Isle of Wight: 2017 in review

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, January 6, 2018

The campaign for Del. Rick Morris’s (R-64th) vacated seat in the Virginia House of Delegates dominated headlines in Isle of Wight County throughout 2017, particularly when Board of Supervisors Chairman Rex Alphin of Zuni challenged Suffolk businesswoman Emily Brewer in the Republican primary election in June. Brewer ultimately won both the nomination and the general election in November.

Other noteworthy headlines concerning the county this year included:

  1. IW School Board appoints Carrsville representative. The Isle of Wight County School Board voted unanimously to appoint Jacqueline Carr to the vacant Carrsville seat during a special called meeting of the board, held Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the IWCS central office building… Carr will serve the remainder of former Carrsville District representative Robert Eley’s term, which will expire on Dec. 31 of this year. At that time, she may choose to run for reelection.
  2. IP wins machinery, tools tax lawsuit. Earlier this week, Judge Carl E. Eason found in favor of International Paper in its $2.4 million suit against Isle of Wight County. They had been in disagreement about how the Machinery and Tools tax had been applied to some of the company’s assets.

The suit, titled “Application for Correction of Erroneous Assessments of Machinery and Tools Tax,” was filed in late December 2014. In addition to a refund, IP also had requested a lower assessment thereafter.

  1. Isle of Wight Board gives chickens a home. The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors recently voted unanimously to re-enact sections of the Isle of Wight County Code permitting residents to keep and raise chickens on residential zoned properties following numerous comments in support of the ordinance during a recent public hearing.

The ordinance, known in the code as Appendix B, Zoning: Article V, Supplementary Use Regulations Section 5-5002, specifies that county residents residing on land zoned rural residential, village center, neighborhood conservation, suburban estate, suburban residential, and only in conjunction with an occupied single-family residence, are permitted to keep and raise chickens.

  1. IW supervisors OK $7.9M school loan. Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously with one absent to take on $7.9 million in debt service to fund Isle of Wight County Schools’ proposed in-house career and technical education programs. This followed a public hearing on the matter held during their regular meeting on Thursday evening.

The debt service will come to the county via a bank loan from the investment firm Raymond James, which offered the county a repayment rate of $715,000 per year with 2.4 percent interest extending through fiscal year 2030. According to Jimmy Sanderson, a representative of Davenport and Company, who handled soliciting requests for proposals from banks on behalf of the county, Raymond James offered the lowest overall cost of funds out of the seven institutions that responded to the county’s request. He added that the rate Raymond James quoted the county was a non-bank qualified rate and that the county could close on this transaction by early May.

  1. Former IW school employee suing board, superintendent. Former Isle of Wight County Schools Special Education Director Tammie Rollins-Hines has filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the county’s school board and Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. The suit alleges that the negative employee performance evaluation and reprimand she received during her final year of employment with the division was given to her unjustly and in retaliation for her refusal to reallocate federal special education funds for non-special education purposes.

Editor’s note: Judge Robert Sandwich ultimately dismissed the suit against Thornton and the school board on Nov. 1.

  1. IW school board approves superintendent raise. The Isle of Wight County School Board voted 3-1 with one absent to award Supt. Dr. Jim Thornton a new four-year contract with a base salary of $155,524 during their June board meeting on Thursday evening. The contract further specifies that Thornton will receive a 2 percent increase in pay for each year and will also receive a $6,500 annuity.

Although the approved contract’s base salary is less than the $163,000 Thornton had initially requested, it still amounts to a 6.9 percent increase from his current base salary of $145,350. The new contract will take effect on July 1 and expire July 1, 2021.

  1. Former ED director wins lawsuit against county. A judge has ordered Isle of Wight County to pay nearly $750,000 to its former director of economic development, Lisa Perry, after ruling that it had violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by not allowing her to resume her position following her recovery from an injury.

The ruling was given on Aug. 10 in Norfolk’s federal district court, awarding Perry a total of $747,320.66 after finding in favor of the plaintiff’s right to reinstatement under the FMLA. The FMLA, passed in 1993, guarantees employees job protection and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.

  1. IW sees student population boom at high schools. Isle of Wight County’s school board has determined it will need to hire seven additional teachers to keep class sizes manageable, having encountered an unanticipated population boom at both of the division’s high schools this year. Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton told the board during his presentation of the division’s average daily membership on Thursday evening that Windsor’s student population has increased by at least 37 since the first day of classes, and Smithfield by over 100.
  2. Debate over statues, invocations in Isle of Wight continues. Controversy over the presence of a Confederate monument outside Isle of Wight County’s courthouse complex and its Board of Supervisors’ religious invocation policy dominated citizens’ time comments at the Board’s meeting on Thursday for the second month in a row… All who spoke on the monument advocated against removing it, and most were residents of Isle of Wight County.
  3. New headmaster speaks on goals for IWA. Mark Munford has been associated with Isle of Wight Academy in one capacity or another since the 1970s when he first set foot on the campus as a student. Now, he’s the school’s new headmaster.

Munford took over as the school’s top administrator in July of this year after his predecessor, Benjamin Vaughan, retired, having held the position for 47 years. Munford, a native of Isle of Wight, described his career move as “coming home.”

Editor’s note: Windsor in 2017 will be reviewed in next week’s edition.