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Supervisors declare emergency, take related action



The great room at the County Administration Building had a different look at Monday’s meeting of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, as chairs in the spectator section were spaced at least six feet apart to accommodate the need for social distancing.

This lessened the number of chairs available, but no one was inconvenienced as the meeting was only sparsely attended, no doubt due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Newly elected supervisor Laura Walters was not present at the meeting because she recently returned from a trip to Mexico. Upon her arrival in the states, she fell ill with what she assumed was a cold. Her doctor instructed her to quarantine herself for two weeks and since that occurred 10 days before Monday’s meeting, she was unable to attend. As of Tuesday, March 24, she told The Southwest Times that she was feeling much better.

With the possibility that future public meetings could be postponed, several public hearings were listed on the agenda, none of which elicited any public comment as only directly involved parties were present.

Missy Viars of Pulaski Animal Care and Control (PACC) petitioned to have her property rezoned from Low Density Residential to Agricultural. Her property is located on Lee Highway on the South side of Draper Mountain and is the base for her animal rescue operations. Her petition was granted.

Next, Kenneth Dolinger petitioned the board to change a piece of property in front of the cemetery on Lee Highway in Fairlawn from Residential to Commercial. Dolinger has plans to open the Pycone Creamery in a small, currently vacant building at the site. His request was also passed with no opposition.

The next public hearing involved the Pulaski County’s six-year secondary road plan, which lists projects by order of priority.

Boyd Road, which is an unpaved road in the Draper District, was listed as the top priority as funds had already been allocated to pave it.

Another project that is set to take place is the widening of a curve on Route 693 near the Hoover Color plant.

The last improvement that will likely be funded is the creation of a turn lane on eastbound Route 114, about a half mile west of the bridge crossing the New River.

Unusually, no one made any public comment concerning roads what-so-ever.

Last year the Board of Supervisors adopted the Access to Community College Education (ACCE) program which provides no cost education at NRCC to graduating seniors in the county. The board appointed Bill Thompson to be the ACCE Community Service Volunteer Coordinator for a one-year term.

When County Treasurer Melinda Worrell presented her monthly budget report to the board, she asked board members to consider waiving any convenience fees associated with remote payment. The company the county uses for credit card transactions charges a 2.5% fee, which is billed to the person paying for county services.

As of Tuesday, March 24, the public’s access to county buildings has been restricted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Worrell reasoned that since the citizenry could not pay their bills in person, they should not be charged a convenience fee for paying by credit or debit card.

After some discussion, the supervisors agreed and voted to allow the Treasurer’s Office to waive the convenience fee until June 30. The county will hold the Treasurer’s Office “harmless” for the lost income and will compensate the loss out of the county’s general funds.

Along those same lines, County Administrator Jonathan Sweet proposed that the county charge no late fees for the county Real Estate Tax for a period of three months after the June 5 due date. Sweet said this would allow both businesses and private citizens the option of delaying payment of the tax, so that they could pay for more immediate needs.

As such, businesses could meet their payroll without the worry of having to pay a late fee on their taxes and individuals could potentially pay for food or medicine without that same concern. This suggestion was made bearing in mind that with the mandatory closure of so many businesses, cash is in short supply.

Such an action would require a public hearing because it would involve changing a county ordinance and the supervisors agreed to put it on the agenda for their next regular meeting.

County administrator Sweet declared a county state of emergency effective Saturday, March 31, and the board voted to formally adopted this resolution. As a result, county offices have been closed to the public and a freeze was placed on all nonessential spending. Other actions taken by county officials relative to the suppression of the COVID-19 virus are listed in today’s paper.

As part of their response to COVID-19, the county has now adopted a new personnel operating policy that goes into effect April 1.

Under the new policy, county employees are allowed 12 weeks of family leave if they cannot work because they need to care for a child who is out of school or the child care establishment they use is closed due to the public health emergency. The first 10 days of leave will be unpaid, but for the remaining 10 weeks, the county employee will receive two-thirds of their salary. That employee must be restored to their original position after they return from family leave.

County employees are also eligible for sick leave if they or someone they are caring for experiences symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.

Teleworking is encouraged and it is now permitted to take the temperatures of employees who are working in county buildings to slow the spread of the virus.

County employees will be discouraged from traveling outside of the immediate area for any reason and all business travel outside of the New River Valley is restricted. In addition, all county employees must report to their supervisor if they travel outside of a 40-mile radius of Pulaski County. Those that do, must self-quarantine for five days.

The last significant action taken by the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors at Monday evening’s meeting was to pass a resolution declaring Sunday, March 29, as a Local Day or Prayer for Pulaski County. The resolution was written by County Administrator Jonathan Sweet and he introduced it by saying, “After nearly 20 years of public service, I don’t know if I’ve ever identified a better time for us to make a declaration of a local day of prayer for the community.”



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