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Study to be shared Monday
Two city council meetings to discuss possible reversion
Sunday, November 17, 2013
By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
The public will find out Monday night the results of studies commissioned by Martinsville City Council to show whether the city should legally revert to town status to save money.
Two special council meetings are scheduled Monday to discuss the studies.
From 3-6 p.m., an agenda shows, the council will meet in closed session to consult with its legal counsel and hear briefings from other lawyers, staff or consultants “pertaining to actual or probable litigation” or other specific matters requiring legal advice, as authorized by state code.
Following the closed session, the council will break for an hour before going into open session at 7 p.m. for a public presentation of the reversion studies, the agenda shows.
The studies include how reversion would affect local schools and include a financial analysis, said Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins.
“I don’t know” exactly what to expect, Adkins said. She said, however, that she expects the financial analysis will indicate how much money the city could expect to save if it were to become a town in surrounding Henry County.
The city would save money because the county would start providing some of the services — such as courts, constitutional offices and more than likely, officials have said, schools — that the city now provides.
Whether reversion is pursued ultimately will depend on how much money the city would save and whether residents would be supportive of the change in Martinsville’s status as a community, city officials have said.
A previous study in 2006 revealed that the city could save about $3 million a year if it were to revert, but controversy led to that study being shelved.
In comparison, the city’s adopted budget for the current fiscal year totals about $88.7 million.
Adkins said legal counsel has recommended that the council initially meet in closed session to discuss the studies because “the county has already made it clear they would seek litigation” if Martinsville tries to revert.
City administrators have told council members that, she said.
Jim Adams, chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, said he has not heard anything about the idea of the county suing the city to try to stop reversion if the city decides to pursue it.
“I think any action by the county has not been determined to date,” said Adams, of the county’s Blackberry District. Not yet knowing what the reversion studies show, “it would be premature to say what the county is going to do.”
County Administrator Tim Hall did not return a phone call for comment.
Richmond attorney Carter Glass spearheaded the studies, aided by various sources such as Robinson Farmer Cox Associates, an accounting firm that prepares the city’s annual financial audits, officials have said.
Adkins said Glass is “highly reputable,” so she doesn’t think city officials will dispute findings of the studies.
She does not know how long the council will take after it analyzes the studies to make a decision on whether Martinsville should revert.
But, she said, she would prefer for the council to “make a decision sooner rather than later” so it can be taken into account when city officials begin preparing the fiscal 2015 budget early next year.
In August 2012, the council allocated up to $120,000 to cover costs for the studies. City Attorney Eric Monday has estimated that legal costs for a reversion effort could add up to $600,000 or more — particularly if Henry County fights it.
“Because of the expense,” Adkins said, “we owe it to the public” to present the information publicly and get feedback as to whether people think the city should pursue reversion.
She said she expects copies of the reversion studies will be posted on the city’s website, www.martinsville-va.gov, and will be available at the municipal building uptown and the city branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.
If the council decides Martinsville should pursue reversion, it would have to petition the state’s Local Government Commission, which then would hold hearings and issue findings of fact.
If favorable findings were issued, the city would file a reversion petition in Martinsville Circuit Court, Monday has said.
The Virginia Supreme Court would appoint a three-judge panel to decide whether the city could revert. The judges would be from outside Martinsville and Henry County to ensure fairness, according to Monday.
South Boston, Clifton Forge and, recently, Bedford have reverted to towns.