Highland Board of Supervisors August Meeting


Members of the Highland County Recreation Commission were in attendance during the Highland Board of Supervisors’ August meeting to express their disappointment to the Board on an opportunity they felt had been lost unnecessarily. Local contractor Spruce Hill Excavating had offered to donate the fill dirt it was removing from the site of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Company’s upgrades to its substation west of Monterey. The dirt would then be used to level the field adjacent to the swimming pool and its parking lot, with the cost to the county being $77,000 for labor and machinery to level and compact the fill. The Commission held an emergency meeting to discuss the offer, and was willing to pay the cost of the project, but was unable to meet with the supervisors in time to take advantage. The members expressed regret that this had happened, saying that a similar project, if undertaken in the future to improve the property for use, would likely cost over $350,000. They also pointed out potential safety issues with the narrowness of the road leading into the pool,and softball field.

Board chair David Blanchard explained that while he sympathized with the Commission’s frustration, the Board has certain procedures in place which must be followed, including the necessity to offer any job costing over $50,000 out for bidding. Supervisor Kevin Wagner also pointed out the need for engineering and plans to assure environmental safety and compliance were met. The Board suggested that the Commission present them with a strategic plan, providing the capability to budget for planned projects and improvements in the future, such as improvements to the access road.

The Commission did report two items of good news – first, that 274 riders had competed in the Mountain Mama Road Bike Challenge over the past weekend, with no rain and only one minor injury; and second, the adult softball league has been a huge success, with 4 teams and approximately 60 people taking part in games every Thursday evening.

Dr. John Downey, President of Blue Ridge Community College, was present for his annual update to the supervisors on activities at the college. He pointed out that in addition to the many educational classes, the college offers certification in a number of areas, from Microsoft Office to welding. He said the college typically enrolls 30% of a graduating class from Highland, and generally has 20 students from the county in attendance any given year, not counting those taking non-credit classes.

Sarah Rexrode from the Department of Social Services reported the hiring of Malorie Brower as Human Services Assistant. She noted that the cooling assistance period would end August 17th, and the fuel period would begin on the second Tuesday in October. She also provided a reminder that SNAP benefits were welcomed at local farmers’ markets.

EMT coordinator Chris Vernovai reported 11 calls for the month. He noted that the squad’s new vehicles had allowed response times to calls to be cut by a third, and that the EMT training class was officially scheduled for September 29th.

Sheriff Tim Duff reported his office’s caseload for the month, and reported he is developing a risk assessment plan for the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline, and is in contact with other sheriff departments around the country who have experience with similar projects

In other actions, the Board:

  • Approved a letter of support for The Highland Center’s application to the Department of Conservation and Recreation regarding the Highland Community Park project
  • Heard an update from County Administrator Roberta Lambert on a workshop she attended to learn the application process for future road project funding under the House Bill 2 procedures
  • And voted to apply credit balances on personal property taxes be applied to the current fiscal year

The meeting ended with a closed session for personnel discussions.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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