By Carol Vaughn —
County employees who were not included in a prior decision to give bonuses to first responders will receive one in their Dec. 15 paycheck, after the Accomack County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to that effect Wednesday.
The bonus applies to all full-time and part-time employees of the county and social services employees other than first responders, who already were approved to receive a bonus.
The bonuses will be $1.25 per hour for hours worked from Jan 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2021, with a maximum of $1,500.
The cost is $318,678, with $157,874 of that coming from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds the county was allotted.
The board also in a separate vote approved including the county administrator and the county attorney in the bonuses.
The board also directed County Administrator Mike Mason to have staff look into the cost of giving bonuses to employees of county-affiliated commissions, boards, and agencies.
Mason said some inquiries from those entities have been received.
Major county revenues were up just under 4% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022 compared to the prior year, according to Finance Director Margaret Lindsey.
Local sales tax was flat for the quarter and communications sales tax, which funds the 911 Commission, continued to decline.
Landfill tipping fees were down compared to the prior year’s first quarter, likely in part because bad weather in August 2020 caused a spike in trash and debris coming in to the landfill.
Building permits were up sharply in the quarter, bringing in nearly $140,000, compared to around $71,600 in the first quarter last year.
The rainy day fund as a percentage of the general fund went down in FY2021, coming in at 13.5%. For 2022, the budget only allows for a contribution of just over $64,000, meaning the downward trend will continue unless more money is committed, according to Lindsey.
Supervisor Crockett noted no funds have been taken from the rainy day fund; the reduction in the percentage is due to the total budget going up.
“We’ve got to get that to a certain point so we that an operate for a couple of months” in case of a major emergency, said Supervisor Donald Hart, who is the county’s emergency services director.
Hart asked staff to look into “where is our path to get back on track with that” during future budget preparation.
Federal Funds for Tourism
Accomack County is receiving $260,000 in federal funds for tourism recovery, Mason told the board.
The money, which comes through the American Rescue Plan Act, must be used for tourism marketing and development.
The program requires the county to work with its three destination marketing organizations to come up with a plan to spend the funds.
The three organizations are the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce, the town of Onancock, and the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission.
Half the money will be disbursed when a spending plan is approved, starting in January 2022, and half will be given on a reimbursement basis.
The money must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2023, and must be spent by June 30, 2024.
Mason, in consultation with Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Wolff, asked the tourism commission to develop a proposal for how to allocate the money among the destination marketing organizations and towns, and to oversee the spending plan that must be submitted to receive the funds.
The board of supervisors will be presented the proposal once it is developed.
Tangier Flood Damage Assessment
A team of eight, including from the Department of Public Safety, the Building, Planning, and Economic Development Department, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, among others, went to Tangier Wednesday, Nov. 17, to assess damage caused by a coastal flooding event on Oct. 29.
The information gathered will be submitted to the state and used to determine if federal assistance can be provided.
Supervisor Robert Crockett was among those who went to Tangier. He said around 45 residences and some crab shanties were affected by the flooding.
“That day that it happened, we contacted them. We tried to get a declaration for Tangier, but because the state didn’t have one, our hands were tied and we couldn’t get one,” said Supervisor Donald L. Hart Jr., the county’s emergency services director.
“It was a very bad situation. They had bad flooding they hadn’t had for many, many, many years,” Hart said.
Chairman Ron Wolff said he had spoken with Tangier ferry captain Mark Crockett in Onancock and said, “He shared with me some of the impact from the island. The 1933 and the 1960 storms — he said the water was higher on this flood tide and wind than in either of those two storms.”
Northern Wastewater Service Area Study Initiated
The Hampton Roads Sanitation Distrtict Commission on Oct. 23 approved initiation of a study of a northern Accomack wastewater service area.
“A group of stakeholders has been meeting … including folks from the town of Chincoteague, the county, HRSD, and other folks,” Mason said, adding, “The purpose of these meetings was ultimately to try to initiate a northern Accomack service area study.”
The study will focus on evaluating strategies to address both short-term and long-term wastewater treatment and disposal needs to the northern part of the county.
It will look at demand, capacity constraints at existing facilities, disposal alternatives for treated effluent, environmental impacts, and permitting, Mason said.
Accomack Child Care Grant Program Delayed
Accomack County’s program to award grants for child care start-ups or expansion, originally slated to begin in November, is delayed.
A January rollout is likely, according to Mason.
The grants will be made using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.