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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Reversion: Council to hear public views

Monday, November 25, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins will try to let as many people as possible speak on reversion at Tuesday’s city council meeting

“What I had planned to do ... based on the number of people there who want to speak” would be to allow time to discuss the issue with as many participants as possible, she said. Also, she said, the council may poll those in attendance on where they stand on the reversion issue “just to get a pulse.”

“If the majority of people there want to ask questions,” about a reversion study the city received last week, “I think I would probably ask (City Manager) Leon (Towarnicki) to give a brief overview” of the study.

Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Municipal Building.

Council did not discuss the study in open session at its meeting last week, although council member Danny Turner as well as Adkins said the board met “for about three hours” in a closed session beforehand to discuss it among themselves and with legal counsel.

“When we were in closed session ... that was mostly regarding” the possibility “that there could be pending litigation on behalf of the county” if the city attempts to revert to town status within Henry County, Adkins said. If it reverts, control of the schools and constitutional offices would shift to the county.

Although Adkins said she personally has talked to several members of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, “my guess is in a formal setting, there really wouldn’t be any sitting down and discussing options” unless the city decides to revert.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Adkins said she may ask the other council members to give their views on the study before opening up the floor to discussion from residents. “I may give an update” on her perspective on the issue as well, she said.

Turner said he was struck by how quickly the reversion study anticipated the city running out of money in its reserves if reversion or some other drastic cost-cutting measure is not done. It stated that the city’s $17 million fund balance, some of which has been used to balance the budget in recent years, would be depleted by 2017.

He added that he typically seeks to cut at least $2 million from the city’s budget every year, and he “couldn’t understand why the rest of council would rubber stamp anything the city manager would put out there” on the city’s budget.

Turner said he wasn’t sure whether it would be necessary for each council member to state a position before the public comments on the reversion issue as Adkins suggested, but “any prepared remarks I would have would be to reassure the citizens of Martinsville” that the idea of reversion “gives us an opportunity to make the environment around here a lot more business-friendly” by reducing property taxes in the town of Martinsville.

“If it was up to me, I would make sure if it were the town of Martinsville,” the town would repeal the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax to give businesses extra relief, he said.

If the city reverts, he said it could be a chance to operate ahead of the curve.

“There are a number of small cities in this same situation,” and so “if it’s less painful” for cities to revert, Martinsville should “be the poster child on how it should be done going forward,” he said.


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