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Change in ordinance proposed
To levy fines on skateboarders who damage property

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

A proposed ordinance aimed at protecting private property from damage by skateboarders is headed to a public hearing.

The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to seek public input at their June meeting on a change in the county ordinance to levy civil fines on skateboarders using private property.

The change may also require restitution in cases of property damage, according to County Attorney George Lyle.

Supervisors made the decision after hearing from the Rev. Thurman Echols Jr., pastor of Moral Hill Baptist Church.

Echols said his congregation spent between $150,000 and $200,000 to replace an exterior wall and rails, only to have them damaged by skateboarders.

The church property was used on two different occasions, according to Echols. He added that most of the damage was sustained during the first incident. The second time, he was alerted that the activity was underway. He went to the church, where he confronted a “belligerent” skater, he added.

In the end, Echols said a Henry County Sheriff’s deputy was summoned to make the skater leave the property.

Now, the church has a warning sign posted, but without the ordinance change, Lyle said the only charge that could be filed is for trespassing. However, he added, the state code gives counties the ability to make it illegal “for any person to skate or ride a skateboard on any paved private or public sidewalk, stairs, driveway or parking lot where such activity is prohibited by signs conspicuously posted,” according to the proposed change.

Also Tuesday, the supervisors:

• Appropriated the fiscal 2013-14 county budget of $115,656,057, including an increased real estate tax rate to offset declining revenues as a result of the recent property reassessment.

The new tax rates are 48.8 cents per $100 of assessed value for real estate, up from 46 cents; $1.48 per $100 of assessed value of personal property, including motor vehicles; and $1.48 per $100 of assessed value for machinery and tools/business equipment.

Mobile homes are considered personal property but are taxed at the real estate rate of 48.8 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The tax bill on a house assessed at $100,000 will be $488 under the new rate.

The reimbursement rate for the Personal Property Tax Relief Act on a qualifying vehicle is 49 percent.

The fiscal 2014 budget also includes pay raises for county employees, additional positions and level funding of $16,577,895 for the school division.

The new fiscal year will begin July 1.

• Heard several requests from the Rev. Tyler Millner, including making it “as easy as possible” for residents to address the supervisors and allow residents to speak even if they do not ask to be put on the agenda a minimum of seven days before the meeting.

That is required for the board’s 3 p.m. monthly meeting. A portion of the 6 p.m. monthly meeting is reserved for comments from people not on the agenda.

Millner said he thinks it is time to “move on” past a controversy that arose when Martinsville City Council member Sharon Brooks Hodge said she was offended by a square on a quilt made by students from the Piedmont Governor’s School.

Hodge “had a right to express her feelings” and has apologized, Millner said. “We have not asked anyone else to whitewash their words.”

He asked the county, the city, the Harvest Foundation, Chamber of Commerce and Ministerial Association to “serve as the conveners of a community roundtable” to talk about issues such as race relations and diversity training.

Accomplishing that must begin with the acceptance of the fact that “racism is still alive in America” and in Martinsville and Henry County, he said.

Reading a “common book,” such as “On God’s Side,” and then having “cells in the community” discuss the book would provide a way to discuss “the common good ... and work on solving problems,” Millner said.

He also called on governmental groups, such as the supervisors, to “do a social audit” that uses gauges such as budget priorities to determine how residents are being represented.

Getting the media involved in race discussions and diversity training also is important, according to Millner, who said the incident “was not a matter of free speech. It’s a matter of responsibility.”

• Approved items of consent.


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