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Supervisors approve maintenance fund request

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By John Barnhart

Bedford County’s board of supervisors had a varied agenda last week. The supervisors’ normal Monday night meeting was moved to Tuesday night because county offices were closed on Monday for Columbus Day.
    Dr. Douglas Schuch, superintendent of schools, and Randy Haglar, the county’s chief financial officer, came asking for $1 million in capital improvement money.  Dr. Schuch told the supervisors that the school board’s plan, when the school budget was developed in the spring,  was originally to borrow the money, however, the board later decided that it would be better to pay cash for the projects.
    “The maintenance needs are very real,” Dr. Schuch commented.
    The supervisors unanimously approved the request.
    The supervisors also voted to take $207,000 out of the county’s undesignated reserve to combine with $80,000 in privately raised money to purchase the facility used by Bedford Domestic Violence Services and to pay $2.4 million to build an electric substation at the county’s industrial park in New London.
    The resolution drew one dissenting vote, cast by District 2 Supervisor Curry Martin. This was because the resolution also contained $300,000 in additional money for a regional radio system in which Bedford County participates. Martin, who opposed spending the extra money for the radio project, had wanted the radio project money pulled out of the resolution.
    Gary Christie, executive director of Region 2000’s local government council, told the supervisors that the extra money was needed because of the need to buy two towers, and to upgrade six others — expenses that they had not anticipated. The $300,000 represents Bedford County’s share of the $700,000 overall cost.
    According to County Attorney Carl Boggess, the county was contractually obligated to pay this.
    “We can’t get out of this contract,” Boggess said. “The train sort of left the station on this.”
    “The fact of the matter is, we are in it,” commented Board Chairman Steve Arrington.
    Martin’s motion to vote on this separately failed by a 5-2 margin with only District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson joining him to vote in favor. The resolution then passed 6-1.
    A request from Jack Jones, the county’s director of fire and rescue, generated a lengthy discussion, but this was not over the $257,000 cost of the ambulance for the county’s career rescue personnel plus the equipment it would carry. .    According to District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard, the Montvale Rescue Squad, which was providing space in its crew hall for one of the career-staff ambulances in its crew hall, got a call to respond to a tractor trailer accident. The page originally stated that three people were injured. Pollard said the Montvale crew has two ambulances and was going to use the career-staff ambulance. But, that unit was locked and the Montvale volunteers could not find the keys.
    “It should not have been locked,” Jones replied.
    “It is hard to understand why it was locked and they couldn’t use it,” commented John Sharp who, along with District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker, forms the supervisors fire and rescue committee.
    “You need the rescue vehicles to run calls,” Parker commented. She urged Jones to put a policy in place to ensure that a similar situation does not occur again.
    Pollard made a motion to have the ambulance purchase referred to the fire and rescue committee. Sharp and Parker, however, said they did not need to hear anything more on the ambulance.
    Pollard’s motion failed 6-1 with Martin, Parker, District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek, Thomasson, Arrington and Sharp voting against it. A motion to authorize the ambulance purchase passed 6-1 with Pollard casting the lone dissenting vote.
    A request to spend $57,000 for playground equipment for Montvale Park passed unanimously. However, a request by Pollard to suspend the rules on the cap for no-bid purchases to move forward on paving walking trails at the park received no action. The supervisors have a cap of $30,000 for such purchases and County Administrator Mark Reeter said that he is working on a draft resolution to raise that cap to $50,000, but was not ready to present it to the supervisors that night.
    Wyatt Woody, the interim director of parks and recreation, said that his department has solicited four asphalt firms but has not yet received replies.
    Suspending the rules requires unanimous consent by the supervisors and Thomasson objected to the proposal. He said he wanted to wait an additional two weeks.
    The supervisors voted unanimously to adopt an initiating resolution to make amendments to the county comprehensive plan and the subdivision ordinance required by the reversion agreement the county signed with the former city last year. Tim Wilson, the county’s director of community development, anticipates a Nov. 13 joint meeting between the supervisors and the planning commission. Wilson anticipates the planning commission sending the subdivision ordinance to the supervisors on Dec. 9.
    The meeting concluded with the supervisors agreeing to review their policy on convenience center employees carrying concealed weapons. County policy currently forbids convenience center employees to carry concealed weapons. Thomasson noted the attendants are alone at the sites and there is no law enforcement nearby. Martin commented that attendants who have a concealed weapon permit should be allowed to carry a weapon.
    “I think they have a right to protect themselves,” Cheek said.