There’s a new board in town and it showed Jan. 14 when the Wythe County Board of Supervisors voted down a $4,000 change order related to the construction of a utility barn at the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center. Board members also postponed the vote on increasing water rates until the three new members have a chance to study the issue.
In addition, the board agreed to move its meeting time to 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month. Previously, the board met at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday and 9 a.m. the fourth Tuesday.
Regarding the change order, County Administrator Stephen Bear explained that the money would be used to deal with extra rock discovered during the excavation process. He said there was money in the project’s contingency fund to cover the cost.
Supervisor Ryan Lawson said the majority of voters in her area do not want the board to spend another dime on the center. Newcomer Jamie Smith said he is in the same boat as Lawson with people saying the county has spent a lot of money on the project. Fellow newcomer Stacy Terry said he thought the APEX Center was forced “down the citizens’ throats” and he promised voters he would not support spending any more money on the APEX Center other than the debt service the county is obligated to pay.
Supervisor Coy McRoberts made a motion to approve the change order; Supervisor Gene Horney seconded the motion. They were the only two supervisors to vote to approve it. Supervisors Smith, Terry, Brian Vaught, Ryan Lawson, Jamie Smith and Rolland Cook voted against the motion.
As a result, county engineer Johnny Kincer will work with Baker Construction to reduce costs and make up the $4,000 elsewhere in the project.
The county allotted $1.2 million for the barn project: the county borrowed one million and received $200,000 from the Tobacco Commission.
In addition to the APEX vote, supervisors agreed to postpone discussing a possible water rate increase until the water committee can further study the issue and the new committee/board members can be brought up to speed on the county’s water situation.
Previously, the board considered a 10% water rate hike to help balance the water department budget, which is operating at a loss. The proposed increase for both residential and commercial customers will take the base rate from $18.90 to $20.79 for the first 1,000 gallons and from $9.45 to $10.40 for each additional 1,000 gallons.
The board held a public hearing on the rate increase in December, but did not vote on the issue.
Bear told the board that water rates need to be looked at and adjusted. Board Chairman Brian Vaught said he would like the water committee to present several options so the board can make an informed decision about the rates.
In other business, Vaught said he would like the county to consider an economic development campaign and suggested the slogan, “Made Wythe Pride.”
To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email email@example.com.