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Groups To Honor Beloved Forester Alex Williamson

Halifax County Supervisors along with members of the Halifax and South Boston Town Councils are expected to approve and present a resolution tonight honoring well-known forester William Alexander “Alex” Williamson of Alton.

Williamson died Saturday, March 13, at North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem following a freak accident on I-40 near Mocksville in Davie County, North Carolina. He was 59 years old.

During the joint meeting tonight at the Mary Bethune Complex in Halifax, Williamson will be remembered for his 35 plus years working with the Virginia Department of Forestry, serving many years as chief forest tech in Halifax County.

During his years with the Virginia Department of Forestry, he won several prestigious awards, including employee of the year and conservationist of the year.

He was a familiar site whenever a brush fire or fire in any wooded area broke out in Halifax County. Williamson also traveled across the country to fight forest fires whenever Virginia was asked to assist other states.

He was recognized nationwide in his fire prevention efforts by achieving distinguished service awards in Florida and Oklahoma, according to family members. Williamson served on the National Christmas Tree tour, and he was recognized for his outstanding efforts in the area of Forest Fire Prevention in Region 8.

Children across Halifax County learned about the importance of fire safety from Williamson, who would speak to them in the county’s schools, usually accompanied by Smokey the Bear.

He was a lifetime member of the Turbeville Volunteer Fire Department and was an honorary member of the South Boston Fire Company, as well as other fire departments.

Family members said he was best known for playing on their league ball teams and serving as master of ceremonies for firefighter parades.
Williamson was a member of American Legion Post #8 and VFW Post #8243, having served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1972.

He was a member of the Farm Bureau Board of Directors, an honorary member of the FFA and a member of the Department of Forestry Honor Guard.

He was a lifetime member of Calvary United Methodist Church.

Also during the joint meeting tonight, council members and supervisors will hear an update from Dr. Charles Devine on Lyme Disease in the area and a report from John Feild, chairman of the Virginia/North Carolina Roanoke River Basin Bi-State Commission on an ad-hoc committee created to study and make recommendations concerning a bi-state water allocation between Virginia and North Carolina.

No stranger to local governing bodies, Feild has provided running updates on the progress of the Roanoke River Bi-State Commission’s committee since its creation last year for the purpose of developing a draft document for use by officials in Virginia and North Carolina, including the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, regarding the allocation and withdrawals of water from the John H. Kerr Reservoir.

Concerns abound about the possible economic fallout that could result locally as a result of the negative impact of water withdrawals from Kerr.

With an ultimate, threefold purpose of creating reasonable allocation guidelines, preserving and protecting water resources of the Roanoke River Basin and facilitating integrated, comprehensive water-resources planning for the basin, the committee has fleshed out tentative options for the commission’s consideration.

Under one of the options, the states would purchase remaining storage and handle future allocations of the water. Using North Carolina’s Jordan Lake as a prototype, the option suggests an allocation process that would lean toward approving allocations based on the needs of water users in the basin.

In order to implement such an approach, Feild said both states would need to purchase their agreed-upon shares of remaining unallocated water in Kerr. Each state also would have to meet requirements concerning the assigning of storage and receipt of payment from local governments for allocation. The committee suggests the development of a bi-state, basin-wide water supply plan for effective implementation of the option, should it eventually receive the nod.

Feild said  the solicitation and receipt of input from local governing bodies over the course of the next 30 days would be crucial in helping to map a future plan, and he encouraged interaction with Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate Tommy Wright, both of whom are well-versed on and actively involved in the process.

In an email Feild sent to County Administrator George Nester, the purpose of meeting with the board and councils tonight is to “share with the elected officials and citizens of Halifax County impending decisions of the Roanoke River Basin Bi-State Commission and to seek input and guidance.”

Under new business, the supervisors and councils are expected to discuss allowing the Halifax Dixie Youth Baseball League to continue playing its games at the ball field on the grounds of the former Halifax Elementary School.

At a Halifax Town Council meeting Tuesday night, Vice-Mayor Dick Moore, who was presiding in the absence of Mayor Leon Plaster, told the HDYB supporters that town council is not trying to force the league out of business.

“When this request was made, I think most of us assumed something could be worked out at the Bethune Complex,” Moore explained. “However I was told since then the Bethune complex has been overcrowded, and it (the league) could not move there.”

Moore said a committee probably would be appointed during the joint meeting with the county tonight consisting of representatives of the town, county and HDYB to work on details related to the issue.

Also tonight, the governing bodies of the three jurisdictions are expected to discuss a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation requesting donation of Kings Bridge Road right-of-way to the Town of Halifax for the Banister River Gateway Project.

In an email to the county administrator, Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy said town attorney Russell Slayton has drafted a letter to VDOT, and Espy offered to share a brief PowerPoint to explain the background and goals of the Enhancement Grant Project in conjunction with the new bridge slated to be built in Halifax.

Also slated for discussion tonight during the joint meeting is a free workshop offered by Virginia Municipal League to address conflict management and community engagement.

Following the joint meeting of the three governing bodies, the county board of supervisors is expected to reconvene to consider approving a botanical garden agreement.

Bill McCaleb, a board member on the Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens (SVBG) and Environmental Education Center, earlier spoke to supervisors in support of developing a series of public educational demonstration gardens on approximately 15 acres in Edmunds Park.

McCaleb said “a lot of sweat equity” provided by “folks with green thumbs” will make the botanical gardens become a reality.

The SVBG, a not for profit organization, plans to furnish services to beautify and maintain the community by developing a botanical garden at Edmunds Park that will benefit the county and all guests visiting the park, according to the license agreement.

The term of the license agreement between the county and SVBG will be for 15 years beginning May 1 and continuing through April 30, 2025 with annual license fee of $1 being paid to the county treasurer.

According to the agreement, SVBG will develop and maintain the botanical garden at its own cost and expense and will feature different aspects of gardening and horticulture.

The garden will be open to the public at no charge at all times when Edmunds Park is open, and SVBG will provide for ongoing maintenance and operation of the garden, the agreement states.

SVBG will be allowed to construct an information center on the property and will provide a collection of resources for visitors to use in planning agricultural projects.

At the close of the project, all improvements within the park will become the property of the county, the agreement states.

Also tonight, supervisors are expected to take the following actions:

• Consider approving proposed ordinances creating 69 Agricultural Forestal Districts in the county;

• Consider approval of the $57,693,025 county school budget for FY 2011, a budget that is 8.4 percent less or $5,314,305 lower than the previous year; and

• Enter into closed session to discuss the acquisition or disposition of property; consult with legal council; and discuss award of a public contract involving public funds.