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Henry County to Martinsville: Let's talk about combining school districts, hold off on reversion vote

From the The recent history of reversion for the city of Martinsville series

Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson in a letter asks county to follow a plan that had been agreed to in 2012.

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Henry County Board of Supervisors Chair Jim Adams has asked Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson to delay a vote on reversion and begin dialogue on combining the school systems in Martinsville and Henry County.

In a letter dated Dec. 3, Adams proposed that the two governments hire “a third-party entity to conduct a facilities study of the city school system and the county school system buildings, to determine the feasibility of combining the systems through the city’s contracting with Henry County for educational services; a merger of the divisions; or another method.”

The proposal suggests that Henry County would pay two-thirds of the cost of the study, with the city paying the remainder.

“The Henry County Administrator and the City Manager would work with their respective staff and with the respective school superintendents to craft a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit the third-party vendor for this study,” the letter said.

Once the study is complete, both city council and the Henry County Board of Supervisors would meet, review the findings and “determine a path forward.”

Martinsville City Council had a public information meeting on Nov. 19 to inform residents about how a reversion from a city to a town might work.

At that meeting City Attorney and Assistant City Manager Eric Monday, who led the presentation, implored county officials to come to the table and talk. Lawson later wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors asking them to do so.

Council members had planned to conduct a public hearing about the matter for Tuesday night and perhaps follow that with a vote to initiate reversion.

That hearing and vote would be the first steps in a precise and perhaps lengthy process during which the county would have virtually no say in how the reversion might affect its government.

Reversion has been an off-again-on-again topic for the city after continuing operating losses because of declining population and limits on annexing areas to generate revenue.

The school systems are by far the biggest budget items for both governments. If an agreement on merging the schools could be reached, the two governments and the citizens of both localities would have some confidence the other issues forcing the city to consider reversion might be negotiated with success.

In his letter, which was in response to Lawson’s, Adams said: “Clearly the entire Martinsville-Henry County area would be impacted by a decision by the city to revert, and a consistent and courteous dialogue is essential to mitigating any potential negative impacts on our citizens.”

Until Adams’ letter, the county had been mostly silent on the matter other than to include references to it in the legislative agenda distributed to representatives of the county.

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt


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