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Supervisors adopt emergency meeting ordinance, delay deadline for real estate and personal property tax payments

Mike Still • Apr 11, 2020 at 9:30 AM

WISE — The Wise County Board of Supervisors will go to electronic meetings during the COVID-19 emergency in Virginia.

The supervisors adopted unanimously a 60-day modification to county public meeting and hearing practices at the board’s regular meeting on Thursday. The new ordinance allows the supervisors and other county boards to meet via real-time electronic means without a quorum physically present in a single location.

The supervisors have conducted meetings in the past with one or two members participating by phone, but only with a quorum in the scheduled meeting room.

County boards, commissions, committees and authorities now have to provide three days’ notice before meetings telling the public how they can participate in the meetings or submit public comments. The boards can close those meeting to in-person public participation, but the meetings have to be open to electronic public participation.

The ordinance also encourages towns in the county to adopt the same ordinance to conduct meetings during the state of emergency.

County Administrator Mike Hatfield said subsequent meetings during the 60-day period will probably use the same hardware and system that the county School Board used at its April 7 meeting.

The board also voted unanimously to delay the due date for the May real estate tax ticket for county landowners from May 31 to June 25. No interest or penalty will be charged for payment made by the extended date.

Supervisor James Lawson, during closing board comments, asked the board to consider using $700,000 set aside for a proposed overhaul of the former J.J. Kelly High School building for zero-interest loans for local businesses affected by Virginia’s state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With this pandemic, I feel like it’s the board’s duty to step up and help these people,” Lawson said.

Lawson said the fund could be used to provide loans of up to $5,000 to help county small businesses with payroll and other expenses to survive closings or lost business under state emergency orders.

Lawson moved that the board modify the meeting agenda to discuss the proposal, but that motion died on a 4-4 vote, with Lawson, Fred A. Luntsford, Jr., J.H. Rivers and Robby Robbins supporting the motion.

After the vote, Rivers said the county needs to help small business owners apply for federal loans becoming available under the recently-passed federal stimulus bill.

Hatfield said Virginia officials are still waiting for federal guidance on accessing $3.3 billion in stimulus money earmarked for Virginia. Small business loans under the stimulus should be applied for at business owners’ local banks.

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