So after months of starting almost every conversation with one of those ghastly viral words – “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” – we this week reverted to the last big word we learned in 2019: reversion.
You recall that word, don’t you? It re-emerged into our public dialect this week, not because it was reintroduced by its authors – the Martinsville City Council – but rather because it was reduced to the elemental simplicity by the group that wishes we wouldn’t speak it again, the Henry County Board of Supervisors.
Doesn’t it feel like it was a lifetime ago that we were consumed by the idea of Martinsville’s giving up its charter as a city and becoming a town under the sheltering shoulders of Henry County? But it was November when the city voted to begin the process of reversion. Paperwork was filed. A consultant was hired. Some precepts and concepts were floated. Cost figures were suggested. One person at least questioned the logic.
And then, poof, the whole conversation was diverted to dreamland because of our world’s infection by the novel coronavirus. If the idea as of March didn’t seem pertinent, it was at the very least out of sight and way out of mind. But for certain the virus didn’t kill this idea.
We now learn that some minds in the county were thinking about this all along. And some of them cleared their throats on Tuesday and uttered these predictable words: This idea costs too much (or something to that effect) – they argue about 50% more than the roughly $2 million the city had projected — and isn’t really necessary.
Let’s remember where this started: the city’s annual dipping into its reserve funds to balance the budget and its complaints of impending death by decreasing revenue because its aging population was not being replaced. The dollar losses were mounting, we were told, and the arrow’s trend was a steep and stolid down, if you please.
But experts hired by the county said au contraire, that the city is in pretty darned good financial position – agreeing with the city’s revenue officer, by the way. They noted four savings accounts – our term – low debt and, get this, stable population (although declining school enrollment).
Tim Hall, the county administrator, perhaps set the true barometer for future discussions when he said what the city was talking about was not really reversion but “annexation.”
Mayor Kathy Lawson disagreed, of course, and parried: “Mr. Hall is entitled to his opinion.”
Well, yeah, and his opinion seems to represent an attitude from the county: This isn’t necessary, and we may not go along. Stop us when you are surprised by something.
Look, there are still many facts to be analyzed and numbers to be crunched, but we continue to think this boils down to two perfect acorns: Should the small population of the city and county require two separate school districts? And couldn’t the public safety systems be more professional and less redundant?
Witness Mayor Lawson: “Consolidation of our schools, courts, [and] constitutionals would make our community more financially sound. We have so many duplications ...”
There’s little doubt that Martinsville will have trouble growing sufficiently – because it is not allowed to use the “A-word” that Mr. Hall employed – to expand its future income.
Ultimately there will need to be bicameral discussion about finding ways to make this work rather than erecting stalwart (and perhaps expensive) opposition. There is no vaccine here, either.
Last word to Mr. Hall: “It will be a substantial impact. We know it’s coming, but we have no idea of the depth.”
No, we don’t, but, in the meantime, there is one immediate positive effect about this process we all should embrace: We have something to talk about that is not infected by the virus.
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