By Callie Hietala
During the required public hearing on reversion Tuesday, eight residents addressed Martinsville City Council members from among crowd of around 50 spectators.
The audience largely consisted of city school staff, instructors, school board members, with a number wearing red and white Martinsville Bulldogs shirts. Of those who spoke, none expressed support for reversion. Some stated their disappointment in the perceived secrecy of the process, others pointed out the successes of the city’s school system, which would be dissolved upon the effective date of reversion.
Noting some of the achievements of the city school division, Martinsville Schools Superintendent Dr. Zebedee Talley said the city’s student body was 79 percent minority and 72 percent economically disadvantaged “yet it achieves and has been established among the best schools in the state.” He said that any reversion plan moving forward should include the boards of both school divisions and concluded by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
J.C. Richardson expressed concern about remaining ambiguity over consolidation of the schools, and shared a lesson he learned early in life.
“It’s never enough for a Christian to do the right thing, it must also be done the right way. What I heard (during the CLG’s public hearing on reversion) and what I have heard since is this: the method that you chose to pursue reversion was one that many felt was not the right way. It was way too exclusive and way too private,” Richardson said, and questioned whether the public hearing would even be happening if the city wasn’t mandated to hold it.
“Since the citizens have pretty much been left out of this life-changing historic process, we can only ask what is the method going to be” as reversion moves forward, he said.
Greg Hackenberg, an educator, said “we have the best schools around.” As a parent, he said he has seen his children grow during at Clearview Early Childhood Center. Studies show the lasting positive impacts of early childhood education.
“The biggest impact is on minorities, those who come from underserved neighborhoods, and English language learners,” he said.
As the hearing concluded, Mayor Kathy Lawson said the comments would be written and posted on the city’s website. “The council will consider any responses in our next meeting,” she said.
Council member Tammy Pearson said that terms of the Voluntary Settlement Agreement still can be changed. She also added that city and county officials have 180 days from the time the Commission on Local Government issued its report in which to hold a first and second reading and vote on whether or not to adopt an ordinance that would set in motion the judicial process for approving the agreement. Currently, council has scheduled a first reading for its rescheduled meeting on Thursday, November 4, and a second reading during its regular meeting on November 9.
Pearson urged council members to reschedule the second reading 160 days after the release of the CLG report and, in the interim, gather more public input on the document. Her formal motion to reschedule died for lack of a second.
In other matters, the council:
* Approved a resolution to participate in the proposed settlement of opioid-related claims against McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and directing City Attorney Eric Monday and/or the city’s outside counsel to execute the documents necessary to effectuate the city’s participation in the settlements.
* Approved the Pine Hall Road Community Development Block Grant Housing Rehabilitation Project Program Design.
* Heard a summary of the city’s quarterly finance report through September 30. Revenues received through the first quarter of FY22 were $13,940,019, higher than the anticipated $13,000,088, due in part to an increase in local sales and use taxes as well as meals taxes. First quarter expenses were lower than anticipated, at $17,626,410. Revenues from utility funds were also higher than expected, at $8,354,595 while expenses were slightly lower at $9,292,665. Available cash-on-hand for all city funds was $23,589,638, an increase of $8,952,500 over the same period last year, which included American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding.
*Approved minutes from the September 28 meeting and the consent agenda.
*Heard an update from Commissioner of Revenue Ruth Easley on 2021 Vehicle Value Assessment as it relates to the recently-mailed personal property taxes. Assessments were higher than they were last year because of an increase in both new and used car values since 2020.