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Henry County fails to approve reversion ordinance
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Henry County fails to approve reversion ordinance

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Henry County Board of Supervisors fail to approve reversion ordinance.

The reversion process has hit a snag.

The Henry County Board of Supervisors failed to approve an ordinance adopting a voluntary settlement agreement with Martinsville regarding reversion after a public hearing Tuesday night.

The lack of a vote effectively tabled the matter, allowing the board the possibility of reviving it at a later time.

“Following the public hearing the chairman solicited a motion to adopt the ordinance and there was no motion,” said County Attorney George Lyle by email. “I believe the chairman said the matter was ‘tabled’ for the time being, which means there was no action taken.”

But Lyle said that doesn’t mean the board can’t vote for it at a future meeting.

“The matter can be considered at a subsequent meeting,” said Lyle. “The next scheduled meeting of the board is Dec. 14. No agenda has been set for that meeting at this time.”

Asked about the procedure for possibly voting on the ordinance at a future meeting, Chairman Jim Adams said it would first take a consensus of the board members to request that it be added, and he didn’t expect that to happen.

“You heard what was said here tonight,” Adams said. “I’m not an expert on Robert’s Rules of Order, but I don’t see that happening.”

At the meeting, all board members spoke about Martinsville reverting from a city to a town in Henry County but subsequently failed to respond to a request from Adams for a motion to approve the ordinance.

“My big concern: There is no way we can merge schools in a year and a half,” said Ridgeway District Supervisor Ryan Zehr. “It’s a lot to take in.”

bryant and martin

Board members Joe Bryant (left) and David Martin talk about the reversion process.

Iriswood District Supervisor David Martin did not seek re-election, and unless a special meeting is called, Dec. 14 will be his last meeting on the board.

“I never thought that five individuals could take a vote and change the course of history for an entire community,” said Martin, speaking of the five city council members who voted unanimously almost two years ago to pursue reversion. “This process ... was not a collaborative process.”

Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant had voted against the approval of the agreement that was presented to the Commission on Local Government (COLG) in August and approved by the commission in September.

“It’s not all about reversion; it’s about annexation,” said Bryant. “I don’t think it’s fair for a city to come in and take over property in the county.”

Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan also voted with Bryant against approval of the agreement that went before the COLG in September.

“Five city council people not allowing the community to vote on this is wrong,” said Buchanan. “There are good professional people that will lose their jobs. It’s a process that’s not fair.”

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slaughter

Board member Tommy "T. J." Slaughter speaks about the reversion process.

Said Reed Creek District Supervisor T.J. “Tommy” Slaughter: “Do we fight and spend a lot of money or do we try to get the best we can and go for it? I”m not for it, but I know it’s going to have to happen.”

Adams was the last to speak, and he said reversion was a “tremendously unfair deal” and the “county had little or no input.”

“But if we vote against this we will lose everything we’ve negotiated,” Adams said.

“What is the desire of this board: Is there any motion?” Adams asked, three times.

After a brief silence, Adams said: “This matter is tabled for lack of a motion.”

After the meeting, the Bulletin asked for a comment from city officials. Mayor Kathy Lawson and City Attorney and Assistant City Manager Eric Monday were out of the office for the Thanksgiving holidays, but City Manager Leon Towarnicki relayed a brief comment from Lawson and added both he and Monday agreed with the statement.

“Of course I am very disappointed that the board of supervisors chose not to vote as had been given the indication from their prior meeting,” Towarnicki’s relay of Lawson’s comment stated. “While I cannot personally speak for all the members of council, I believe reversion is the right path for our community.”

Council member Danny Turner said they had been told by their reversion legal team that the county was permitted to take up to 180 days to vote on the ordinance.

“I don’t blame the county at all. They’ve got 180 days, so I guess they’ve got about 140 left before they have to make a decision,” Turner said. “The General Assembly will have gotten their business done, so Henry County, I guess, is seizing the opportunity to go to the General Assembly and try and get better terms.”

eric phillips

Former Iriswood District Candidate Eric Phillips says the General Assembly may be able to help Henry County oppose the reversion process.

Four people spoke at the public hearing on the ordinance Tuesday night, and among them was Eric Phillips, who campaigned unsuccessfully for Martin’s seat representing the Iriswood District.

“Delegate Danny Marshall and [State Senator Bill] Stanley could bring up new legislation allowing people to have a voice,” Phillips told the board. “There is also the opportunity for the city to have candidates [to run in November] who are opposed to it.”

Asked what the county intends to do next and whether consideration would be given to mount a legal fight against reversion, Lyle wouldn’t say.

“I cannot discuss legal strategies of the county, but the last vote of the board in this matter was to pursue the voluntary settlement agreement in August,” said Lyle. “The county continues to believe the best implementation date of any reversion would be July 1, 2024.”

The city had requested an effective date of July 1, 2023.

Regardless of what course the county takes, current law provides for Martinsville to pursue reversion with or without an agreement with the county.

In other matters, the board:

  • Awarded a $203,398 contract to Motorola Solutions Inc. for the purchase of 90 portable radios for the Sheriff’s Office. The radios will be assigned to officers assigned to the new Adult Detention Center.
  • Awarded a $169,000 contract to Tek84 Inc., for the purchase of a second Intercept Contraband Detection Scanner for the Sheriff’s Office. The Board approved the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds for the scanner.
  • Awarded a $1,089,350 contract to English Construction Company Inc. for improvements to DuPont Road leading into the new Adult Detention Center. Funding for this work is included in the budget for the Adult Detention Center project and will be eligible for 25% reimbursement from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Approved an additional appropriation to the Sheriff’s Office of $16,743 received from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) to be used to pay for overtime hours of high impact law enforcement activities in areas that are experiencing increases in crime.
  • Approved an additional appropriation to the Sheriff’s Office of two separate grants from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The first grant of $26,400 will go towards the enforcement of alcohol- related traffic laws and the second grant of $17,831 will be used for the enforcement of speed-related traffic laws.
  • Approved an additional appropriation to the school board of $1,371,949 received from the Virginia Department of Education through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coronavirus and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (CSLFRF). The funds are intended to be used for the replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Laurel Park Middle School.
  • Approved an additional appropriation to the Department of Public Safety of $216,172 received from the Virginia Fire Programs Aid-to-Localities fund. In combination with $929,000 of previously allocated funds, the Board then awarded a contract of $1,136,761 to Blue Ridge Rescue Suppliers for a new aerial fire apparatus for the Bassett Fire Department. Including the purchase of a $203,542 tanker-style fire truck for the Patrick-Henry Volunteer Fire Department in September, this will be the second fire truck purchased within the year.
  • Approved the carryover of $51,136,064.58 in committed funds from the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget to the current FY’22 budget. Items on the carryover list are committed items encumbered or obligated from the prior budget year, but the item was not received, or the service was not performed prior to June 30.
  • Adopted a resolution authorizing the County’s participation in a proposed settlement agreement to recover damages associated with prescription opioid abuses.
  • Approved an amendment to the FY21-22 budget related to the sale of the Patriot Centre Shell building. The building was sold to Schock, NA for $1 million as part of an economic incentive package. The total loan value of the building was $3,461,955.
  • Held a public hearing in regards to a Community Development Block Grant application for the restoration of the Historic Fieldale Recreation Center. Following the public hearing, the Board adopted a resolution in support of the application, which could provide up to $1 million for renovation costs.
  • Approved a resolution in support of adding Airport Road to the secondary road system and the abandonment of the old portion that used to lead to the Blue Ridge Regional Airport.
  • Approved a rezoning request from Suburban Residential (S-R) to Office and Professional District (B-3) for property located at 246 Meadow Lane in Collinsville. The owner wishes to convert the existing residence into an office for a counseling business.
  • Approved a rezoning request from Suburban Residential (S-R) to Mixed Residential (M-R) for property located at 2541 Bassett Heights Road in the Reed Creek District. The applicant wishes to place a double-wide manufactured home on the property with a permanent masonry foundation.
  • Approved a rezoning request from Commercial District (B-1) to Agricultural District (A-1) for property at the intersection of Carver Road and Parkway Drive in the Horsepasture District. The applicant wishes to expand the adjacent cemetery into the property. A special use permit will also be required.
  • Approved a rezoning request from Suburban Residential (S-R) to Rural Residential (R-R) for property located at 107 Carson Drive in the Reed Creek District. The applicant wishes to place a single-wide manufactured home on the property.
  • Heard from County Treasurer Scott Grindstaff about 2020 delinquent tax collection efforts. Approximately $26,830 of 2020 personal property taxes were collected during the month of October. Another $99,960 of 2020 real estate taxes were also collected during the month.
  • Heard from Sarah Hodges and Valerie Harper, of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, regarding new marketing and promotional materials for the County.
  • Reappointed Vivian Hairston to the Public Service Authority for a four-year term to expire Jan. 5, 2026. The Board also reappointed Jim Adams and Tommy Slaughter to the West Piedmont Planning District Commission for four-year terms to expire Dec. 31, 2025.

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 2360. Follow him @billdwyatt.

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Martinsville City Council pushed the reversion process another step Thursday night with the adoption of an ordinance on first reading, approving the voluntary settlement agreement (VSA) with Henry County and authorizing the filing of a petition to have the the city become a town within Henry County.

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