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Bedford City Council gave its unanimous thumbs up last Tuesday to the voluntary reversion agreement with Bedford County in which the city will become a town.
Several speakers posed a number of questions to council members during a public hearing prior to the vote. Most of the questions centered on taxes and services.
Councilman James Vest said that the best interests of all the citizens “were paramount in our discussions” with the county. “I’m convinced the town and the county both will prosper,” Vest said.
The city and county have been in formal discussions about the voluntary reversion of the city to town status since 2009. Originally the goal was to have reversion take place in July 2011. If all goes as planned, reversion could take effect next July.
Councilwoman Mary Flood said the decision by council is not one that was taken lightly. She said the positives of the agreement will “far outweigh” any potential negatives.
City Manager Charles Kolakowski said that the agreement has been crafted so that taxes for city residents shouldn’t be raised, and could potentially be lowered. He added a caveat, however, that the actions of the current council aren’t binding on future councils. Kolakowski noted that without reversion, it would be “extremely difficult” to keep taxes from being raised in the city.
Councilman Steve Rush said reversion should enhance economic development opportunities for Bedford and C.G. Stanley said it is a “win-win” for both the city and county.
“Is it perfect? Of course not,” Stanley said. “It does address ongoing problems the city has.”
Bedford Mayor Skip Tharp noted that reversion addresses three core issues: schools, economic development and a joint water system with the county. “It allows us to grow,” he said.
City Council’s vote follows a similar vote last week by the Bedford County Board of Supervisors. Both governing bodies had previously approved the agreement but because of some minor changes following a visit from the Virginia Commission on Local Government, last week’s votes were required.
The voluntary agreement now must go before a three-judge panel for its approval prior to reversion becoming official next July.