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Supervisors look at budget needs

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Board of Supervisors began the process of developing a new budget with a capital improvement workshop, Monday night.
    According to County Administrator Kathleen Guzi, Bedford County is now in the fourth year of the most recent five year capital improvement plan (CIP) adopted by the Board of Supervisors. Guzi said that a CIP is a fiscal management tool that does not commit the supervisors to fund anything. The supervisors, when they developed the budget for the current fiscal year, and the previous one, chose to defer capital spending requests. Guzi said that the plan can be used to get grant money to fund some projects.
    During the workshop, Guzi handed the supervisors an inventory of all county-owned real estate ranging from parks and the county administration building and industrial parks to a vacant lot—about a quarter acre in size—in Big Island.
    “Old Montvale School has got to a critical stage,” commented Sheldon Cash, the county’s solid waste manager. Cash had been tasked to make the presentation.    
    “It’s got to the point where something has to be done with that property,” he told the supervisors.
    The 80-year-old building was last used as a school in the 1995-1996 school year and Guzi said that some community groups still use it. The building is plagued with roof leaks, primarily over the stage in the gymnasium area. Renovating the building will involve more than just replacing the roof. District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington noted that it also has electrical issues.
    “I think for too long we piece-mealed.” said District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard. “I think we could take that property and do a lot.”    
    The old school building is in Pollard’s district.
    This discussion led Arrington to suggest that board members look at each county-owned property. This does not mean visiting every property, such as the little vacant lot in Big Island. The supervisors want to focus on properties, such as the old school building, that have issues. They reached a consensus to meet at the County Administration Building at 7:30 a. m. on Feb. 4 and begin the tour, lasting from 8 a.m. until noon. Their first stop will be the old school building in Montvale.
    Other areas that need attention are the Burks-Scott Building and the courthouse. The Burks-Scott Building, which is used by the Bedford County Department of Social Services, is “pretty much maxed out for space,” according to Guzi.
    Then, there is the county’s fire and rescue center on Falling Creek Road. According to Jack Jones, the county’s director of fire and rescue, it consists of hand-me-down mobile classrooms obtained from the school division. This was done on a temporary basis and, while Jones said that they are making do at present, a permanent solution is needed. He said that it’s hard to train a class of 25 EMTs in the available space and pipes often freeze in cold weather. There is also often a shortage of functioning toilets.
    Information technology is another area that has potential problems.
    “We are very concerned about the financial software in regards to a plan,” said Guzi.
    Guzi said that the software package they are using dates back to 1996.
    “We don’t know how much longer they are going to support us,” she said.