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Board OK's reversion

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Some area residents speak out against agreement

By John Barnhart

The Bedford County Board of Supervisors approved a reversion agreement with the city of Bedford on a 5-0 vote, Monday night, with District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson and District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker abstaining.
    Thomasson and Parker were elected last November, two months after the reversion agreement was originally approved.
    The city and county have been working on the voluntary agreement since the city decided to revert to town status in 2008. Monday night’s vote, and the public hearing that preceded it, were required due to what County Attorney Carl Boggess termed minor revisions that were made to the agreement after the Virginia Commission on Local Government made its report.
    Bedford City Council was scheduled yesterday (Tuesday) to hold its own public hearing and vote on the agreement because of those changes.
    One revision is due to a delay in finalizing an agreement on a unified water and sewer authority. The reversion agreement called for this to be complete  by   July 1,  but  therevised agreement moves that deadline into November.
    Several people expressed concerns about reversion. David Shutte said that he owns 100 acres in an area that will be taken into the town in phase two of the town’s expansion into currently adjoining areas of the county.
    “It seems a shame that Bedford County has to bail out the city,” Shutte said. “If the city is hurting, why should we bail them out?”
    “We seem to be being dictated to,” said John Briscoe. “If I were on this board, I wouldn’t sign that document.”
    “I think the county is being taken to the cleaners,” commented Ruby Wells Dooley.
    Bob Crouch, a former county supervisor, criticized the fact that the agreement was negotiated behind closed doors.
    Prior to the vote, District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard said that she agreed with much of what citizens said during the public hearing.
    “But, if it goes into court, it will cost a lot and we may lose,” said Pollard.
    She said that she would support the text changes to the agreement, but took no pleasure in doing so. She also noted that town residents will also bear any costs that county residents bear as they will be paying county taxes.
    District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington reminded those attending the meeting that the Code of Virginia gives a city the right to revert to town status and that the city didn’t have to negotiate with the county.
    “It is the way it is and there is nothing anyone sitting up here can do about it,” he said.
    Arrington promised that building a new middle school will not raise county taxes because all the costs will come from the extra state funds the county will get because the county will get to use the city’s local composite index for 15 years.
    “It’s one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made,” he said.