With Dedicated Cash in the Bank, Fluvanna Chooses to Lease New Radio System

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

It happened quickly. It was over $6 million dollars spent without a debate. All five supervisors agreed, as did dozens of emergency service volunteers in attendance.

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a trunking radio system to replaced the aged, failing current system.

It is said 80 percent of Fluvanna is currently covered by radio coverage. Multiple anonymous emergency service personnel say that 20 percent of the county without coverage seems to be a popular place to be.

The new radio system will eliminate those various black holes. New towers will be built with emergency services on the top. All will be under 199 feet with the county only owning one, to be constructed next to the Sheriff’s Office.

The intriguing part of this, Fluvanna has set aside $6.9 million in county savings for the radio project in FY12. It has been sitting there for a few years now, closely protected to pay for the project in cash.

The supervisors approved lease to purchase, thus financing the project. The interest rate will be 2.65 percent with a first payment coming due in July 2017. The term will be for seven years, with two years of payments deferred. Payments will be just over $1 million per year.

So what will happen with the cash set aside?

It stays in county savings but now the project is accounted for. There is no penalty for paying off the lease early so supervisors could vote whenever to pay off the debt early.

While this is more debt, supervisors also noted this is in the best interest of the county and does not violate the debt clause of the Virginia constitution.

“It does not violate the debt policy, by our opinion,” said Fred Payne, county attorney.

Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District)

Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) said before the vote he was in favor of the leasing because the county has a few things lined up this year, alluding to water. He also said it could just sit there but feared future boards will use it for operations as a way to lower the tax rate, which violates supervisor policy.

James River Water Authority will have bills come due because of shared construction costs. A Zion Crossroads water system will also have construction costs, if given the final go ahead. A report earlier this year put a Zion Crossroads system at $8 million.

The supervisors did spend more money to install a trunking radio system instead of a conventional radio system. This allows Fluvanna to host other counties in the future. Neighboring localities can buy into the system to have their system using the same basic infrastructure as Fluvanna, just expanding the network. It is more cost effective for the communities involved.

That could lower Fluvanna’s total cost of the radio infrastructure.

Also at the June 17 meeting, supervisors approved an auction house to be built in Fork Union. The location is on Route 15, further south than the town. The auction house will share a parking lot with a church.

“I think it is fantastic to see another business open in the county,” said Ullenbruch. “I won’t have to drive so far to buy my things.”

The next supervisors’ meeting is July 1 at 4 p.m.


bryan-rothamel.jpgThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

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