Board approves shooting range request

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After 21 years, Wheeler has his swan song

By John Barnhart

    In its last meeting of the year, Monday night, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a special use permit that will allow Timothy Hooper to operate a shooting range on his farm, located off Va. 811 in New London. A week before, the County Planning Com-mission had unanimously recommended not approving the permit.

    The permit includes additional conditions that county planning staff added based on suggestions from the sheriff’s office. One condition limits the caliber of weapons to .308 caliber. The supervisors modified this after District 4 Supervisor John Sharp asked if this applied to handgun ammunition as well. The supervisors changed the wording of the condition, replacing the word “weapon” with “rifle.” At Sharp’s suggestion, they limited handgun calibers to 10mm.
    Sharp also noted that Hooper wants to be able to onduct classes on Sunday and. recommended a condition, which his fellow supervisors accepted, to allow Hooper to conduct classes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. He said that limiting Hooper’s ability to conduct classes on Sunday means that he would need to have them run later on Saturday.
    Board Chairman Annie Pollard and District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry were absent from the meeting.
    In other business, the supervisors unanimously accepted some changes to the zoning ordinance referring to the PD-1 zone. The changes will provide for urban development areas. County staff removed language banning exterior flashing lights because of citizen objections that this could be interpreted to ban outdoor Christmas lights.
    The supervisors also removed a paragraph that restricts signage, a provision that was part of the PD-1 zone since it was first created in 2005. This was removed due to District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler’s objection to the provision.
    “I think it’s a step too far for government to tell a business what its signs should look like,” he said.
    The supervisors also unanimously voted to transfer $35,000 from the contingency fund to upgrade mobile data systems that deputies have in patrol cars. Captain Mike Miller conducted a demonstration of the data systems in which two of them, one without the wireless card that Sheriff Mike Brown wanted to buy and one with the card. The same license number was keyed in both laptop computers. The one with the card gave results in about a minute. The supervisors finished several minutes of discussion before the laptop without the card presented the requested information.
    Sheriff Mike Brown said that this faster response time will make deputies safer because routine traffic stops, along with responding to a call about a domestic disturbance, are the two most dangerous situations that law enforcement officers face. He said that this will also save the county $150,000 when the sheriff’s office has to replace radios in 2014.
    When asked before the vote about how much money is in the contingency fund, County Administrator Kathleen Guzi said that the fund’s balance stood at $900,000.
    The meeting was District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler’s last after 21 years on the board. Wheeler’s swan song came in the form of a prepared speech, something that Wheeler said he had never done before.
    “It starts out ‘Madam Chair’ and she isn’t here,” he said, adding that this shows why he never writes anything in advance.
    Wheeler called on his fellow supervisors to “take your responsibilities seriously, but take yourselves lightly.”
    “Remember, you have no desk, no office, and are only part-time,” he said.
    Wheeler said that he highly recommends the position of supervisor to every citizen “but I will cuss anyone who sits here for personal gain.”
    Along with saying a “thank you” to all the supervisors he has served with over the years, he thanked county staff. He said that work of county staff made his job as supervisor possible. He also noted that they are the face of Bedford that both citizens and visitors see. He also thanked the voters of District 1 for having kept him in that seat for 21 years.
    “God bless you all,” Wheeler concluded. “God bless America. God bless the great Commonwealth of Virginia, and most of all, God bless Bedford, the best place on earth to call home.”
    “That’s the first time I ever wrote a speech,” Wheeler said after he finished reading. “I thank you all for suffering through that.”
    “Quite frankly, I’ll miss your wit and humor,” commented District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington.
    “I’d like to echo those comments,” said District 4 Supervisor John Sharp. “I’ve enjoyed the debate and discussions.”
    The supervisors presented Wheeler with a framed proclamation honoring Wheeler for his years of leadership during a period of rapid growth. District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek presented the resolution to Wheeler.
    “Roger and I have sparred a lot during the years,” Wheeler commented.