Highland County Supervisors Discuss New Organization, EMS, and the Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline


The Highland County Board of Supervisors held their first meeting of 2018 on Tuesday, January 9th, and discussion included organization, emergency medical services, the Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, signs, and more.

To begin, Supervisor Harry Sponaugle was elected as Chairman for the upcoming year, and Kevin Wagner was elected as Vice-Chairman.

Discussion then returned to the topic of emergency medical services. In the December 20, 2017 meeting, Commonwealth Attorney Melissa Dowd had agreed to look in to requesting an independent evaluation from the statewide Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services, or OEMS, to help a local citizen committee focus on current EMS county issues and recommendations for improvements. She reported that she had received confirmation from Gary Brown, the Director of Virginia OEMS, to commit to providing a program representative to perform such an assessment in Highland County as soon as possible. Ms. Dowd further requested something in writing from OEMS to let the Board know when the program representative would get started, citing a sense of urgency to begin due to the fast-approaching budget process for the county.

Kevin Wagner expressed time concerns over the open-ended offer of an evaluation with no official start date. After discussion, the Board decided to move forward with a duel approach to analyzing county EMS issues. They moved to seat a local citizen EMS committee without waiting for the independent evaluation from OEMS. The local EMS committee will consist of volunteers Steve Fullerton, Paul Klein, Travis Halterman, Kristie Siron, and Iris Hooke, with the Board reserving the right to add other names as desired. Members will be contacted to see if they can meet for the first time during the upcoming work session on Wednesday, January 17th. Meanwhile, the process of getting the independent evaluation from OEMS will continue in hopes that the evaluation will provide input to the local committee as it becomes available. Neither of the approaches will cost the county anything other than time.

In new business, Ms. Dowd reported that two applications by Dominion regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were made for river crossings in the flood hazard overlay district of Highland County, one on Jackson River and one on Back Creek. Highland County’s Building and Zoning Administrator, Josh Simmons, did increase the requested minimum depth of the pipeline in the flood hazard area. Dominion had wanted three feet in depth, but Mr. Simmons determined it should be buried four feet in the flood hazard area, and in the actual crossings, the pipeline should be buried five feet. With Highland County requirements met, along with other submitted data, including compliance with state and federal regulations, Dominion will be granted the permit to construct in the flood hazard overlay district. That does not permit actual construction, since pipeline construction is considered under the category of a major utility in Highland County’s zoning ordinance. The next step involves an application for the conditional use permit for the pipeline. The topic was moved to a closed session in order to discuss individual pieces of property and how to handle the conditional use permitting process.

In other business, the Board is looking for at least three individuals to join the Board of Equalization, which hears issues regarding land assessments. Also, the Highland Historical Society was granted authorization to put up two small directional signs on the Rt. 250 right of way in McDowell directing the public to the Mansion House Museum. The Historical Society will also be refunded a variance application fee that was submitted under the old zoning ordinance.


Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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