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Halifax County ‘Line of Duty’ premiums not as bad as thought

Halifax County Supervisors and local taxpayers received welcomed news Monday evening during the board’s first meeting of the new year when County Administrator George Nester said the original estimated $256,800 cost of “Line of Duty” insurance for some 400 firefighting and emergency service volunteers in the county was in error.

“I am pleased to report that we have received an update from the Virginia Retirement System indicating a downward trend, and they have clarified the rate is only 25 percent of the $642 per individual,” Nester said.

Originally, the county had thought it would be responsible for paying over a quarter of a million dollars in premiums for the more than 400 volunteers who work with local fire and emergency medical services departments in the county.

Under the state plan, local governments will be charged a premium based on the number of paid public safety personnel and volunteers eligible for the benefits beginning in July 2011.

This will be the first time that Halifax County has been required to assume the cost of the line of duty coverage, which ensures benefits for the survivors of emergency personnel who lose their life in the line of duty.

The premiums will be administered by the Virginia Department of Accounts for the covered individuals.

In past years, the State of Virginia has paid the premiums.

According to County Administrator George Nester, the premium is projected to be $642 for each of the more than 400 volunteers who work with local fire and emergency medical services departments.

However, the county will only be required to pay 25 percent of that amount, he said.

“Where we had been looking at over a quarter of a million dollars, now it’s much less than that. It’s some good news,” he added. “It is a much brighter report than we had when we sent the packets out.”

The county staff currently is looking at underwriting and self-insuring part of the premium costs, the county administrator explained.

The county’s emergency services coordinator is investigating to determine whether any insurance company is capable of providing the benefits mandated by the act at a lower cost.

“This is another unfunded state mandate passed along to local government by the state,” Nester said.

The coverage becomes effective beginning in fiscal year 2012, which means the county must include the costs in its upcoming budget for July 1.

In other action Monday night, Nester said a request for proposal (RFP) for conducting the 2011 Halifax County Fair has been issued and advertised in local newspapers with responses due on Jan. 12.

The (RFP) is written with the expectation of receiving responses from full service operators who are capable of offering all aspects of the fair, Nester said, adding the RFP is seeking to obtain a contractor who will be responsible for planning, staffing, promotion, entertainment, exhibitors, vendors, rides, security, concessions and overall fair operations.

The selected offer will be paid from the receipts that the fair generates, he said.

Should no responses be received by Jan. 12, then the supervisors will need to make a decision about whether the 2011 Halifax County Fair is held.

“Stay tuned, and any report we receive by Jan. 12, we will pass along to the board,” he said.

On a related matter, Nester updated supervisors on the net impact of the operation of the 100th anniversary of the Halifax County Fair which showed a loss of $2,862.33 that was attributed to capital improvements made at the fairgrounds.

After comparing the actual expenses with the revenue, the county administrator said he met with Fair Coordinator Donnell Corelle who provided a true up spreadsheet summarizing the 2010 fair.

ED-3 Supervisor William I. Fitzgerald offered a motion that was unanimously approved to return $1,433.01 to Corelle, a payment representing 25 percent of the net as calculated by the board.

According to Nester, the fair ended with a loss of $2,862.33 due to a utility related expense for installing the sewer and transfer to the pump station.

“Those improvements will be there and stay with the fairgrounds for years to come. All in all, as hot as the weather was, we had a good attendance and a successful fair,” the county administrator added.

ED-4 Supervisor Doug Bowman expressed appreciation to the county staff and fair coordinator for “doing such a fine job with the 100th anniversary of the fair.

“I think an extra special effort was made to make it as fine as we could. Given the financial numbers, I think it was very successful from a public relations standpoint and also financial,” Bowman said.

Chairman Tom West described the 100th anniversary of the fair “as one of the better fairs we’ve had since the county has had it anyway.”

In other county business Monday evening, supervisors took the following actions:

• Heard an update from the county administrator on “quite technical” proposals for energy savings performance contracting for the Mary Bethune Complex, Courthouse, Farm Services Building and the County Administration Building with a report to the building and grounds committee expected after Jan. 20;

• Set a public hearing for March 7 at 6:30 p.m. on the regional water supply and drought management plan and ordinance;

• Approved a request from the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) for a special assessment of $1,000 to help VACo fight proposed legislation that will shift the burden of proof to the locality to prove assessments of real and personal property are correct;

• Authorized public hearings for the Jan. 25 meeting of the planning commission and the Feb. 7 meeting of the board of supervisors on 49 Agricultural and Forestal District (AFD) applications for 27,790 acres that were submitted prior to Sept. 1 to the board of supervisors after being referred by the AFD Advisory Committee;

• Appointed Ronnie Vaughan and Will Solomon to three-year terms on the Airport Commission that expire Jan. 31;

•  Appointed Joan Hines, Nancy Leonard, Kevin Chandler, Willie Blakey, Sharon Warren, Shirley Whitlow, Faye Powell, Bill McCaleb, Andrea McKinney, Mary Lou Meeler, Barry Tuck, Fannie Tuck, Carolyn Edmondson and Arlene Dailey to two-year terms on the Improvement Council that expire Jan. 31;

• Recommended to the circuit court judge the reappointment of Ida C. Terry to a five-year term for an at-large seat on the Board of Zoning Appeals that expires Jan. 31;

• Reappointed Garland Ricketts to a four-year term on the Industrial Development Authority that expires Jan. 31;

•  Appointed Lowell Ferguson, Ed Talbott, Mike McDowell, Tom Kluge, Clifford Somerville, Ronnie Moore and Gray Ramsey to the Economic Development Commission; and

•  Came out of closed session and approved a grant application to the Virginia Tobacco Commission for $2.7 million that the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) will use for a project at Riverstone, and the supervisors agreed to provide a 10 percent match up to $270,000 if the tobacco commission approves the grant application (see front page related story).