The Amherst County Board of Supervisors on July 20 appointed Sam Bryant, the county’s director of public safety, as the county’s new fire marshal.
The board also appointed Jarred Scott, who works in the county’s public safety department, as deputy fire marshal. Bryant and Scott have met all the minimum residential requirements of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, according to the board’s resolutions appointing them to the roles.
The county may authorize the fire marshal to have the same law enforcement powers as a police officer for the purpose of investigation and prosecution of all offenses involving fires, fire bombings, attempts to commit such offenses and false alarms relating to such offenses, according to the resolution.
County Administrator Dean Rodgers said the appointments have no effect on the county’s budget as the duties already are included in their job descriptions. The appointments met the required legalities, he said.
Also during the meeting, Supervisor Tom Martin requested County Attorney Mark Popovich research whether an ordinance could address panhandling in the county.
Popovich said many localities have repealed ordinances on panhandling because they were deemed unconstitutional by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that addresses free speech. Based on the ruling, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, he said it appears the ability to adopt an ordinance could be difficult.
“I, for one, would like to see us have something,” Martin said. “I think our [sheriff’s] deputies are consistently being called into the Madison Heights area for complaints and there’s nothing they can do.”
Martin said he thinks people are coming from Lynchburg and are panhandling in the county to make a living off it. Supervisor Claudia Tucker said she has also has received complaints of panhandling in Madison Heights.
“I’m not sure that’s exactly what we need in Amherst,” Martin said.
Martin said he favors pursing an ordinance from a standpoint of public safety.
“We can certainly try and create something,” Popovich said to the board. “It will take a little creativity, I think, if we can come up with something at all.”