Highland Board of Supervisors March Work Session

Presentations were the name of the game at the Highland Board of Supervisors March work session.

First on the agenda were Nancy Witschey, Sarah Harman and Betty Mitchell from the Highland EDA, who presented the Board with their strategic plan for adoption. Ms. Mitchell outlined the goals of the plan, which were to:

  • Support the retention and expansion of existing businesses;
  • Promote investment in existing and new businesses, and;
  • Grow entrepreneurs and attract more young people to the community

Ms. Harman informed the Board on projects the EDA is currently involved with, including marketing the region to tourists, exploring broadband and cellular services, completing infrastructure mapping, investigating the possibility of a state park in the county, renovation of The Highland Center’s commercial kitchen, attracting new residents to the county in partnership with the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, opening a community park, and revitalization of downtown Monterey.

Board members expressed a desire for more time to study the plan before adopting it. They did question whether the EDA anticipated more funding than the amount currently set aside each year for operation. Ms. Witschey said they had not gotten far enough along in the process to determine the need for special budget requests. Ms. Mitchell requested that the funding be moved to the reserve fund from the general fund, so that it could accumulate rather than simply roll over in each budget year. The supervisors also approved a request from Ms. Mitchell that the Lantz Construction trailer be located on county property during The Highland Center’s renovation to avoid encroachment onto VDOT property.

Next up was Highland School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott, who presented the Board with the 2015-16 operating budget for the school system, which had been approved by the School Board. Dr. Schott outlined the new programs he proposed, along with the cuts in various income and expenses. The final budget asks the county for $2,294,951, an $80 decrease from last year. For a more detailed analysis, listeners can access the February 26th and March 4th stories relating to the budget on the Allegheny Mountain Radio website.

Board chair David Blanchard questioned the amount spent on technology, and Dr. Schott and IT director Gary Layne explained that most of the costs were related to necessary upgrades to the wired and wireless infrastructure in the building. These are necessary to alleviate connectivity issues in the classrooms. It was noted that, as a rule of thumb, wired access should be replaced every 10 years, and wireless every five, and it has been nearly 20 years since these have been installed.

Supervisor Kevin Wagner asked if the effects of the installation of new windows last year could be measured, and Dr. Schott said they were assessing these, but comparisons were difficult because of fluctuations in diesel fuel and electricity costs.

Supervisor Lee Bragg praised the budget as the best one seen recently.

The only additional action the Board took during the meeting was the appointment of Monterey mayor Rich Holman,  Director of Social Services Sarah Rexrode and building inspector Josh Simmons to the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

The session ended with a closed meeting for legal.

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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