Revised plan agreed to by board

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Supervisors stick with seven districts

By John Barnhart

    Bedford County’s supervisors signed off, Monday, on a revised seven-district county map which will be presented at a public hearing in March.
    Back on Jan. 14, the county’s redistricting committee presented an eight-district and a seven-district map to the supervisors for consideration, for when Bedford reverts to town status this summer. The supervisors chose to retain seven districts but asked the committee for adjustments on the seven district map. This adjusted map, which smoothed district boundaries where Districts 1, 6 and 3 came together, was presented to the supervisors Monday evening at a work session.
    The committee was unable to make one adjustment that District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker had asked for. The map puts Jerry Craig, who was appointed to represent District 7 on the planning commission, in District 5. Craig will serve out his term on the planning commission, but will be ineligible for reappointment to that seat when his term expires at the end of 2015.
    The supervisors passed a resolution, in their regular meeting that followed the work session, to accept the revised map. This cleared the way to establish voting precincts. Barbara Gunter, the county registrar said that these will be set up with the goal to avoid split precincts as much as possible. Gunter said that split precincts cost the county more money during elections and increase the likelihood of errors. Avoiding split precincts is a challenge because Bedford County is split among three House of Delegates districts and two Congressional districts.
    A public hearing on the proposed map will be held on March 25 with the board of supervisors taking action following the hearing.
    At their regular meeting, the supervisors heard from a delegation from the Bedford County Education Association (BCEA). The BCEA is asking for a 6 percent pay increase and for step increases for teachers to be unfrozen.
    According the Cheryl Sprouse, the BCEA’s president, teachers have not asked for a pay raise for five years. Sprouse said many teachers are working two or three jobs to make ends meet; they are also spending money out of their own pocket for school supplies. Sprouse told the supervisors that teacher’s work days begin at 7:30 a.m. and often last until 5 or 6 p.m.
    “Put education as a top priority,” she urged.
    Karen Nuzzo, a BCEA member, made a powerpoint presentation on the issue
    “Fifty-five percent of our membership have second jobs,” Nuzzo said.
    “It’s just not possible to get to the end of the month on their salary,” she said at one point.
    The powerpoint included several anonymous statements by BCEA members.
    “I have to have other sources of income to make ends meet,” stated one teacher, who mentioned having a salary of $40,000 per year.
    Nuzzo’s powerpoint included a slide that shows Bedford County Public Schools have top state averages in all areas. However, she said that there is a high turnover rate among teachers and that some are dropping out of education. According to Nuzzo, the average teacher puts in a 50 or 60 hour work week. The majority of the county’s teachers have masters’ degrees that they financed out of their own pockets.
    “We really need to elevate the profession of teaching so that it is respectable again,” Nuzzo commented.
    In other business Monday, the supervisors voted unanimously to accept 17 acres of land in Moneta from the Blue Ridge Regional Jail which was formerly occupied by Camp 24. The jail facility there was closed in 2011 and the jail authority voted earlier this month to convey the property to Bedford County.
    The supervisors also voted, with District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson, District 2 Supervisor Curry Martin, and District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard abstaining, to appoint Cindy Gunnoe as the seventh member of the new Bedford Regional Water Authority. The water authority was created as part of the reversion agreement between the city and the county. The agreement called for the first board of directors to consist of three county and three city appointees. These six would then meet and recommend a seventh member. The authority’s board met on Jan. 22 and interviewed two applicants for the position, Gunnoe and Robert “Bob” Sherman. After the interviews and a closed meeting, they recommended Gunnoe. Gunnoe must be appointed by both the board of supervisors and Bedford City Council. City Council has not yet voted. Its next regular meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12.
    The supervisors held a vote to clear up a potential conflict of interest for District 2 Supervisor Curry Martin, who owns Glenwood Oil & Automotive. Glenwood has participated in sealed bids to provide heating oil and gasoline to the county. According to County Attorney Carl Boggess, this is not considered a conflict if what the business owned by a supervisor is a preestablished need, a condition that providing heating oil and gasoline meets. That condition met, the next requirement was for the supervisors to adopt a resolution allowing Glenwood to participate in sealed bids. The supervisors unanimously adopted such a resolution with Martin abstaining from the vote.
    “If it’s the best price, it’s good for the taxpayers,” District 4 Supervisor John Sharp commented.
    At District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard’s request, the county will look into conveying a tract in the industrial park in Montvale to the Montvale Rescue Squad to allow them to build a new crew hall. Pollard had originally asked for a vote asking the county’s economic development authority (EDA) to convey it to the rescue squad. The EDA owns the property. After questions about whether the property should be conveyed to the rescue squad, or leased under a long-term token lease, Pollard agreed to allow Boggess to talk to all involved and bring a resolution back to the board in time for the second meeting in February.
    “It’s been two years since they asked for it,” Pollard said.