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Mecklenburg supes mull steps on coyotes, cell tower, tobacco funding

SoVaNow.com / October 16, 2013
Coyotes and dell towers dominated the discussion at the October meeting of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Supervisors approved a request to erect a 250 foot cell tower at Wootton Brothers farm on Greenhouse Road in Chase City. AT&T and its contractor, Beacon Towers, requested the self-supporting communication tower to improve cellular communication in the area.

The county’s telecommunications consultant, Richard Edwards, recommended approval of the request. The lack of fiber optic cable in the area, coupled with “a communications infrastructure that is currently insufficient to accommodate the needs of its citizens,” were the reasons Edwards gave for supporting the tower.

“Mecklenburg County is in the first phase of wireless infrastructure,” he wrote in a letter to supervisors. In addition, there is a likelihood that this tower would benefit AT&T as well as other cellular providers, according to Edwards. He called the tower site “ideal.”

Once erected, the tower is expected to improve service on the northern edge of Chase City. No period was given for when tower construction will be completed

Kay Seamster of Boydton asked supervisors to examine measures to control the coyote population in Mecklenburg County. She said her dwindling chicken population — she lost over a dozen chickens in one year — and regular coyote sightings are, for her, sufficient proof that Mecklenburg faces a serious threat from the animals.

Recently a coyote attacked one of her horses. Seamster asked, “How long before we hear of a small child or pet being killed?”

Mecklenburg County in the past has offered a bounty to those who trap or kill coyotes. The program was suspended because it did little to dwindle their numbers, and it was discovered that people were trapping or killing the animals in counties that did not pay a bounty, and bringing them to Mecklenburg for the money.

County Administrator Wayne Carter said the one benefit associated with coyotes is they have killed the wild dogs that once roamed the area.

Board Chairman Glenn Barbour asked whether it would be appropriate first to seek additional information from those with more experience handling coyotes, such as officials from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Even though coyotes are considered a nuisance species in Virginia, which means there is no restriction to hunting them, supervisors agreed to look into a more comprehensive and long-term solution to the problem. Telling the homeowners to “shoot on sight” is not the answer, Seamster said.

Coyotes became more prevalent in south central and eastern Virginia as they were pushed out by encroaching development in the west, and the steady decline of natural predators — grey wolves — in the east.

The issue has been referred to a committee for review and a DGIF official’s advice will be sought.

In other business, supervisors tabled a request from Doris Hester to send a letter of support for funding to the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

Literacy InterActives, on whose board Hester sits, is working to preserve a pre-Civil War log cabin believed to have been the home of Patrick Robert Sydnor. The organization is asking the Tobacco Commission for initial funding of $137,000 to help rehabilitate the cabin site.

Carter told supervisors that staff was not in support of the request. By sending a letter of support, Carter explained, the county is acknowledging a desire to support the project and to put money toward it, something officials are not willing to do at this time.

Additionally, the cost to preserve the Sydnor cabin and build all the amenities Literacy InterActives wants at the site, according to Carter’s estimate, would most likely reach upwards of $1 million. The request, if granted by the Tobacco Commission, would come out of economic development funds earmarked for use by Mecklenburg County. The county only seeks economic development funds from the Tobacco Commission for projects that generate jobs, said Carter, and the Sydnor project will not generate jobs.

Dan Tanner said he is concerned that Literacy InterActive does not own the property around the cabin, for which there are future development plans. He questioned why an organization would make improvements to a property it did not own.

Barbour agreed to table the request and send it to the board’s economic development committee for further review before make a decision.

In another move, Carter was instructed to move forward with cleaning up the shuttered Buckhorn Elementary School. Pieces left behind when the school system relinquished the property to the county should be evaluated, and if possible sold. No decision was made at this time about the future of the building.

Before voting, Supervisor Bill Blalock told fellow members, “I did not approve of the way this property was handled before it was given back [to the supervisors], and I did not approve of the way things were thrown around out there and now this county is going to pay because of the way this property was handled.”

David Brankley expressed his displeasure with the first meeting of the newly-formed joint Education Committee, comprised of members of the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. “We were handed an agenda when we got there and told to stick to it,” Brankley said.

In his opinion, Claudia Lundy, the lead committee member for the supervisors, and Sandra Tanner, who heads the committee for the school board, should have developed the agenda jointly. Instead, the agenda was developed and controlled by Tanner. Brankley also wants the meetings to alternate between the school’s Central Office and the County Administration Building.

After being told that the school board members were asking for funding for ten additional teachers, Blalock, who is not a member of the committee, observed, “It looks to me like he [School Superintendent James Thornton] is trying to use this committee to accomplish what he hasn’t been able to do here [through the Board of Supervisors].” Barbour assured Blalock that supervisors who are members would not allow that to happen. He added, “That [the request to fund additional teaching staff] will be addressed in the next budget.”

Despite their concerns, Brankley, Lundy and Glanzy Spain, the three committee members, saw the need for continued meetings. Tanner suggested they discuss, at a future meeting, the need to create a separate building maintenance fund, controlled by the supervisors, similar to the roof repair fund, which already exists.

In a separate action, supervisors approved a grant of $97,000, which will be used to purchase new security systems for the schools — lock pads, key swipes and video cameras. The school will pay the 30 percent match from existing funds.

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