Fiber-to-the-home gains toehold in county

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative has completed the initial stage of fiber-to-the-home internet service in Halifax County with the deployment of roughly 5.5 miles of fiber optic cable in the Clays Mill and Crystal Hill areas.

The Chase City-based cooperative, through its EMPOWER subsidiary, will soon complete a 23-mile stretch of fiber network in Halifax County, encompassing the 5.5 mile portion that has been deployed, plus an additional segment extending north on L.P. Bailey Highway and west in the vicinity of Republican Grove, on Pumping Hill Road.

Through the project, EMPOWER will soon be able to offer ultra-fast broadband internet service to an estimated 479 county homes and businesses.

“We’re continuing to build it out,” said David Lipscomb, MEC vice president of member and energy services. While more work lies ahead before the system can be activated, Lipscomb said EMPOWER will be notifying residents on the path of the fiber network that service will soon be available, and customer requests will be solicited in the next several weeks.

“Once they [technicians] light the fiber up, we can begin taking applications from the folks who live along that line for lines to their homes,” Lipscomb said.

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Voters say yes to sales tax increase in Halifax County

yes2An overwhelming majority of Halifax County voters said a resounding “YES” to what many consider to be the most important question that has appeared on a county ballot in years — the fate of Halifax County’s proposed 1% sales tax increase.

Across the county’s 21 precincts on Tuesday, 6,546 county voters said yes, while 2,758 voted no to raising the current 5.3% sales tax to 6.3% when they went to the polls on a perfect weather election day that saw a “very good” voter turnout all day, according to the county registrar’s office.

The county board of supervisors placed the levy on the ballot -- the first of its kind in Virginia -- after Del. James Edmunds succeeded in changing state law to allow the historic referendum earlier this year.

The proposed sales tax hike is projected to raise about $3.3 million annually, or $100 million over 30 years, with revenues to be used exclusively for the construction or renovation of schools.

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Town of South Boston Announces $876,000 Grant for Boat Landing Project on Dan River

The Town of South Boston is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of an $876,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Recreational Trails Program, to build Greene's Crossing Boat landing at the Watkins Bridge Crossing on the Dan River at the southern entrance into Downtown South Boston.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federal matching reimbursement program for building and rehabilitating trails and trail related facilities. Federal Highway Administration funds make the program possible and mandate allocations. Grant funds are funded by the Federal Highway Administration thru the VDCR.

Preliminary engineering for the Greene's Cross Boat Landing should be complete by July 2020 with a proposed completion date in mid-2021.

The Town is pleased to bring access to the Dan River for motorized boats, kayaks and canoes on the Dan River Water Trail. The Dan River is a designated scenic river and it will be promoted as part of the Southern Virginia Wild Blue.

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Project Phoenix hemp operation eyes start-up

Halifax County will seek $250,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to help launch a privately-owned hemp processing facility in the county.

The investors, Halifax County natives Sterling Edmunds Jr. and Rick Gregory, both of whom have gone on to successful careers in finance, are pledging matching funds of $6,350,000 from the private venture, code named Project Phoenix.

In the grant request to the tobacco commission, county officials estimate the hemp processing operation will create 41 direct jobs and “hundreds of ancillary jobs” in the first three years.

Brian Brown, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, said Tuesday that he could divulge few details about the venture.

“All I can say is that they’re looking at an existing building” for the operation, said Brown.

The goal, he added, is to have it open within a year.

“Hopefully we can announce something in the near future,” he said.

In the grant application to the agribusiness committee of the Tobacco Commission, officials lay out hemp’s potential as a major cash crop for Southside Virginia, but also describe catch-up efforts to match hemp’s rise in adjoining states. With its agricultural profile and infrastructure, “nowhere is better positioned to take advantage than Virginia’s Tobacco Region.

“However, the crop’s economics are reliant on nearby commercial-scale processing facilities of which none currently exist in the proposed service area. Meanwhile, North Carolina is investing rapidly,” the request notes.

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MBC president updates members of IDA

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority met Friday for their monthly meeting. Tad Deriso, president and CEO of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation, was guest speaker.

“I’m sure everyone has seen the noisy construction,” Deriso said, referring to demolition work at the old Hailslip Dental Lab building on Wilborn Avenue. This location will be the home of the SOVA Innovation Hub that is being built by Mid-Atlantic Broadband. The Hub is due to open next fall.

MBC covers 26 counties with data centers. “We step in to build fiber networks” for rural communities that lack broadband internet access, he said.

MBC helps to promote economic growth in Halifax County several ways, Deriso said. One strategy is its “Invest in Virginia” initiative to bring more industry to Halifax County with access to advanced manufacturing sites and data center locations.

MBC’s fiber network offers direct connections to Europe and South America through the two subsea landing stations based in Virginia Beach. “It’s exciting and in the early days,” Deriso said, explaining how the fiber system is equipped for any major company to set up and plug directly into the ultra-high speed digital network.

In addition to creating a data center-ready network, MBC invests in data center site marketing. “We took the variety of requirements a business, like Facebook, would need from Dominion Energy to design our network,” said Deriso.

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Career Tech Academy observes Manufacturing Day with tour, event

anninManufacturing facilities and educational institutions around the nation recently opened their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders in observance of Manufacturing (MFG) Day. Locally, Annin Flagmakers in South Boston hosted Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Career Tech Academy (CTA) Year 1 students for a tour of the plant.

Organized by the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, the Oct. 4 tour gave students a behind the scenes look at the local manufacturer, giving them an opportunity to see how IT and mechatronics impact the industry.

“Annin Flagmakers was excited to host the students from SVHEC for a tour of our manufacturing facility,” said Tammy Creasy, Annin human resource generalist. “It is always a pleasure to see students interested in the manufacturing process and the different types of jobs offered, from director of operations to graphic artists, chemists, digital print operators and sewing machine operators as well as many more. We appreciate SVHEC and the students for wanting to tour our facility and learn about manufacturing in our area,” she said.

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Official accreditation ratings confirm 9 of 9

It’s official.

All county schools are accredited, according to Virginia Department of Education accreditation ratings released Monday.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg announced in August all nine county schools were accredited after SOL results were released from the state.

“I’m just really, really proud of our students and staff. It’s always a great accomplishment to achieve accreditation, and we’re going to keep on working hard to stay accredited. The key is being consistent,” added Lineburg.

Last year, eight of nine schools were accredited with Clay’s Mill Elementary accredited with conditions.

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IDA backs sales tax for upgrade of high school

YesThe Halifax County Industrial Development Authority on Friday joined the chorus of governing bodies and agencies passing resolutions in support of using sales tax revenue for school construction and improvement when they unanimously adopted a resolution expressing support for the levy of a general retail sales tax.

The Virginia General Assembly has granted the citizens of Halifax County an historic opportunity to impact the educational future of their children for the next century without emptying the county coffers, IDA members agreed during their meeting held in the Southern Virginia Technology Park Friday morning.

The county’s community strategic plan has recognized Halifax County High School needs to be modernized.

Commissioned by the Halifax County School Board and the Board of Supervisors, two independent studies conducted by reputable architectural firms have concluded that the Halifax County High School facility has dire needs that must be addressed.

To address school construction needs, community leaders have advocated for access to a 1% increase of the state sales tax in order to generate significant revenue to fund construction or renovation of county schools so real estate taxes may remain low.

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