Highland County Board of Supervisors November Work Session
The Highland County Board of Supervisors held its monthly work session on November 16th.
The Board heard a presentation on the Highland Inn revitalization project, along with a request for funding for it. Betty Mitchell spoke about the project on behalf of the non-profit Blue Grass Resource Center, the Inn’s owner. Mitchell said the Highland Economic Development Authority has sponsored grant applications for the work thus far. The exterior stabilization of the Inn has been done and they are now in the planning phase, doing selected demolition inside, working on internal structural design for interior renovations and creating a funding strategy. The Blue Grass Resource Center is also currently talking with potential operators. Mitchell said community and agency support for the renovation has been strong and it is very important that the construction work be done with no debt. Mitchell said the Inn will have an economic impact when it reopens by providing jobs, educational opportunities, support of local farms, with buying local for the restaurant, and more transient occupancy taxes with visitors coming in. Mitchell said $3.5 million is needed to complete the revitalization and it can be achieved with a combination of private donations along with local government funding to leverage state and federal resources. She said the county’s support is key, because a match is needed for grants and because it’s important that the local government shows support for the project. She requested that Highland County consider using $176,000 from American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the project. Mitchell said they felt it was important that the funding not come from local resident’s taxes, but from a different source. When asked about timing, Mitchell said there is a grant deadline in February that has a required match. Supervisor David Blanchard said the Inn represents the vitality of the community and there is an opportunity with that funding the county is receiving. The Board will consider the request.
The Board heard an update on Emergency Medical Services. In October there were 34 calls and, of those, 7 were refusals and 7 were cancellations. There have been 317 calls so far this year. It was reported that things are not going well, due to short staffing, but EMS may be getting another part time application. Supervisor David Blanchard said he is concerned with the loss of paid staff and volunteers. He said the county is trying to be competitive with hiring, but all the agencies in the Valley are looking for the same people and they can be more competitive.
Sheriff Ronald Wimer discussed the hiring of a School Resource Officer. He applied for and received a grant from the state, that runs until June 30, that pays for the salary and benefits for a full time School Resource Officer. Sheriff Wimer said the grant is renewable for four years, but he is not sure it will be for 100% funding. He has spoken with someone who is qualified and who is willing to take the job through June 30. The Board tabled action on it until it’s December 6 meeting.