Surry Registrar’s Office to move to business park

Published 3:38 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Plans are in the works to move the Surry Registrar’s Office from its current location inside the county’s government center on School Street to a standalone building in the Surry West Business Park.

Surry’s supervisors voted 4-1 Thursday, Dec. 7 to approve a resolution authorizing County Administrator Melissa Rollins to move forward with purchasing 168 Commerce Drive, which is currently owned by Snow Bird Trail Associates LLC.

Supervisor Timothy Calhoun cast the dissenting vote, citing among his objections the resolution’s listed purchase price of $262,500 being higher than the $190,000 tax-assessed value of the property listed on the county’s GIS website.

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Ahead of the vote, Calhoun took issue with the resolution’s vague language referring to the building’s “future use as a County facility for programs, offices, or other governmental uses necessary,” and proposed postponing the vote until January, though his motion received no second. Calhoun said the matter had been discussed several months ago in a closed-session meeting, but was cut off by Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Elliott, who rebuked him for discussing publicly what had been said in the closed meeting. County Administrator Melissa Rollins then clarified that the building “has been identified by staff for the use as a registrar’s office.”

“A board acts through its resolutions,” County Attorney Lola Perkins said. “So if we specifically identified in the resolution what the specific purpose was going to be for this building it would not provide us with the flexibility that is often needed to address any last minute situations or last minute changes that might arise.”

Rollins said several Virginia localities have had to relocate their registrar’s offices since the passage of new voting laws. Among them is Accomack County, which, according to reporting by the Eastern Shore Post, moved its registrar’s office in 2020 from the first floor of its courthouse to a detached building, citing a need for more space to accommodate an expected uptick in absentee ballots from the General Assembly’s 2020 passage of no-excuse early voting.

“This is something that Surry County is not alone in,” Rollins said.

According to Rollins, the identified Commerce Drive building is structurally sound and needs only “minor repairs” to be repurposed as the county’s new registrar’s office. Other state mandates pertaining to handicap accessibility, parking and security are also driving the move, Rollins said.

She further noted that money is already budgeted this year for “infrastructure improvements” that should cover the cost of the renovations without requiring an additional appropriation by the supervisors.