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Wise County budget heads for final vote June 25

Mike Still • Jun 12, 2020 at 6:15 PM

WISE — The fiscal year 2020-2021 Wise County budget goes to a final vote on June 25, with a $3.6 million increase over the current budget and $16.13 million requested by the School Board.

The draft budget calls for $64.384 million — $3.598 million over the originally projected $60.79 million fiscal year 2019-20 budget. With no increases in real estate or other local taxes, the proposed budget includes $16.129 million requested by the county school system for local-share funding.

A public hearing at Thursday’s supervisors meeting drew general comment from one person who complained that the budget gave no information before calling state Governor Ralph Northam “blackface governor” and saying that the county has to have a balanced budget.

Under Virginia law, all localities are required to have balanced budgets.

In other business, County Administrator Mike Hatfield followed up on a May board action requesting a report on alternative sites for building a new Department of Social Services facility. The board in May voted not to continue with a proposal to convert the former J.J. Kelly High School in Wise into a central county facility to house Social Services, the school board central office, the county Health Department and county administration offices.

Hatfield said that, after consulting with engineering firm Thompson & Litton, five preliminary sites were candidates for the new facility. The first option — tearing down J.J. Kelly and rebuilding on-site — would cost an estimated $9.957 million for a turnkey project with site preparation, design, engineering and construction. The site is already owned by the county with a $776,200 property value, Hatfield said.

Option two — the Bear Creek Business Park behind the county Justice Center — would cost an estimated $10.55 million. The property value of the county-owned site is $432,100, Hatfield said.

Site option three — property owned by Mid South LLC and also near the Justice Center — would cost $10.896 million for design, site preparation and construction. Another site option in the Esserville area — near Cave Church — would cost about $12.78 million, while the fifth option near the former Appalachian Regional Hospital in Wise would cost about $11.25 million for design, preparation and construction.

The supervisors went into an hour-and-45-minute closed session with Hatfield and Thompson & Litton representative Richard Houchins to discuss public funds and legal issues related to the project, but held no public discussion afterward.

The board meets on Thursday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m. to vote on the budget.

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