Highland Supervisors Vote to Close Head Waters Voting Precinct
At the Highland County Board of Supervisors first meeting of the new year, the Board voted to close the Head Waters voting precinct and polling place. The Highland County Electoral Board made this recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, saying the polling place did not meet Virginia Code, since it was not located in a public building and it was not in compliance with both the Virginians and the Americans with Disabilities Acts. The polling place was located in a privately owned workshop that didn’t have a restroom, so a porta potty was brought in for use on election days. There are 126 registered voters in the Head Waters precinct, which will now be consolidated with the McDowell precinct. There were no public comments during the public hearing on the closure of the Head Waters polling place.
The Board also considered the closure of the Wilson’s Mill precinct and polling place, but tabled action on it. The Wilson’s Mill polling place is at Victory Chapel Church in Mustoe. The Highland County Electoral Board also recommended Wilson’s Mill be closed, as it barely meets both the Virginians and the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
County Attorney Melissa Dowd said Wilson’s Mill is technically in compliance, but just barely, since disabled voters have to go around and then come through the Church sanctuary to reach the voting area. She said the Electoral Board also had concerns because other counties, including an adjoining one, have been sued for failure to comply with ADA. Wilson’s Mill has 139 registered voters. If Wilson’s Mill were ever closed, it would be consolidated with the Monterey precinct.
During the public hearing, two people spoke in opposition of closing the Wilson’s Mill precinct. Concerns included the increased travel distance to Monterey, which is eight miles away. Speaker John Sweet presented an idea of expanding the Wilson’s Mill precinct to include other nearby areas. That would decrease the number of voters in Monterey and it would also decrease travel distance for some voters who are actually closer to Wilson’s Mill, but now vote in Monterey.
The Board voted to adopt a new Transient Occupancy Tax Ordinance. County Attorney Melissa Dowd explained the state legislature made changes in order to tax the fees that are charged by intermediaries, such as Airbnb. Now the tax is assessed on the total amount of a rental, not just on the room charge. Another change is the addition of campgrounds to the Transient Occupancy Tax. This new ordinance included these changes to put the county in compliance with the new language in the Virginia Code.
There was also discussion about how to assess the annual EMS fee on renters. Property owners now pay the $150 annual fee and Board members said many feel that renters should also pay the fee. The discussion was about the difficulty of finding the names of renters in the county. As a first step, a notice was sent with tax tickets so the county could begin to get an idea of how many renters there may be.
And the Board tabled action on annual Board organization, such as electing a new Chairman, since Supervisor John Moyers, Jr. was absent.