By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 Thursday to take out a $7.9 million loan to finance a new Career and Technical Education program at the county’s two high schools.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree was ill and not present at the meeting.

The loan with Raymond James will be at a 2.4 percent interest rate over 13 years with an annual payment of $715,829.

The new CTE program is to take the place of classes now held at the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology in Suffolk. Programs will include culinary arts, health sciences, engineering and mechatronics, logistics, agriculture, welding and more. 

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By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

WAKEFIELD—It was too early to tell whether pizza cutters were more efficient at chopping up shad fish than a regular butcher knife, but so far, three hours into the event, Wakefield Ruritan Serving Committee Chair Ed Castle had experienced no problems.

Still, such a switch is not without some risk, shad fish being the smoky staple of the traditional “Shad Planking” event, where political hopefuls gather each spring to mingle with constituents in Wakefield, and partake of the flat, bony fish, often with a side of cornbread and an alcoholic beverage.

It was the second year the event also permitted vendors. Last year, the Wakefield Ruritan Club decided to change the name to the Shad, Grapes and Grains Festival in an attempt to appeal to a larger demographic. For 68 years it was called the Shad Planking and originally only allowed men. 

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At issue is public availability

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Concerns about public availability at the new Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex led the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors to put off signing a memorandum of understanding with the town of Smithfield.

“This is too vague,” said Newport District Supervisor William McCarty at Thursday’s Board meeting, referring to a paragraph that covers what groups would be allowed to use the fields.

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton said the paragraph also does not distinguish between the baseball fields and a planned multipurpose field.

Some Smithfield Town Council members had raised similar concerns.

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Council must find revenue to cover debt payments

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

The Smithfield Town Council is examining several possible tax increases or fees for real estate, business licenses, motor vehicles and trash pickup in order to pay off the looming debt service for major town projects.

While numerous options are on the table, the town is expected to narrow down what it may select as revenue generators.

At a Town Council Finance Committee meeting Monday, Town Treasurer Ellen Minga presented the Council with options for additional revenue sources as the town seeks to find nearly $300,000 for debt service on a $5 million loan taken out last year to pay for the restoration of Windsor Castle and the new Joseph Luter Jr. sports complex. 

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By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

After a motion was filed by a lawyer representing local newspapers, a Supreme Court-appointed judge has agreed to set an earlier court date to address media issues that first arose when journalists were barred from attending a pre-trial hearing for State Delegate Rick Morris (R-64th).

Attorney Johan Conrod filed a motion Thursday that a court date for the media access issues resulting from the ban be scheduled prior to the upcoming criminal trial for Morris, which is currently set for May 18-19. Judge Louis Lerner, who had previously indicated that he would not be able to hear the media access issues until after the criminal trial, then communicated through Suffolk Criminal Court Administrator Ed Davis that he would hear the concerns in court Monday, May 15.

Morris, who represents parts of Isle of Wight and Suffolk, is charged with two counts of child cruelty and two counts of assault and battery of a family member. 

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By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Cameras have allowed the public to see how an encounter with police actually unfolds.

If the encounter ends in an arrest, both the prosecution and defense can use the video to aid their case in court.

But all that video, from body cameras and car cameras, must be uploaded, put on CDs and watched by prosecutors. The average length of a DUI video is 45 minutes, and often there is more than one, said Isle of Wight County Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips.

The increased workload has led Phillips to ask for two new positions in her office — another attorney and an administrative assistant.

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton said he’s seen this request in other localities, a direct result from the increased use of cameras by law enforcement. 

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By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

SURRY—With most of its conditions to be met by the county, minus annual payments of $200,000, the Surry Town Council voted to move forward with its decision to transfer its wastewater treatment systems to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

The Town Council had previously voted to deed its sewer systems to HRSD following a public hearing held in March, but with the prerequisite that the county keep several previously undisclosed agreements with the town.

The conditions were later revealed in a letter to the county to include cutting the town’s grass, emptying trash cans in “Oaks Park,” and annual payments of $200,000.

The Surry Board of Supervisors agreed earlier this month to comply with four of the town’s five conditions to deeding its systems, rejecting only its request for the annual payments.  

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Medical research next up for Foods

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Smithfield Foods is looking to turn hogs into more than just ham and bacon.

Foods announced last week that it plans to use hog byproducts for medical uses, such as organ transplants and creating tissue to be used in humans.

Smithfield Bioscience will support a range of biotechnology solutions in areas of human therapeutics, tissue fabrication and regenerative medicine.

The company plans to collect pig hearts, kidneys and livers for study in making those organs compatible for human transplantation. 

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By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

The Smithfield Town Council is looking at a real estate tax increase to pay off nearly $300,000 in debt service for large town projects undertaken last year. 

At the town’s first budget work session Tuesday, Town Manager Peter Stephenson presented the Council with the need to address impending debt service payments for a $5 million loan taken out by the town last year to fund restorations to Windsor Castle and the Joseph Luter Jr. sports complex. 

“We made commitments to these projects without dedicating revenue to them,” said Stephenson to the Council, three of whom were absent at the meeting. Not present were Denise Tynes, Andrew Gregory and Mike Smith.

The debt service would need to be paid in the fiscal year 2018, in the amount of $277,472.

“It would be hard to find that much expense to cut,” said Town Treasurer Ellen Minga.

Minga added that one cent on the real estate tax rate brings in about $108,000.

Stephenson said that he believed Windsor Castle and the sports complex would begin generating revenue on their own in the future, but can’t bank on any money from the projects in the next fiscal year.

Council member Connie Chapman asked if the town would receive any revenue from the sports complex at all, as it is slated to be managed by the Smithfield Recreation Association, a private nonprofit, when it is completed.

With still no lease agreement between SRA and the town, Council members said it was not clear yet.

According to Stephenson and Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Amy Musick, no cost analysis has been done as to whether the sports complex will generate revenue to the town.

Council member Randy Pack brought up a possible real estate tax to pay off the debt service, or doubling the town’s business license fee.

“That’s about as unpopular a tax there is,” said Pack of a real estate tax. “We have to talk about it if nothing else.”

Minga presented three budgetary options to the Council, one of which contained no new positions or raises for town staff.

“If we’re falling short in revenue what happens if we go with the unpopular position of no raises, no new positions?” asked Pack, acknowledging that no one would want to do that. “What happens if you tell your staff, ‘Sorry guys, love you all, suck it up for a year, we’re tight?’”

Stephenson said that such an option would mean putting money into facilities and not employees.

“I don’t think the reaction would be very favorable,” said Stephenson.

As the town pays for 100 percent of employee health insurance, and 50 percent of employees’ family coverage, Chapman inquired about no longer covering employee families.

“I’m going to be the one to ask it,” said Chapman.

Minga said that such a move would leave some town employees $6,000-$7,000 in the hole. 

Council member Milton Cook said that the town would able to begin selling lots at Pinewood Heights, which could generate some money.

Council members joked about other ways to find the revenue, including holding bake sales and more ticketing.

The Town Council Finance Committee will meet Monday, April 24 at 4 p.m. at The Smithfield Center.

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Edna Felts Myers

 

Edna Felts Myers, 96, passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015 in her home. She is preceded in death by her husband, Luther Power Myers. Edna leaves to cherish her memories her son, Robert Hall. A graveside service will be held Friday, Aug. 7, 11 a.m. in St. Luke’s Memorial Park with the Rev. Mike Frank officiating. A special thank you to Marilyn Oliver and Joe Brown for all their love and support. The family request memorial contributions to VFW POST 8545, PO Box 461, Smithfield, VA 23431.

Service arrangements are in the care of Colonial Funeral Home, Carrollton, Smithfield, Isle of Wight and the surrounding communities.  Family and friends are encouraged to share condolences and remembrances at colonialfuneralhomesmithfield.com.

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