Penalty reduced for late tax bill payments

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance change at their regular meeting on Wednesday night (Sept. 16) to reduce the penalties for the late payment of biannual property taxes.

Late payment of tax bills has previously come with a 25 percent penalty on the outstanding balance. The new ordinance drops the rate to 10 percent or $10, whichever is larger.

“I’m getting a lot of calls from taxpayers who don’t have jobs and don’t have money right now,” said Treasurer Linda Lenherr, “so taking this down to 10 percent would really help to show people that the county’s out there trying to work for the people.”

Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) questioned why it was necessary to charge any kind of penalty. Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) and Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) said it served as an incentive to pay. O’Brien added that the reduction brought Fluvanna more in line with the rates charged by surrounding counties.

County Administrator Eric Dahl said any impact on revenue was expected to be minimal.

Sheriff’s office vehicles

The Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office currently doesn’t have a transport vehicle that can safely carry multiple people under social distancing rules.

Major David Wells told supervisors that if they had to arrest more than one person at a time, “you’d have to use a separate deputy car for each arrestee.” A transport van outfitted with dividers to keep people separated from each other during transport would cost about $66,700.

They’re also hoping to purchase 20 new one-piece plastic molded seats with reversed seatbelts. Wells said that deputies have to reach all the way into the vehicle compartment and over the arrestee to fasten the seatbelt, which heightens their potential exposure to COVID-19. The vinyl seating is also difficult to sanitize. The new seats, which would cost about $24,500, are easier to clean and have seatbelts that deputies could fasten with minimal contact with passengers.

Finally, they would like $41,000 for a spare vehicle. Wells explained that if a vehicle had to be taken out of service for sanitation due to COVID-19 exposure, there is currently no backup.

All these purchases could be funded out of the CARES Act, which is specifically designated for expenses related to the pandemic. No decisions were made at the meeting, but all five supervisors signaled their support.

Burn building

The latest round of bids on a new “burn building” for Fluvanna County firefighters came back at over $985,000.

The county has received a grant for $480,000 to fund the project and had hoped to keep the county’s expenditure to a maximum of $400,000. There would also be additional costs for connecting to water and electric, inspections, and contingencies.

Dahl said it might be worthwhile to make some modifications to the proposal and send it out for another round of bids, although he doesn’t believe it would bring the costs significantly lower. He also said the supervisors had the option to simply drop the plan and return the grant.

A suggestion by Dahl that each of the county’s four fire departments might be able to chip in $25,000 each from their discretionary funds did not receive much support from the chiefs attending the meeting via Zoom. Kent’s Store Fire Chief Andrew Pullen argued that those funds, allocated by the state each year, were for the equipment needs of their own departments.

Lake Monticello Chief Richie Constantino said that Harrisonburg spent about $650,000 on a prefabricated burn building and wondered if that might work under the specifications of the current grant.

After some discussion, the supervisors recommended that the county put out a new call for bids, and check into other options before abandoning the project.

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