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Carroll bus drivers, aides seek benefits

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Part-time school employees ask county board of supervisors for help

By Ethan Campbell

HILLSVILLE — The Carroll County Board of Supervisors recently heard comments on behalf of school bus drivers and special needs aides with no benefits.

Linda Montgomery, a bus driver with Carroll County Public Schools, told the board that benefits were not included in newer contracts for bus drivers. “We receive no benefits at all, even though we have the same responsibilities as all other driver who are full-time.”

She said the drivers and aides “are well aware that [the supervisors] are probably thinking this is a school board matter,” but she said they had already discussed the issue with the school board in May.

Montgomery said she was told in a one-on-one conversation prior to the May 8 school board meeting that “the budget had already been completed, and basically nothing could be done for the upcoming year.”

Due to her experience in administration, Montgomery said she felt that no budget is etched in stone. She suggested that the category line item of “discretionary spending” be used to compensate for these benefits.

“We respectfully request that our elected representatives please take the time to listen to our concerns and our request,” Montgomery said. “We are unsure if the board of supervisors are aware of the fact that in July 2015, the school board voted to cease offering any benefits to all new full-time contracted bus drivers. This decision created two classes of bus drivers — the haves and the have-nots.”

She told supervisors that the amount needed for benefits “is small and financially feasible,” and suggested a correlation between this lack of benefits and the extreme shortage of bus drivers, which has been noted by the school board while developing the budget.

The supervisors took no action at the meeting.

Dixon Ferry Bridge

Carroll County resident Tina Bullins presented the board with a request to rename the “Low Water Bridge” over the New River near Fries to the “Dixon Ferry Bridge.”

Bullins presented a rich history of the bridge’s construction and the heritage that her family had in its development while homesteading the land around the location that has reportedly been in her family since the late 1800s.

Bullins pointed out that there is no posted signage to show the bridge’s name, and that originally the Dixon family had provided ferries across the river after the dams along the New River were built.

While it has no official name, it is know locally as the “Low Water Bridge.”

The board agreed that hard copy or electronic signatures can be accepted and presented on such matters, and noted that 150 signatures are required to entertain such a motion.

“I just think it’s a great idea. Anything that preserves history in the region, I’m all for it,” said Supervisor Bob Martin.

Property Sale

The board held a public hearing for the sale of property located off U.S. 58 along Crooked Creek. Martin gave a brief background of the property, detailing that the county purchased the 14-acre tract of land for a water treatment facility. Since Galax became an option for treating county water, the property is no longer needed by the Public Service Authority.

Supervisors Vice Chairman Rex Hill confirmed that when the property is sold, the funds will be put back into the county’s tax pay account.

Chamber Update

Twin County Chamber of Commerce Director Beth Dixon gave the board a brief update and announced improvements to the chamber’s website. She also provided the board updated handbook policies and procedures being prepared, which are expected to be ready by 2019.

“We are pleased with our move [to a new office in Galax], and we have also outlined our plan of work for 2019.” said Dixon.

“We are going to be focusing on workforce development because we are a business organization and that’s what chambers do,” she said. “So, we are working very closely with workforce development, with Workforce Unlimited as well as other private practices in terms of establishing a series of workshops and programs to teach potential employees the ropes, fundamentally; everything from soft skills to what is needed in communications, as well as the trades that need to be established.”

She also announced the creation of a young professionals’ networking group and junior entrepreneurship program that will both be under already established leadership programs, in order to encourage he younger generation to stay in the area or move back here to work or start businesses.

Approvals and Appointments

A unanimous vote by the board members approved items on the consent agenda, claims and treasurers report. These items included:

• a review of accident insurance policies;

• a $7,344.61 transfer of inter-departmental funds for expenses to cover increased cost of accident insurance for the fire departments, with unexpended reimbursements of $3,672 each to the Laurel Fork and Laurel EMS agencies;

• an appropriation proposal for an additional allocation for the Visitor’s Center revenue, for a reported increase of sales in artisan crafts since moving to the retail Farmer’s Market; with a total expenditure line of $10,000 to be adjusted;

• approval of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s secondary six-year road plan (2018-2019 through 2023-2024) and the construction priority list (2018-2019).

Several committee reappointments were also made; including Clinton Wiley to Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and Janet Crowder to the Carroll County Public Library.