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Halifax council to address HCSA — again

Controversy over the Halifax County Service Authority’s (HCSA) new building in South Boston’s Houghton Industrial Park reared its head once again Wednesday night during Halifax Town Council’s monthly work session.

For over 30 minutes, town councilmen discussed the $600,000 building the South Boston Industrial Development Authority (IDA) is constructing and will lease to the HCSA in a lease to own agreement.

“This building has bothered a lot of people,” said Councilman Jack Dunavant, chairman of the town’s Current Affairs Committee. “It seems a little extravagant to a lot of folks, and I have never understood their financial reasoning.”

Dunavant said the HCSA could have rented a building for much less than the $55,000 per year for 15 years price tag for the new building and land offered by the South Boston IDA.

Referring to any building the HCSA could rent for about $1,200 per month, Dunavant said, “You’re looking at something like a $42,000 difference there.”

The councilman said the $55,000 does not include utilities, maintenance or other costs. “Maybe we could get that information for our meeting on Tuesday night, and they can shoot our financial plan down, or we could shoot theirs down,” Dunavant said.

Vice-Mayor Bill Confroy agreed, saying they need to look into this further. “Who did the Halifax County Service Authority hire to do the search for potential sites?” he asked. “What sites were considered? I just don’t understand their reasoning and how they came down with this particular proposal.

“I do think we’re being hoo-dooed, I think they’re building a palace, and I’m really disappointed in the council (HCSA board), and evidently our appointments agreed with that philosophy,” Confroy said. “I think it’s a wrong decision.”

After further discussion, council authorized Dunavant and Confroy to research actual costs of renting versus the lease to own agreement with the South Boston IDA for the HCSA building. They are to have the figures ready for council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

Council also agreed to invite HCSA Chairman Doug Bowman and the two representatives from the Town of Halifax, Dexter Gilliam and Major Wray, to its Tuesday night meeting to discuss the comparison.

In other business, under the Business Development Committee portion of the agenda, Halifax Events Coordinator Erin Shaughnessy discussed plans for the Earth Day event in the town Saturday, April 16.

Shaughnessy explained they are partnering again this year with Jenny Hochstein and the improvement council. She said she has contacted 35 potential sponsors so far. She also said the Master Gardeners would have a plant sale that morning. The Earth Day 5k will begin at 11 a.m., and the Earth Day celebration would run from noon until 5 p.m.

Shaughnessy and Denise Barksdale also provided council members with a list of upcoming events at the Farmers Market, including potential dates for the Friday Night Jams. The Southern Virginia Botanical Garden yard sale is set for April 2, and the Halifax Village Business Association’s second “Soiree in the Hills” is tentatively set for Sept. 16.

Town Manager Carl Espy and Shaughnessy discussed the Convergence Art Guild’s planned activities, including the Mardi Gras set for March 5.

Espy updated council members on sessions with Hill Studio personnel on the planning and design charrette for the South Main Street Marketplace. Espy said the two sessions are tentatively set for Feb. 23 and 24 at the Halifax STEM Academy.

Under the Finance Committee portion of Wednesday’s agenda, the town manager discussed the January finance report with council members. Espy addressed outstanding real estate taxes and personal property taxes owed to the town from 2006 through 2010.

Espy also explained the judicial sale process is moving along for seriously delinquent real estate taxes. He said notice of delinquent taxes would be published in the local papers once more before the delinquent properties actually are put up for sale.

Finance Committee Chairman Holt Evans provided council members with a preliminary schedule for the fiscal year 2011-2012 town budget.

Espy said a representative of Harris, Harvey & Neal would present the 2009-2010 annual report to council at the March work session.

Under the Current Affairs Committee part of the agenda, Espy discussed the conveyance of easements and properties to the HCSA through the HCSA 2007 Comprehensive Agreement. Espy said council would need to schedule a public hearing for its March meeting before the properties could be conveyed to the service authority.

Espy explained four easements remain to be secured for the Dominion Virginia Power relocation design as part of the town’s telecommunications project. He also said the Banister River Gateway Project kick-off meeting with Hill Studio and Wiley & Wilson is scheduled for Feb. 11.

Council members also discussed candidates to replace Halifax Planning Commission members Beth Gillis and Evelyn Allocco, who have resigned from the commission. Remaining planning commission members have recommended Ron Reiter and Kathy Farley to fill their unexpired terms on the commission. Council will address filling the vacancies at its Tuesday meeting.

Chairman Dunavant said there is a bus coming through Halifax Monday on its way to Richmond for the National Academy of Sciences session. He said four or five seats remain for anyone who would like to go.

Halifax Town Council’s regular monthly meeting convenes at 7:30 Tuesday night in Halifax Town Hall.