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County appropriates budget

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By John Barnhart

    Bedford County’s supervisors voted 6-0, with District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker absent, to appropriate the county’s $89.38 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1. The budget’s capital improvement fund includes $800,000 designated for emergency apparatus. It also includes $2 million for water and sewer debt service.

    The supervisors made one last tweak, and turned down another, during the work session that preceded the regular meeting. At District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard’s request, $10,000 was restored to the Bedford Museum, bringing the county’s funding of the museum back up to its level for the current fiscal year. This action reduced the amount earmarked for the contingency fund, leaving that fund’s level at $625,471. Pollard said that, without this money, the Museum will have to reduce staff or reduce the number of days it’s open.
    A request for money for fireworks was turned down.
    Pollard said Andy Dooley, of the Bedford Moose Lodge, called her and said the Lodge has raised $3,000 for this year’s fireworks show. Last year, the Lodge stepped in to provide Fourth of July fireworks when Bedford did not include funding for the show in it’s first town budget. Dooley asked the supervisors for $1,000 and Pollard suggested making this donation, using money from the recreation budget.
    The rest of the board did not go along with this, noting that there are two other fireworks shows in the county.
    “If we are going to help one, we have to help all three,” District 1 supervisor Bill Thomasson said.
    Two supervisors offered to make personal donations if the fireworks are launched from the National D-Day Memorial. District 3 supervisor Steve Wilkerson offered $1,000 out of his own pocket and Thomasson promised to give $500.
    There was some discussion about the school budget. Board Chairman John Sharp was concerned about maintenance money in the school budget. He said that, last year, the school budget had no money for maintenance, then the school board later came and asked for maintenance money.
    “I think we are going to have the same situation [this year],” Sharp said.
    “But we are aware of it this time,” commented Thomasson.
    The school budget was approved by a 6-0 vote.
    In other business, the supervisors voted 6-0 to approve a Sheriff’s Office request to apply for a $228,000 federal grant to buy an armored vehicle to replace the one the department currently has. “The Beast,” as the current vehicle is called, is a 1989 vintage bank armored truck that the Sheriff’s Office had modified as a tactical vehicle. The new vehicle is made by BearCat specifically as a police tactical vehicle and will be able to accommodate a stretcher if deputies have to remove an injured person from the scene.  The new vehicle will have a further advantage over “The Beast” because it has four-wheel drive.
    Major Ricky Gardner, of the Sheriff’s Office, mentioned a situation that occurred in August, 2011, just west of Bedford, when “The Beast” was used to help get two shooting victims away from the scene. It also assisted the Sheriff’s Office tactical team, and firefighters, get into the house where the shooter was holding out.
    Although the request passed 6-0, Arrington and Sharp expressed discomfort with it
    “Paramilitary and Sheriff’s Office kind of feel funny to me,” Arrington said.
    “I don’t take lightly the expenditure of $228,000 Sharp said. Although the money comes from a federal grant, Sharp does not like the idea of a federal government, that runs large deficits making such grants.
    District 2 Supervisor Curry Martin countered that the federal government will spend this money regardless of whether Bedford County applies for the grant. He would rather see the money come here, than go to another state. He added that the grant will just replace a vehicle that the Sheriff’s Office already has.
    The supervisors also learned that stopping a roof leak on the courthouse will cost an estimated $750,000. County Administrator Mark Reeter presented an engineering report that indicated a major renovation of the courthouse’s bell tower will be required to stop the leak. According to the report, the tower was not included in the courthouse renovation done at the turn of the century. Nothing has been done to it since the courthouse was built in 1930.
    The supervisors voted 6-0 to authorize county staff to seek bids on the renovation work.