinance was adopted in 1998. A process to replace that ordinance with an entirely new one bogged down and, in December, the supervisors voted to stop work on that and revise the existing ordinance instead. The resolution that the supervisors adopted calls for a joint public hearing with the planning commission on the proposed amendments to the ordinance to be held on Nov. 1.
    At the meeting’s end, District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler and District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek brought up three matters.
    Wheeler said that, earlier this year, he had asked for a list from the school division stating what it costs to operate each school.
    “I don’t know what it costs to operate each school,” he said. “I need to know what each of these paid-for schools costs to operate.”
    Wheeler said that he has never received this information and wants to know why.    
    County Administrator Kathleen Guzi said that she has been told that the school division is still working on this request. She told the supervisors that it is reasonable for the board of supervisors chairman to write to the school board chairman asking when the supervisors can anticipate receiving this information.
    Wheeler also brought up “Camp 24.” This minimum security jail, formerly operated by Bedford County and later transfered to the Blue Ridge Regional Jail, is slated for closure. All inmates were transfered out during the summer and the facility is due to revert back to the county at the end of the year. Wheeler said that Bedford County is close to getting authorization to draw an additional 10 million gallons of water per day out of Smith Mountain Lake. The county already draws two million per day out of the lake and treats it at the High Point water treatment plant.
    “We can’t process 12 million gallons of water per day out  of High Point,” he said.
    Wheeler said that a Bedford County Public Service Authority (PSA) study indicates that Camp 24 is the best location in the county for a 10 million gallon per day water treatment plant. Wheeler suggested making preparations to turn over 50 acres of the Camp 24 site to the PSA once it reverts back to the county.
    Cheek brought up Gary and Debbie Sloss, who own a house adjacent to Jefferson Forest High School (JFHS). The Slosses septic system has failed and they have been able to hook up to a PSA sewer that serves the school. According to Cheek, the Sloss’ septic system failed because storm water runoff saturates the Sloss’ property. District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington, a builder, agreed with Cheek’s assessment. Arrington said that continuously saturated ground will saturate a sewer system.
    Furthermore, Cheek said that the runoff has caused major damage to the Sloss’ property. Wheeler agreed. He said that he has looked at the damage and said that it looks like “the trenches of World War I.”
    “It looks like Verdun out there,” he said. “What is it going to look like after the next hard rain? Somehow I want to figure out how to stop this.”
    Cheek said that the Slosses had no problem until the JFHS parking lot was expanded.