Highland Board of Supervisors May Meeting

Everyone has been there – that moment when you’ve paid your bills, your budget for the future has been set, and you’re feeling good about your finances, when an unexpected cost comes in and ruins everything. That is what happened to the Highland Board of Supervisors at their May meeting Tuesday. It was just over a week ago that they had voted to adopt the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and suddenly were faced with an unplanned expenditure.

The bearer of the bad news was the Highland Electoral Board an county registrar Alice Shumate. Ms. Shumate informed the Board that she had received and email from the State Board of elections on April 14th, informing her that at their last meeting, they had decertified the Winvote touchscreen voting machines the county has been using since 2006. While no issues had occurred with the machines in Highland, there have been enough discrepancies in other places that the state board felt they were unreliable. Seemingly, in a step backwards, the voting process will be returning to paper ballots, as the state wants a paper trail kept for verification purposes, so new machines must be purchased with optical scanners to read those ballots.The new system must also be ADA compliant for voters with disabilities.

Ms. Shumate had brought another individual to the meeting, Matt Erney of the company Election Service Online, the company who has been providing support for the current machines. Mr. Erney was there to provide the supervisors with information on voting machines his company was offering, and associated costs. Ms. Shumate assured the Board she had given due diligence to research of other products and companies, and was comfortable with the quality and service of ESO. Mr. Erney explained the system his company could offer, and said the county was fortunate not to be having a June primary – the machines would not be needed until November, giving ample time for ordering and training of poll workers. The county will require seven machines, and Mr. Erney provided purchase and leasing options available. The leasing option includes maintenance and software upgrades. He also said his company could set up the machines for demonstrations to the public at the Highland County Fair if that was desired. The supervisors decided leasing the machines was the best option – it will cost the county over $16,000 per year, and they instructed Ms. Shumate to work with county administrator Roberta Lambert to set up a contract, pending review by county attorney Melissa Dowd.

In other business, the Board heard updates from District Forest Ranger Pat Sheridan, Highland Sheriff Tim Duff, and from the Department of Social Services. They re-appointed Mike Boesch to the DSS Board, and re-appointed Denise Simmons to the Recreation Commission, as well as adding Laura Honaker.

The Board made a motion to apply on a regional planning grant with Bath County to explore the feasibility of construction of a cell tower in relation to the joint broadband discussions, and looked at later June as the date for the next public hearing. The Board tabled discussion on participation in a public transit feasibility study.

The Highland EDA invited the Board and administrator Lambert to their May 18th meeting to meet Carrie Chenery, new executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partenrship.

The meeting ended with a closed session for legal.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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