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Guns in the classroom

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Proposal draws support at meeting

By John Barnhart

    Speakers during the citizen’s comment period at last week’s board of supervisors meeting gave a thumbs up to the supervisors' decision to ask for legislation that would allow school staff to carry guns on school property.
    Last month, when setting their legislative priorities for the coming General Assembly session, the supervisors adopted a suggestion by District 4 Supervisor John Sharp  to seek enabling legislation that would create a local option under which localities could authorize school personnel, who have concealed weapons permits, to carry a concealed firearm in school. School personnel would also have to undergo special training before they could be armed in the school.
    “I think your recent resolution on schools is outstanding,” said Phillip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
    Van Cleave said that all major massacres have occurred in gun free zones and that Utah has  had a policy, similar to the one the supervisors requested, in place for years.
    “Ever heard of  a mass shooting in Utah?’ Van Cleave asked. “I don’t think so.”
    Van Cleave said that all mass shootings have occurred in gun-free zones.
    John Briscoe also argued in favor of the supervisors’ action.
    “I was here when the motion was made and passed,” Briscoe said.
    “Anyone who works for the school system does not surrender their right to defend themselves when they enter a school building,” he said. “I hope somebody in the legislature will develop some backbone and craft legislation to move something like this forward.”
    After the citizen comment period, Board Chairman Steve Arrington read a letter from Liberty Counsel. The non-profit legal aid organization wrote in support of the supervisors’ concealed carry initiative.
    “I think all board members should carry a concealed weapon,” District 2 Supervisor Curry Martin commented after Arrington spoke. “I hate to sit up here by myself.”

Meeting with
Planning Commission
    The meeting began with a joint meeting with the planning commission. This allowed the two bodies to hold a series of public hearings on special use permits and the board of supervisors to take immediate action.
    One item was an electrical substation at the the New London Business and Technology Center. The supervisors had already allocated the money for the substation’s construction at an earlier meeting.
    According to Mary Zirkle, the county’s chief of planning, the Babcock & Wilcox mPower reactor test facility is using up the bulk of the power available via the existing substation. Once Simplimatic Automation moves its facility to the Technology Center, the existing substation will have less than a megawatt of capacity left. She said Southside Electric Cooperative, which supplies electricity to the center, requires its customers to install electrical infrastructure. The new substation will provide an additional 25 megawatts in electrical capacity.
    Both boards unanimously approved the permit. Both also unanimously approved modifications to the county’s comprehensive plan required by Bedford’s reversion to town status.
    “It’s pretty much housekeeping,” commented Steve Wilkerson, the planning commission’s chairman.
    Action on a modification to the zoning ordinance was delayed. This modification removes the need for developers to hold neighborhood informational meetings and modifies posting requirements for projects. It also modifies the duties of the county’s zoning administrator.
    Wilkerson asked for a delay because he and members of the planning commission had only just seen the text of the modification and wanted time for the planning commission to hold a work session. He promised that the planning commission won’t take 90 days to do this.
    “I know you won’t because you will be up here in 30 days,” Arrington replied.
    Wilkerson was elected to the District 3 supervisor’s seat and will be sworn in at the end of next month.
    The supervisors also approved a request for a resolution that will allow Shady Grove Volunteer Fire Department to buy a new pumper on a lease/purchase agreement.
    “This is a little complex,” commented County Attorney Carl Boggess as he presented the request.
    Boggess said that Shady Grove has used this process to buy a fire truck in the past, which involves getting a resolution from the supervisors certifying that Shady Grove is part of the county’s public safety system. This will let Shady Grove use the county’s authority to issue tax-exempt debt. Boggess said that this does not obligate the county to anything.
    “I think we could learn a few things from Shady Grove,” said District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard. She said Shady Grove is not coming to the county asking for money.
    The request was approved unanimously.