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Sharp new board chair

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Supervisors begin year by transferring property to water authority

By John Barnhart

    Bedford County’s board of supervisors began the new year with its annual organizational meeting, choosing District 4 Supervisor John Sharp as chairman and District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker as vice chairman.
    Then, the supervisors got down to business. A request by the Bedford Regional Water Authority to transfer the former Camp 24 property to the Authority for a site for its proposed new water treatment plant proved to be contentious.
    “We have found there are many benefits to this project,” Brian Key, the Authority’s director, told the supervisors. He said it will provide a reliable source of clean drinking water. He also said the board of supervisors previously voted its intent to use the property for a new water treatment plant once the Blue Ridge Regional Jail returned the property to the county.
    The Western Virginia Water Authority will be a partner in the plant, according to Key. This water authority serves Roanoke, Roanoke County, Salem and parts of Franklin County. Key said it wants to purchase capacity in the plant, which would give it partial ownership.
    District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson asked if Western Virginia Water Authority intends to own the entire plant.
    “That has never been mentioned to anyone,” Key replied.
    Key said BRWA is still in negotiations with Lynchburg for lower water rates for the Forest area, but said anything that’s been offered is still more expensive than any other option BRWA has.
    He also said that rate equalization between county water customers and former city water customers has been accomplished. Rates for county customers went down while those for former city customers went up. Key said the Authority is currently evaluating the rate structure to see what it should be in the future.
    Thomasson also asked him about a $2 million per year tax subsidy that goes to BRWA. Key said this pays debt service on two projects that the supervisors identified. He said the supervisors had asked for these projects. One extended water lines when wells failed during a drought a decade ago. The other was for a sewage treatment plant in Moneta. Key said the BRWA is not looking for a tax-payer subsidy for the Smith Mountain Lake project.
    District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington gave a lengthy defense of the Smith Mountain Lake project. He said Forest is a primary growth area and 39 percent of the county’s tax revenue comes from that area. Arrington said it is important to provide infrastructure to the areas that the county has designated as growth areas.
    “We have said we are business friendly,” he said, going on to add that the county can’t attract business if it can’t provide the infrastructure these businesses need.
    The motion to approve advertising a public hearing passed on a 5-1 vote with Thomasson abstaining and District 2 Supervisor Curry Martin voting against it. Thomasson did not explain his reason for abstaining.
    In other business, the supervisors voted 6-1 on a fire department funding formula. It provides a base of $25,000 per year for each fire department and adds $3,350 for each substation and $100 for each call the department runs. District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard cast the loan dissenting vote. The new formula takes effect on July 1 and will be reviewed in six months.
    The supervisors voted 6-0, with one abstention, to allow property owners to apply for a waiver to extend a private road in a subdivision platted before October, 1989. The additional residents must join an existing homeowners association, if one exists. The developer and or new homeowners must pay for damage to the existing road occurring during development.
    “If you cause a problem, fix it,” County Attorney Carl Boggess said, explaining the language. “You really don’t know who is going to do what.”
    The supervisors had originally initiated the change with a requirement that the new section of road be 20-feet wide. The change had been initiated to accommodate a landowner who wants to develop more of his property by extending an existing private road. The existing private road is eight feet wide and existing homeowners have said that they don’t want it widened. After extensive debate, the planning commission voted 5-3, at a meeting last week, to retain the 20-foot requirement. The supervisors, after debate, voted to take it out, replacing it with a requirement that the new portion be “equal or greater in width” to the existing portion. Sharp suggested the “equal or greater in width” language because he believes requiring the 20-foot width would cause greater damage to the existing road, during construction, and create a funnel.
    Bill Thomasson abstained on this vote, but did not explain why.
    There will be two new faces on the planning commission. District 3 Supervisor Steve Wilkerson nominated Harold Brown to replace him on the commission. Sharp nominated Josiah Tillett to replace Frederic Fralick on the planning commission’s District 4 seat. Both nominations were unanimously approved.