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Supervisors approve cell tower for Bowyer's Loop; set to expand landfill

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By John Barnhart

Bedford County's supervisors approved, by a 5-2 vote Monday, a request for a special use permit to build a cell tower on a site on Bowyer's Loop. Bowyer's Loop is adjacent to Va. 122.

A public hearing was held on Aug. 25 and a number of nearby property owners spoke against it. Some supervisors expressed concern about the tower's visibility. Board Chairman Steve Arrington was absent that night and the supervisors chose to delay action until a full board was present.

By Monday night AT&T, the applicant, made a change in the proposed location of the tower. The change moved the tower 90 feet deeper into the parcel where it is to be built, placing it in front of a treeline. The elevation of the ground also drops slightly at this point. According to Mary Zirkle, the county's chief of planning, this should reduce its visibility from both Va. 122 and Homeplace Road.

District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler, District 2 Supervisor Chuck Neudorfer, District 4 Supervisor John Sharp, District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard and Board Chairman Steve Arrington voted in favor of the request. District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek and District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry cast the dissenting votes. The tower is in Lowry's district.

Also on Monday, the supervisors unanimously approved the contracts that will allow the county's landfill to open a new cell. Sheldon Cash, the county's solid waste manager said that work is scheduled to begin within 30 days and the contract calls for it to be completed in eight months. He said the contract contains penalties if it takes longer. Cash also said that the cell currently being used will be full at the end of 2009.

There were two contracts involved. One, for construction quality assurance, goes to Draper Aden Associates for $97, 080. Their work will concentrate on the project's critical phases, according to Cash, such as installing the liner and pipes.

"Landfills are complicated things," Cash said.

The contract for actual construction went to T & K Construction LLC, of Vinemont, Ala., for $4 million. T & K was the lowest of the 12 bids the county received for the project and the bidding was close. Ten of the bids came in within $900,000 of the lowest bid.

The new cell, according to Cash, will provide trash disposal capacity for the next eight to 10 years. Cash said this estimate is based on the assumption that the volume of solid waste will increase by 2 percent each year. Overall, the landfill has enough space to last for the next 60 to 70 years.

Cash noted that there were some problems building the current cell that they don't anticipate with the new one because a new type of liner is now allowed. This pleased Wheeler.

"I'm glad we can use our own clay instead of importing clay from Wyoming," Wheeler commented. "That really stuck in my craw."

In other business, the supervisors unanimously authorized county staff to advertise a public hearing on proposed changes to the personal property tax.

According to County Administrator Kathleen Guzi, the supervisors had earlier authorized the county to eliminate the county decals, and the decal fee. They had also voted to make this revenue neutral and this requires adjustments elsewhere as the decal fees bring in $2 million.

Currently, Bedford County assesses personal property tax at the rate of $8.50 per $100. The tax, however, is applied on only 20 percent of the car's retail value, which gives an effective tax rate of $1.70. The proposed change will create a new tax rate of $2.35 per hundred on 100 percent of the car's trade value. Guzi said the trade value is a lower figure.

Business personal property, other than vehicles, will be broken out and taxed at a $1.70 rate at 100 percent of value. Guzi said that it would result in a tax hike for businesses if that is not done.

She also pointed out that the percentage of personal property tax relief that each vehicle gets is declining. It's now at 62 percent for Bedford County and Guzi said that will drop to around 50 percent.

A revenue neutral tax change doesn't mean that it will be tax neutral for everybody. Wheeler noted that, no matter what they do, somebody will get nailed and somebody will come out ahead.

Guzi promised to supply more information a week or so before the public hearing in order to explain the changes.