The Halifax County Board of Supervisors finance committee members heard some good money news at their Thursday afternoon meeting, when County Administrator Scott Simpson informed them the county is in position to receive a $50,000 grant through USDA Rural Development for purchase of sheriff’s department vehicles.
Finance committee members, including chairman and ED-1 supervisor J. T. Davis, ED-2 supervisor Jeffrey Francisco and ED-7 supervisor Garland Ricketts unanimously passed a motion recommending the board as a whole formally accept the grant at Monday night’s meeting.
Finance committee members also passed a motion recommending the board as a whole approve a request from non-profit Halifax Tri-River Habitat for Humanity to reimburse a building permit fee for a property at Wickham Street in South Boston in the amount of $426.69.
Other agenda items generated more discussion, beginning with a property tax exemption request from Mid-Atlantic Broadband for its investment in downtown South Boston.
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities is requesting that exemption be extended to property taxes on a 15,000-square foot brick and glass facility it plans to build in partnership with Microsoft in downtown South Boston, a $5 million capital investment.
MBC is a 501(c)4 under the federal, internal revenue code making it eligible for consideration of exemption of local taxes, and the board of supervisors has the authority to modify the ordinance to allow the exemption for personal property taxes.
MBC has stated the facility would advance its charitable objectives and promote economic development and workforce training.
Simpson suggested, and the finance committee agreed, the full board could discuss the issue at Monday’s meeting and possibly set a public hearing for the September meeting to receive public comment on the issue.
Finance committee members, in another unanimous vote, will recommend the full board not approve a request from the Halifax County Health Department to carry over unutilized funds from the current fiscal year to fiscal year 2020.
Simpson told the finance committee the health department is requesting to carry over $47,000 in unutilized funds.
Simpson said he and finance director Stephanie Jackson had discussed the issue and were uncomfortable with county agencies carrying over funds from one fiscal year to another.
“It’s difficult to construct a budget and carry over funds from previous years, because you’re never following your budgets,” said Simpson. “It’s never a good idea to carry over funds unless there is a very specific purpose for those funds.”
Finally, the finance committee discussed possible adjustments to the county’s erosion and sediment control fee.
Construction of the county’s first solar facility, the Water Strider project, is slated to begin soon, and that is only the first of six solar farms already approved by supervisors.
Currently, county officials are required to go to a solar site each two weeks or within 48 hours of a significant rainfall event to monitor erosion sediment control, and the sheer number of projects going on at once, not only solar projects, could put a strain on county resources, according to county building official Otis Vaughan.
A 1,100-acre construction site would probably require an all terrain vehicle to properly inspect the site, Vaughan estimated.
The permit fee for erosion sediment control is $100, and it requires inspections every two weeks and after every major rainfall, Vaughan noted.
Staff has discussed keeping the base fee of $100, but the hours spent by officials hired to inspect a large number of projects for an extended period of time could add up, Simpson pointed out.
An employee could spend an entire day at a project covering between 50 and 100 acres, with estimated benefits costing roughly $50 an hour, and not just at solar projects, Simpson added.
“We need to adjust that,” said Simpson referring to the erosion and sediment control fee structure, with the board of supervisors making a decision on adjusting the permit fee schedule via a resolution after a public hearing.
The finance committee made no recommendation but forwarded further discussion to the board of supervisors for its consideration.