Town council OKs retirement supplement

MOUNT JACKSON — The Mount Jackson Town Council set a public hearing date for March 25 for a rezoning request of 136 acres, for a future mega industrial site, Tuesday evening.

The request, put before council by Robert Whitehurst, is to rezone his parcels of land in the town limits near Turkey Knob Road from agricultural to limited industrial. Once the town rezones the land, it will annex the rest of the land, 576 acres, to a sum total of 712 acres for an industrial site.

Whitehurst, who was present at the meeting, asked the council if it had any questions for him. Mayor J.G. “Bucky” Miller said the council would like to hold all discussion and questions for the hearing, which will be held in conjunction with the town planning commission.

“It sounds like everybody is fine with going to the next step, which is dealing with the public comment and to have an open dialogue at the hearing,” Miller said.

The council also voted to adopt a resolution to establish “Hazardous Duty Retirement Pay” through the Virginia Retirement System for the town’s police department.

The retirement supplement would allow town police officers to collect full retirement until the age of 65, when Social Security kicks in. The benefit is paid to police officers who retire with at least 20 years of service credit to them, as well as the officers’ pay grade.

Kevin Fauber, town manager, said while the numbers were not set in stone, because of the police chief vacancy, when the retirement system conducted a study on how much the town would have to pay, it had the option to pay $27,507 a year into the benefit, or $31,067 a year. Council opted for the lower amount.

“What VRS does is look at the total payroll of the town, they don’t just look at the law enforcement wages, they look at the entire workforce,” Fauber said. “This number may change and it probably will change because this number was based on the former chief’s experience with the town.”

Fauber added, “Whoever the next chief of police is will determine the amount we will pay in. Those numbers will probably go down a little bit, depending on their experience.”

Miller said he supported the move because it will help Mount Jackson retain more officers.

“We’re the only town in the county not offering this plan to police personnel,” Miller said. “We have a very good unit, but we always end up losing them to other police forces who have this plan.”

Miller added, “Until we decide to be a town to incorporate this plan, we need to be prepared to continue to be a stepping stone to help other departments grow.”

The cost of training a new recruit to the force is about $22,000, Miller said. He said not only is the cost of training recruits who will move onto other localities a burden on the town, having a stable police force is better for the town and the department.

Council member Roger Rudy mentioned including the plan would also make Mount Jackson more competitive when recruiting more experienced officers to the force. Miller said not having the supplement is a “deterrent” for officers “who want to hang their hat in Mount Jackson.”

The council also set a hearing for March 25 for a rezoning request brought by Todd Holtzman for a residential structure from R-1 to R-2, which would enable him to renovate the building as a duplex. The structure, at 5727 Main Street, was once an antique store with residential dwellings on the second floor.

Town council will be conducting its joint public hearing on these two requests at 7 p.m. March 25 at Town Hall.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com