Bedford opts for being a town instead of a city
A city doesn’t always have allure — at least it didn’t for one Central Virginia locality. Bedford, which spans almost 7 miles and is home to nearly 6,000 people, recently became a town after being a city for more than 40 years. “We feel it’s in the best interest of businesses and citizens that we become a town again,” Charles Kolakowski, the town manager, says of the switch, which took effect July 1.
As a town instead of an independent city, Bedford now is part of Bedford County and its 69,590 residents. Before the change, Bedford was responsible for providing many of its own services such as water and sewer. “The main benefit for the city is a higher level of stability where the level of services … taxes and fees will be far more stable because we will be directly responsible for less and the ability to be part of a larger entity for many of the services,” Kolakowski says.
Bedford is following in the footsteps of other Virginia localities. South Boston reverted to a town in 1995, as did Clifton Forge in 2001.
With the change, Bedford’s schools, economic development efforts, and water and sewer systems (now known as the Bedford Regional Water Authority) were consolidated with the county’s. The county is also responsible for a number of services including an electoral board, library and tourism. The town still provides urban services such as police and fire departments, zoning and planning services, street maintenance, curb and gutter, sidewalk, storm drainage facilities and recreational facilities.
Local companies wanted to know how the change would impact them. Traci Blido, Bedford County’s economic development director, says things won’t be much different. Businesses that were formerly in the city of Bedford now are part of the county. “I see it as a benefit to the whole county that we become one and really strengthen our relationship that we’ve already established,” Blido says.
According to Kolakowski, many businesses in the town of Bedford should see lower business license taxes. Real estate taxes also went down by about 7 percent for Bedford town residents, he said.
Kolakowski says both parties must be credited for compromising on Bedford city becoming a town. “It is a fair agreement and neither side is happy with 100 percent but that’s one of the hallmarks of a good agreement,” Kolakowski says. “We really see that there can be positive aspects for everybody involved, mainly on education and economic opportunities.”