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Extension office restructuring to benefit Halifax County, officials told

The Halifax Extension office stands to benefit from the state restructuring process under way, and county residents may see an increase in services provided, Halifax County Supervisors and South Boston and Halifax Town Councilmen learned Monday night during their joint meeting in Halifax. Extension Central District Director Dan Goerlich updated officials on the restructuring of the Virginia Cooperative Extension office offering a brief introduction on how the Halifax Extension office stands to benefit from the restructuring process with the county continuing to have “a local component.”

According to Goerlich, the concept is to have 22 regional business centers across the state with each having a unit coordinator who works with the localities and oversees the support staff, the addition of a new program leader who oversees the agents and works and trains extension agents, as well as one to three extension agents and one to three business managers who are to be located in the business center, all 100 percent state funded positions.

First, the locality will be asked to decide whether they want to keep extension, he said.

If they so choose, Goerlich explained the county could choose to have one co-funded (state and local partnership) educator, and beyond that it would be the locality’s responsibility to fund additional positions.

Currently the plan is looking at having Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties combined in one possible region.

“Within that region we actually don’t have enough Extension agents to put in a business center and have folks in the county offices, so this restructuring plan will actually mean an increase in service for this area,” Goerlich explained.

Currently working out of the Halifax office is one co-funded agent, Grace Hite, and part-time horticulture agent Bill McCaleb who is 100 percent county funded, county support staff personnel Judy Catrell who works with the family nutrition program that is federally funded, and Jason Fisher, the Extension forester who is 100 percent state funded.

According to Goerlich, the Halifax County Extension office is currently set up according to how the new structuring plan is designed.

“So when you add the business center or the regional center to this mix, it basically means an increase in service. That’s how I’m looking at it right now,” he added.

Goerlich said the timeline for restructuring Extension will unfold over the next year to year and a half.

Following his presentation, Goerlich also asked supervisors to give permission for Extension to use money already budgeted – savings from the family consumer science agent who retired at the end of June and money dedicated to the 4-H agent’s salary – to bring on board a 4-H program assistant type position to serve the youth in the county which will keep the 4-H program working with the volunteers in the county.

Former 4-H agent Dana Ward left the position in early August, and Goerlich suggested the budgeted funds be used to fill the vacant position while the restructuring plan is being implemented.

County Administrator George Nester asked Goerlich to address his request in the form of a letter to the board of supervisors for its consideration.

Also Monday night Virginia Department of Transportation Highway Residency Engineer Joe D. Barkley II introduced Jorg Huckabee-Mayfield to supervisors and council members.

Barkley attended his last governing body meeting Monday evening after announcing he plans to retire with his last day of work being Dec. 24.

“I’m going to miss the interaction with you as a board. It’s been a good ride,” Barkley told board members.

Mayfield, the director of transportation and land use, will serve as the liaison to the counties of Halifax, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland and Prince Edward as well as the towns of Halifax, South Boston and Farmville.

She will attend meetings of the boards and councils for the purpose of updating them on the latest developments in transportation and will serve as the primary point of contact for transportation issues that may arise in a locality, Barkley said.

“I will be your new point of contact, and I’m looking forward to working with all of you,” Mayfield said.

Also during Monday night’s meeting supervisors and council members received an update on the water supply and drought management plan for the county and towns.

According to County Administrator George Nester, under current Virginia law, independent cities and counties were assigned responsibility for identifying and developing a water supply plan.

The plans were written to prepare Virginia’s communities for possible droughts and water shortages that could severely affect lives and property, Nester said.

Halifax County contracted with Anderson and Associates last December to develop the required water supply plan that will affect all county citizens.

Halifax County Service Authority Executive Director Willie Jones said, as part of the water supply pan that is mandated by State Code, a drought response plan must be developed to guide the actions a locality takes to insure sufficient water supplies for essential uses.

The draft plan provides guidance to a local task force that includes representatives from the communities and agricultural sector.

The plan guides the task force to determine specific steps that could be taken locally, Jones explained.

“Although somewhat cumbersome, having a local task force gives the Halifax region the ability to tailor its responses to its specific conditions without having the state mandate actions during a drought that may not specifically apply to us,” Jones added.

“Other communities have suffered when severe restrictions have been imposed by the state. We need to maintain control over our local needs,” he added.

The plan is acceptable to the Department of Environmental Quality, Jones said, noting that it requires local approval by the board of supervisors.

Also speaking about the draft plan was Anderson and Associates representative Stevie Steel who pointed out the plan is “a mandated exercise, and everybody had to get on board” in an effort to structure a plan that fits the need of a specific area such as Halifax County.

Halifax Town Councilman Bill Confroy pointed out the drought management plans indicated no monitoring wells currently exist in the county.

“That surprises me, and I want to know why…why it concerns me is this, we have looming the big element down the road of uranium mining. That’s just upriver from us.

“So I think it’s important for the potential degradation of the water supply in Halifax County as well. I’m concerned about not monitoring wells in Halifax County,” Confroy added.

Also during Monday night’s meeting, Doris Chism of the Pathways Group Home updated supervisors and town council representatives on the services offered at Pathways including three group home facilities for males and females and an alternative day school for students aged 12-18.

In other business Monday night, supervisors and council members took the following actions:

• Heard a status report on the Town of Halifax’s request for donation of Kings Bridge Road Right of Way for the Banister River Gateway Project from VDOT;

• Postponed taking action on confirming 18 appointments of members to serve on the Halifax County Economic Development Council;

• Were introduced to Gail Moody, executive director of the Southside Planning District Commission, who updated supervisors and councilmen on comprehensive planning projects currently under way in Halifax County; and

• Received an update from Anne Raab and Douglas Powell concerning a Crossing of the Dan event slated next week at The Prizery for Halifax County Middle School sixth graders.