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The Board of Supervisors held a busy day of meetings on Tuesday. Some of the highlights included:
The Board continued discussing the application and distribution process for the $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that were allocated to volunteer fire and rescue agencies during August's meeting. The Board of Supervisors directed county staff to develop more detailed guidelines for projects that the funds might be utilized for.
"This Board stands behind and appreciates our volunteer fire and rescue agencies, and we are always looking for ways to increase support," said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. "We are excited to see how each of these agencies can utilize these funds to improve their stations and equipment."
During the August meetings, Dan River District Supervisor Joe Davis recommended that $1 million in ARPA funds be set aside for county volunteer fire and rescue agencies. The Fire and Rescue Commission recommended that each county agency be able to apply for a maximum of $43,000, which is an equal division of the funds. The Board of Supervisors agreed with that tenet but wanted to crystalize the guidelines before opening an official application process. As the legal usage of ARPA funds are rather restrictive, federal purchasing guidelines will need to be followed.
More than 20 volunteer fire departments and 12 volunteer rescue squads, some of which are joint stations, serve the residents and communities of Pittsylvania County. Pittsylvania County provides significant funding to these agencies, and the Board has increased annual contributions to these agencies in the past several years. In addition to annual funding, the Board has also made use of federal dollars from the CARES Act and now ARPA to the benefit of these agencies.
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. Some of the other projects that Pittsylvania County is using ARPA funds for include a $6.5 million contribution to internet expansion, more than $1.8 million in water improvements, and $1 million for employee premium pay and incentives.
During Tuesday afternoon's work session, the Board heard from several tourism-related groups that are interested in utilizing some of the proceeds of Pittsylvania County's transient occupancy tax, which will go into effect on Jan. 1.
State Code requires that any transient occupancy tax proceeds that exceed 2% must be used to further tourism. After approving a 4% transient occupancy several months ago, the Board of Supervisors has spent the last several months considering how to allocate 2% for tourism.
The Board of Supervisors heard from the Pittsylvania County Historical Society, the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex, and the City of Danville Economic Development Department, which is the designated marketing organization (DMO) for tourism for the region. Each group shared how they would like to utilize these funds.
“The bottom line is that we all want tourism to thrive and grow in Pittsylvania County,” said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. “I am excited to see how Pittsylvania County can partner with each of these three organizations to continue enhancing our tourism base.”
The Board of Supervisors is still considering how these funds will be utilized. Since Pittsylvania County did not have a transient occupancy tax previously, at this time there are no estimates to the annual revenue that will be generated from this tax.
With tourism growing across Pittsylvania County and our whole region, the Board of Supervisors decided to institute a transient occupancy tax, which collects money from those visiting in hotels, campgrounds, or Airbnb style lodging. Historically, Pittsylvania County has placed a disproportionate tax burden on property owners, and this Board is working to more fairly allocate the tax burden and generate revenue from visitors.
The Board of Supervisors also approved contracts for the construction of two new convenience centers, located in Climax and Level Run. Combined, these two contracts came in about $115,000 under the projected costs.
“We have been very strategic about utilizing our landfill to generate revenue from outside our county so that we can make needed improvements that benefit our citizens,” said Bob Warren. “We are always looking for creative revenue streams that allow us to better serve and work for our citizens without putting too much of a burden on them, and the development of these centers is a great example of that strategy paying dividends.”
Both of these convenience centers are in the northern portion of Pittsylvania County, which currently has a much lower density of sites compared to the southern end.
The estimates used when trying to determine the amount of money to borrow were $362,761 for the Level Run Road Convenience Center and $633,351 for the Climax Road Convenience Center. After a request for proposals for both projects, the actual bids that were chosen were $375,694.25 and $499,611.39, respectively.
Another regional convenience center located at Meadow Ridge Court along Route 29 in Gretna is also being developed.
Beginning in 2019, Pittsylvania County has been utilizing its landfill to generate revenue to cover capital costs like this. Whereas the solid waste fee covers most of the landfill and convenience center operating costs, the funds generated from these contracts are being used to cover large capital costs such as the development of convenience centers and construction of another landfill cell.