By Brandon Martin
The Henry County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance during its March 23 meeting to allow for the relocation of one its voting precincts.
Mountain View (#405) voting precinct will be moving from the VFW Building on Old Chatham Road to the Woodland Heights Free Will Baptist Church on the same road.
Rita Shropshire, chairman of the Electoral Board of Henry County, said 1,133 registered voters used the former VFW Building.
According to Shropshire, the building has been purchased by a church.
“The pastor of that church informed the electoral board that the membership of the church voted to begin an extensive renovation project immediately to bring the building up to current code,” Shropshire said. “Not knowing the status of renovation on election dates, the pastor requested the electoral board to move the voting precinct in 2021.”
The new location will fall under the 1-mile boundary, Shropshire said.
“During our inspection, we found ample parking space, handicap accessibility, and other requirements necessary for a voting precinct,” she said.
Dawn Stultz-Vaughn, the county’s new registrar, will send a letter to each registered voter in the precinct with information about the relocation.
The board also discussed a variety of agenda items that pertained to beautification of the area, and unanimously approved a resolution for an application to allow the county to access $1 million in funding from a Community Development Block Grant for the Historic Fieldale Recreation Center Restoration Project.
Nancy Arnold, chairman of the Fieldale Heritage Committee, said “the Fieldale Recreation Center building itself has been standing for over 100 years. We have had one grant already that we did the outside of the building and built an amphitheater where we have been having concerts.”
The next grant will address the inside of the recreation center, according to Arnold.
She said the main concerns will be new wiring, plumbing, and address asbestos in the floors of the former bowling alley. Arnold added the gym floor needed maintenance as well.
“We’ve got to get that building back open,” Arnold said.
Doug Stegall, of the Collinsville District, also favored the resolution.
“I was born and raised in Fieldale like officer Slaughter,” Stegall said of Tommy Slaughter who now serves on the board. “We all grew up there and we knew how important that YMCA was. These kids need a place to go to.”
In a separate matter, Slaughter, of the Reed Creek District, discussed the need for improvements to enforcement of trash ordinances in the county.
“I don’t know what we are going to do,” Slaughter said. “We see the roads all the time. I just called last week and got them to pick up the Koehler Road and 457. Today, you can’t hardly tell that either one of them was picked up.”
Slaughter said the amount of trash along roads in the county detracts from the overall mission of attracting businesses to the community.
“We are busting our butts trying to get businesses in here to give the folks jobs but if I was moving here” and he saw the amount of trash “I might could say we’ve got good people, we’ve got good work habits, but I’d have to say it’s the nastiest bunch of people I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why they can’t get a trash bag in their car and throw it in there instead of throwing it out on the road.”
He proposed the sheriff’s department begin to “take charges” or the court system that “needs to convict some people.”
“The legal system is going to hell,” Slaughter said. “I’m upset that I worked for it for 25–years, but I just don’t understand why these folks that are going in there and they are giving them no time and not putting them out there and making them pick up trash. We’ve got inmates out here every day that are picking up stuff to try and make it look better. Still, it doesn’t seem to affect anything. I think if some folks were charged, and put out there on the side of the streets with those orange bags and their buddies were passing by, or friends were passing by and blowing the horn at them” then “it would make a mental difference to them.”
Joe Bryant, of the Collinsville District, cited dilapidated homes as a major concern.
The issue, he said, “has not been addressed or attended in several years. There’s a vast majority of people out there that just don’t care. Somehow, we are going to have to do a better job as a county in enforcing these houses that are dilapidated and fell down. People that have yards like that are extremely messy. Nobody wants to live by someone that has crap laid out in their backyard.”
Bryant also proposed “putting people’s names in the paper” to “embarrass people” to add enforcement to the ordinances.
In other matters, the board:
*Adopted a proclamation declaring March 28 – April 3, 2021, as Boys & Girls Club Week in Henry County.
Bryant read the proclamation, which stated in part, “the Board encourages all County citizens to join the Board in recognizing and commending the Boys & Girls Club for providing the young people of our communities with comprehensive and effective youth development services.”
Joanie Petty, chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, announced this year’s Youth of the Year winner.
Tania Starkie, a student at Magna Vista High School, “comes to our teen center every day with the school virtually and she also participates in basketball,” Petty said. “She continued to be a voice or reason and also leadership at our club with our teens and our other elementary school sites.”
The nomination includes a scholarship for “whichever school she decides to go to,” Petty said, and explained the annual contest is designed “to recognize our clubs and our afterschool programs. We typically choose, out of our teens, a Youth of the Year candidate. That candidate not only represents our club but represents Martinsville-Henry County in a statewide Youth of the Year competition that, this year, will take place in Roanoke, Va.,” which will be held virtually this year.
*Adopted a proclamation declaring April 4-10, 2021, as National Library Week in Henry County. Dr. J. David Martin, of the Iriswood District, read the proclamation on behalf of the board stating “the Board encourages all residents to reach out to the library this week, explore what’s new at your library and engage with your librarian.”
Betsy Haskins, Margaret Caldwell and Debbie Youngman accepted the proclamation on behalf of the Blue Ridge Regional Library Board of Trustees.
*Heard a report on delinquent tax collection efforts from County Treasurer Scott Grindstaff. He said the county has collected 89.20 percent of 2020 personal property taxes to the amount of $ 299,790.67. Another 92.30 percent of 2020 real estate taxes were collected, amounting to $271,666.95.
*Approved an additional appropriation of $489,024. The school board made the request to use funds received by the General Assembly and the Virginia Department of Education to address learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and modifications to facilities to assist with COVID-19 mitigation strategies for in-person learning.
*Passed a resolution to allow Henry County to join a grant funded program to provide pretrial services and local probation. Halifax/Pittsylvania Court Services will serve as the fiscal agent. Henry County will only be responsible with providing office space, according to County Administrator Tim Hall.
*Heard from Lisa Price-Hughes, resident engineer for the Virginia Department of
Transportation, and unanimously approved a resolution granting the right-of-way to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for roads in Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre (CCBC). The resolution will allow VDOT to take the streets into its secondary road system.
“It’s a little over a mile and a tenth,” Price-Hughes said. “Final action will be taken by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.”
She added the county’s SmartScale project will be advertised May 25. A virtual public hearing will be held on intersection improvements along the U.S. 220 corridors near Dyer Street from 5-7 p.m. on April 21.
A virtual Spring Transportation meeting is set for May 5.
*Approved an ordinance in a 5-1 vote to allow Martinsville Speedway to enter into a cooperative marketing agreement with WynnBet. Bryant, of the Collinsville District, was the sole vote against the agreement.
WynnBet is a Virginia sports betting permit holder. The marketing agreement must be conducted in compliance with the existing zoning and other site plan authorizations.
The agreement will allow for the “advertising and marketing of the WynnBet platform for sports betting through signage and displays as permitted by the County’s zoning ordinance; distribution of marketing materials; hospitality areas, lounges, and trailers; platform demonstrations; logos; music and videos; and information provided by WynnBet employees or agents.”
Wynnbet can’t actually offer devices to place bets on sports but personal electronic devices of patrons can be used for the purpose.
Bryant said he voted against the agreement due to his religious beliefs.
“I’m a Christian and I believe sports betting is wrong,” he said. “Gambling is a part of betting, whether it is lottery tickets or playing cards and poker money. Anything that has to do with betting is in conflict for me. I’m a member of the Church of Christ and I believe that any kind of gambling or betting is not what God wants you to do.”
He added that he had a discussion with Clay Campbell, president of the Martinsville Speedway, before the vote.
*Approved the appropriation of $8,037,505 in Coronavirus Response and Relief Appropriations (CRRSA) Act and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds for the school board to obtain “essential instructional and maintenance supplies, personnel costs, and school facilities upgrades.”
*Approved a resolution authorizing the issuance of a bond to refinance loans held on Meadow View Elementary School. The refinancing has the potential to save approximately $1 million over the life of the borrowing.
*Approved the rezoning of property located at 3446 Virginia Ave, in the Collinsville District. The property is intended to be used as an adjacent parking lot for the planned relocation of Biscuitville.
*Denied a rezoning request by Donna T. Mellott, of the Iriswood District, to rezone approximately 12-acres from Suburban Residential District S-R to Rural Residential District R-R. The Planning Commission previously denied approving the recommendation because it did not fit the existing surrounding neighborhood.
Martin said the surrounding properties ranged in value from $97,000-146,600, with the applicant’s property being assessed as $91,000 with a manufactured home on the property.
*Approved the rezoning of 5.6-acres of the Blackberry District from Rural Residential District S-R to Agricultural District A-1. The applicant wishes to keep chickens, which is only allowed on agricultural zoned property.
*Set a budget presentation for April 13, with a work session on April 14. A public hearing will be held April 27, followed by a special meeting on May 10 to adopt the budget.
*Denied the carryover of $14,177.65 in funds to the Department of Health.