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County supervisors say goodbye to Dr. Blevins

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By John Barnhart

    Dr. James Blevins, Bedford County’s superintendent of schools until July 1, made one final appearance before the Bedford County Board of Supervisors.

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    “Your job was to hold all the marbles,” Dr. Blevins told the supervisors. “My job was to get as many of them as I could.”

    This time he wasn’t there to ask for anything. Blevins is retiring after 11 years as the county’s top education official. His last day is June 30.

    The county presented him with a plaque, a framed resolution by the supervisors, honoring him for his decade-plus of service. They also presented him with  a gift basket of local products.

    Getting down to business, the supervisors approved hiring Wingate and Associates to do the county’s next reassessment. County Administrator Kathleen Guzi noted that state law requires localities to have a reassessment every four years. The next reassessment is due next year and Wingate will begin preliminary work next month.

    The city of Bedford and Bedford County will be handling their reassessments together and a joint city/county committee looked over the proposals submitted by five companies seeking the job. The committee then interviewed the companies that it considered the top two and selected Wingate.

    “We know it’s going to be an assessment like we’ve never seen before,” said District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington, who was one of the two county representatives on the committee. District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard also served on the committee.

    District 2 Supervisor Chuck Neudorfer commented that he would support the committee’s selection, but noted that many people in his district would not be happy about this choice. Wingate conducted the last reassessment, in 2006, which saw dramatic rises in property values in that district.

    “I don’t see the cheers coming up from District 2,” Neudorfer said.      

    Neudorfer said he wasn’t trying to second guess the committee, but asked for specific information on why Wingate was selected. He said he would need this in order to provide answers when his constituents start calling him.

    The supervisors voted unanimously to hire Wingate.

    “’Present’ seems appropriate, but ‘yes’,” said Neudorfer when voting.

    In other business, the supervisors voted on school board requests to transfer leftover funds from one category to another; $70,000 left over in the instructional fund was transfered to administration to pay for expenses incurred defending against a lawsuit. Guzi said that the school board knew it would need this money and reserved it until the end so that no more would be transfered than absolutely needed.

    The supervisors also approved a $400,000 transfer left over from the instructional fund to pay for increased costs for electricity and heating fuel this year. Guzi said that the school board knew that these costs would turn out higher than budgeted and waited until the end of the fiscal year, when they would know the exact amount, before requesting the funds.

    The supervisors also heard from County Attorney Carl Boggess. Boggess said that this year’s General Assembly authorized localities to increase their law library fees from $2 to $4. A law library fee is paid with every civil case filed in general district court or circuit court. Boggess said that increasing it to $4 would raise between $25,000 and $30,000 per year that could be used to fund items such as computers in the county library system.

    Boggess, in answer to the supervisors’ questions, said that $4 is the maximum, and the county can raise it to any point between its current fee and that maximum. He also said that, if the county does not do it now, it could do it at a later point.

    The supervisors chose to wait.

    “This seems like the wrong time to go raising fees,” said Neudorfer.