County seeks say in transportation funding

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

COURTLAND—Gov. Bob McDonnell’s changes to the transportation bill, House Bill 2313, left Southampton County out of the mix in regard to having a voice at the table.

Monday night, the Board of Supervisors agreed to submit a Memorandum of Understanding to the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO), to give the county a vote on matters related to spending sales tax money on transportation projects.

Earlier this month, the General Assembly passed the bill, which included the amendment imposing an additional retail sales tax of 0.7 of one percent on Southampton County residents, as well as city of Franklin.

Both the county and city are part of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (District No. 23). However, HRTPO, which oversees the district does not include Southampton and Surry counties and the city of Franklin.

Originally, the transportation legislation was to create new transportation planning groups, but the governor and attorney general amended the bill to use planning districts already in place to impose the additional sales tax revenue.

“The moneys deposited in the fund shall be used solely for new construction projects on new or existing roads, bridges and tunnels in the localities comprising Planning District 23 as approved by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization,” the bill stated. “The Hampton Road Transportation Planning Organization shall give priority to those projects that are expected to provide the greatest impact on reducing congestion and shall ensure that the moneys shall be used for such construction projects in all localities comprising Planning District 23.”

Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson had said at that time the problem was the county had no “seat at the table” for them to have a vote as to how the sales tax money would be used for projects.

The memorandum the board adopted Monday night requests that Southampton County have a vote on any transportation funding matters, and requires an elected official to attend the HRTPO meeting. Supervisor Ronald West (Berlin/Ivor District), vice-chairman of the board, is the elected official serving on the District 23 Planning Commission. He was asked if would consider also serving as the representative on the HRTPO, which he affirmed.

“We have Route 58 and 460 — we need to be represented,” West said.