Highland Board of Supervisors April Work Session
At the Highland County Board of Supervisors April work session, Emergency Services Coordinator Harley Gardner gave a follow up report on the hazardous material spill in the Jackson River in late February. A tanker truck on Route 220 near Mustoe, crashed into the river and spilled gasoline. Gardner said that after research with the Department of Wildlife Resources and others on the damage, there was moderate impact to the trout population in a two mile stretch of the river, directly downstream from spill site. He said it has been determined that fishing pressure on the river needs to be reduced, but that is up to individual landowners. He said there is no official action the county can take, but he wants to emphasize that the fishing pressure should be reduced. He said it was determined that it was not necessary to stock with hatchery trout. He said there will probably be a moderate decrease in catch rates, but adult trout will fill the void in the affected area in about 12 to 18 months. Gardner said about 1,200 gallons of gas was spilled in the river, which killed an estimated 870 fish in a two mile stretch.
County Attorney Melissa Dowd added that the driver of the tanker truck appeared in court on Wednesday. She said he was convicted of reckless driving and was very remorseful. He stated in court that he thought he dozed off while driving and Dowd said that he lost his job as a result of the accident.
Kirk Billingsley of the Economic Development Authority reported to the Board that out of six applications for the annual Incentive Grants, four applicants have been selected by the EDA to receive grants. The total amount being requested to fund all four applications is $19,919.00. The county budget allows for $15,000 for Incentive Grants each year and Billingsley asked if there could be additional funding this year to cover the total amount. Billingsley explained that in the past two years, the EDA requested $10,000 for Incentive Grants each year, which is less than the $15,000 budgeted. The Board unanimously approved the additional $4,919.00 needed to fund the grants. Supervisor David Blanchard said the grants are useful for businesses and that the funding could come from the CARES Act money or the American Recovery Plan money that will be received in the future.
The Board also heard an update on Blue Ridge Community College from Dr. John Downey. Dr. Downey said the college plans to be in full operation beginning August 23 for the fall semester. He thanked Mike Bedwell for his service on the college’s Advisory Board. Bedwell does not want to continue as the Highland representative and Dr. Downey recommended Cappie Hull to serve on the Advisory Board.
Harley Gardner nominated Koressa Malcolm to serve on the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
And Saidee Gibson of Robinson, Farmer, Cox and Associates presented the FY2020 Financial Report, saying the county received an unmodified opinion, which is the highest opinion that can be issued for an audit.