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City still considering reversion as Bedford gets panel's OK
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
By FROM BULLETIN AND AP REPORTS -
As a central Virginia city moves closer to becoming a town to save money, Martinsville remains interested in that concept.
Virginia’s Commission on Local Government on Monday unanimously voted to approve a report recommending that Bedford be allowed to legally revert from an independent city to a town in surrounding Bedford County.
A three-judge panel will make the actual decision on whether Bedford can revert, as would probably be the case if Martinsville ever formally pursues reverting to a town in surrounding Henry County.
Bedford wants its reversion to be effective July 1, 2013, according to published reports.
Under a reversion, Henry County would become responsible for providing certain services to Martinsville residents and businesses, thereby reducing Martinsville’s expenses.
Martinsville City Council examined the idea of reversion several times in the past but never pursued it. In May, while the fiscal 2013 budget was being prepared, council members brought up the idea in response to revenues being stagnant at a time when the city’s expenses are increasing.
Mayor Kim Adkins said Monday that Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki and City Attorney Eric Monday are gathering information on reversion and how soon Martinsville might be able to accomplish it. That information likely will be presented during the July 24 council meeting, she said.
Although it is not ready to commit to pursuing reversion, “the city (council) is seriously considering the option and wants to know what the process would entail,” Adkins said.
With that information, the council could find out what residents think the city should do, she said.
Officials in Bedford and Bedford County have said reversion there would benefit both entities by consolidating some services.
According to the report, reversion in Bedford would be in the best interests of the city and county, as well as the state. Local government commission member John G. Kines Jr. said it would be a “win-win-win” overall.
Adkins noted that like cities, most towns have police and fire departments and some — like Martinsville — operate their own electric utilities.
A major issue, she indicated, would be whether Henry County would take over the Martinsville schools. Past efforts to merge the two school systems have failed.
Potential benefits to Martinsville becoming a town include lower tax rates for residents because fewer services would require less revenue, and the right to annex land in the county “so you (Martinsville) can grow your tax base,” Adkins said.
State law has prohibited Virginia cities from pursuing annexations since the mid-1970s.
Virginia is the only state in which localities incorporated as cities are not part of an adjacent county.
Although state law includes procedures for cities to revert to town status, South Boston and Clifton Forge are the only cities that so far have reverted.