Broadband

Members of the finance committee for the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, including J. T. Davis, Jeffrey Francisco and Garland Ricketts, along with Board Chairman Dennis Witt, County Administrator Scott Simpson and County Finance Director Stephanie Jackson meet Tuesday to fine tune the proposed 2019-2020 budget.

The proposed capital improvement plan under consideration of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors for Fiscal Year 2020 includes $200,000 for broadband support, and the supervisors’ finance committee agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to keep it there.

The committee also is looking at other funding options that would help get the project going.

“It’s a hot topic right behind public safety,” said ED-1 Supervisor and Finance Committee Chairman J.T. Davis, who noted a sense of urgency in moving the project forward.

Also attending the meeting were finance committee members including ED-2 Supervisor Jeffrey Francisco and ED-7 Supervisor Garland Ricketts.

Board Chairman Dennis Witt, County Administrator Scott Simpson and County Finance Director Stephanie Jackson also attended the meeting, where a number of requests for the proposed 2019-2020 budget were considered.

Equipment costs associated with broadband have gone up 35 percent due to the trade war with China and will rise even more if a deal isn’t reached, according to Davis.

“It is a service we want to get up and running as fast as we can,” he explained.

Davis referred to a bill introduced in the General Assembly this year that would require the State Corporation Commission to establish pilot programs under which Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power may submit a proposal to provide or make available broadband capacity to non-governmental internet service providers in areas of Virginia that are not served by broadband.

The costs of Dominion Energy’s proposal is capped at $60 million annually, and if the bill passes, it should present an opportunity for Halifax County to receive crucial funding.

“Tell them we’re shelf-ready, and if you want to do a test program, do it in Halifax County,” said Davis. “We want to get on top of this.”

The finance committee considered a number of requests at Tuesday’s meeting, and they recommended approval of a request for a full-time assistant registrar; recommended the addition of two full-time drivers for public works; and recommended one additional service truck for public works.

The finance committee also recommended approval of $15,000 in funding for the sheriff’s office special response team; and remodeling the bathrooms in the Halifax Library and Farm Service building at a cost of $10,000.

The finance committee recommended that $150,000 in the proposed capital improvement budget earmarked for the South Boston Fire Department expansion be approved.

In other action Tuesday afternoon, finance committee members also received a FY2018 audit report from Matthew McLearen, CPA with Robinson, Farmer, Cox and Associates and discussed FY2020 operational budget increase requests including the following:

• A full-time employee to administer the land use program if such a program is adopted;

• An additional funding request for $143,000 for full-time employees and compensation issues from the Halifax County Rescue Squad;

• Two new vehicles for Halifax County assessors at a cost of $45,000;

• Replacement of a backup server for $6,808, noise cancellation headsets for all employees in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office at a cost of $3,000;

• Vehicle replacement for the sheriff’s office at a cost of $75,000;

• Replacement vehicle for building inspections at a cost of $24,000;

• Replacement vehicle for emergency services at a cost of $33,000;

• Replacement of two service trucks for public works at a cost of $50,000;

• Replacement of a work van for general properties at a cost of $27,000;

• A request from commissioner of the revenue for $13,500 to send out personal property returns;

• Reimbursement of $1,420 for employees of the commonwealth’s attorney’s office for travel to the courthouse for one trip per day;

• An additional $10,000 in overtime funding for the sheriff’s department;

• A request from animal control for $35,000 to seal the floor in the animal shelter;

• Replacement roll off boxes for public works at a cost of $40,000; and

• Replacement of the south side bleachers in the Mary Bethune gym at a cost of $19,200.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.