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The Board of Supervisors held a busy afternoon and evening of meetings on Tuesday. Some of the highlights included:
The Board of Supervisors decided to provide one-time, premium pay bonuses of $3,000 for all public-safety related employees and $1,500 for non-public-safety employees from Pittsylvania County’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) -- the most recent federal stimulus bill.
The Virginia General Assembly recently allocated $3,000 one-time bonuses for all sheriff's deputies and regional jail and state correctional officers, and Dan River District Supervisor Joe Davis wanted to make sure that all Pittsylvania County employees were fairly compensated and rewarded for keeping the organization operating well during the pandemic.
"The Board of Supervisors appreciates the dedication and consistent excellence of our employees, and we wanted to recognize and reward them for their critical service during the pandemic," said Dan River District Supervisor Joe Davis, who proposed this use of the funds during the afternoon finance committee meeting. "We appreciate the State honoring our law enforcement and corrections officers, and we wanted to take that a step further and show appreciation for the rest of our employees."
The premium pay bonuses, which are one of the primary approved uses of ARPA funds, are for all Pittsylvania County employees that are in tiers 1-24 on the Pittsylvania County Scale, which generally ensures that the bonuses are reserved for all front-line staff through mid-level managers. Part time employees will also receive a pro-rata bonus based on the number of hours they work weekly.
"We truly care about the employees of Pittsylvania County and appreciate the way that they have worked diligently through difficult circumstances and constantly changing requirements," said Charles Miller, Banister District Representative on the Board of Supervisors. "Our citizens should be proud of the way that these men and women have maintained continuity of government, and this is just a small way to thank them."
During that same finance committee meeting, Supervisor Davis recommended that $1 million in ARPA funds be set aside for county volunteer fire and rescue agencies. The Board of Supervisors decided that to use the funds agencies will submit applications to the Fire and Rescue Commission, which will then pass recommendations to the Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee.
“I fully and wholeheartedly support our volunteer fire and rescue agencies, and I am excited to see how this $1 million can help each of our departments,” Supervisor Davis said. “I am confident that with oversight from the Fire and Rescue Commission these funds will be put to excellent use to benefit these agencies that provide such an invaluable service."
Pittsylvania County was allocated approximately $11.7 million from ARPA, the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed in March of 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board of Supervisors discussed other possible uses of ARPA funds during Tuesday's finance committee meeting. Some of the potential allocations include significant investments in broadband expansions, water and sewer services, and potentially improving public safety infrastructure. The Board of Supervisors is expected to finalize additional uses of this money in the coming months.
"We have been very deliberate and very slow as to how we start thinking about the best impact of this money for our community,” said Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman.
Whereas federal dollars from the CARES Act - which was passed in March of 2020 - had a wide range of approved uses, the guidelines for ARPA are much more stringent. Some of the things that were purchased with CARES Act funds include several ambulances, a new EMS station, renovations to existing buildings to develop a new elections center and meeting room, and investments in technology.
The Board of Supervisors approved up to $9 million in financing from the Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) that will be used for moving into the next cell of the landfill and developing three new convenience centers, among other things. On Tuesday the Board passed a resolution to support the borrowing so that County staff can proceed with the transaction.
"We began utilizing our landfill to generate revenue with the goal of improving our solid waste system without putting all of the burden on our citizens," said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. "Instead of relying on our usual, taxpayer-funded revenue streams to cover these needed capital expenses, we are using outside revenue to improve services to our county residents. This is a sound financial decision for Pittsylvania County."
This debt service will be more than covered by annual revenue generated by the landfill through contracts with outside trash haulers. Pittsylvania County generates approximately $1.85 million in annual revenue from two contracts with trash haulers.
"Pittsylvania County taxpayers should be thrilled with the way that this Board of Supervisors has capitalized on outside revenue to fund needed improvements and projects, the cost of which would otherwise be passed on to our own citizens," said Ron Scearce, Vice-Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. "We owe it to our constituents to find every avenue to maintain and improve services without putting too much of a financial burden on our citizens, and we believe the way we are handling solid waste capital expenses does just that."
Created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1984, the Virginia Resources Authority provides financial solutions to Virginia communities in areas like solid waste, water and sewer, infrastructure, parks and recreation, broadband, and much more. While the exact terms and amounts could change slightly, Pittsylvania County is expecting to utilize approximately $7.1 million in financing for these solid waste projects, including the following expenses related to the landfill:
This portion of the loan will be paid off in seven years. In addition to the landfill expenses, another $4,093,886 will be used on collections, costs that will be paid off over 15 years:
The annual cost of these debt services will be approximately 2%.
Pittsylvania County first began utilizing the landfill to generate revenue in January of 2020. Bays Trash Removal hauls waste from the Town of Bedford to the Pittsylvania County landfill for a rate of $30 per ton, which yields about $450,000 a year, while an additional $1.4 million in annual revenue comes from a contract with First Piedmont Corporation, which brings trash from Martinsville and Henry County. Pittsylvania County is not responsible for collecting this trash, just burying it in the landfill once it arrives.
Despite all the extra tonnage from other localities, the landfill has an expected lifespan of more than 75 years. This is due to strategic efforts to improve compaction rates, which have increased from roughly 1,000 pounds in a single cubic yard to 1,500.
Pittsylvania County's solid waste system, which includes the landfill, all the convenience centers, and collections team, is an enterprise fund, which means that it pays for itself through the solid waste fee and outside revenue. No general fund money is used on solid waste services.
The Board of Supervisors heard a recap of the 2021 summer internship program that allowed more than 15 students to work across Pittsylvania County government and Schools and a few private businesses. The eight-week program allowed students to get a meaningful work-based learning experienced, while the employers received valuable contributions from motivated students.
“I am extremely pleased with the way that Pittsylvania County’s first summer internship program provided such a great experience for our youth and our employers,” said Banister District Supervisor Charles Miller, who suggested the program. “I know that the students involved gained invaluable experience while providing a valuable service to Pittsylvania County, Pittsylvania County Schools, and the other organizations where they worked.”
During the eight-week program, students had the opportunity to work across several departments with Pittsylvania County Schools, as well as with Pittsylvania County Parks and Recreation, the Pittsylvania Pet Center, Information Technology, Public Relations, Finance, and Community Development. Students wrote biographies of staff and drafted social media posts, helped customers, visited construction sites, and conducted important research.
"I better understand how local government works as a result of this internship," said Eben Leigh, Public Relations Intern who recently graduated from Tunstall High School.
With the majority of the funding provided from Pittsylvania County, the program was put together with collaboration from Pittsylvania County Schools, the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research, Pittsylvania County Community Action, and the West Piedmont Workforce Development Board.
"Thank you for understanding the value of internships for our youth and being willing to lead the way for this pilot program," said Dana Wilson, Work-Based Learning Coordinator with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.