Highland Supervisors August Work Session

Economic development and transportation were the two main topics of discussion during Wednesday night’s Highland Board of Supervisors August work session.

The Board had two action items regarding transportation. First, it adopted a resolution designating growth areas as approved in the last Comprehensive Plan update. This was done in order to comply with the stipulations of the state’s HB2 Transportation Plan, which will govern how roadway improvement projects are chosen in the future. The Board also approved a request introduced by Supervisor Kevin Wagner to fund transportation for the Virginia Program For Aging Services. VPAS has been using its van for dual purposes- one, to take residents to medical appointments and two, to take them for grocery shopping, chores, etc. The organization has funding to continue the medical transportation purposes, but not for the personal trips, which are very popular. The Board voted to give VPAS the $700 it requested for fuel to continue this program until the end of the fiscal year.

Turning to economic development, the Board approved disbursement of $25,000 it had pledged in 2012 towards the renovation of The Highland Center. The historic building is currently undergoing the $3 million project, and once completed, will feature a retreat/conference center, business development space and resources, and improved kitchen facilities. The Board also heard a presentation from the Center’s executive director Betty Mitchell on a potential funding source for revitalization of The Highland Inn, thought the Department of Housing and Community Development. The Highland Economic Development Authority has voted at its Monday meeting to be the applicant for this opportunity on behalf of the Center should it be pursued, and Ms. Mitchell wanted to make sure the Supervisors were aware of this action.

The Board also heard from EMS Coordinator Chris Vernovai in the form of his annual update. He reported call volumes were up, and response time were down. He noted that there were 19 applicants for the upcoming EMT class to be held in September.

Vernovai also provided the Board with a draft of a Designated Emergency Response Agency Agreement, which is a plan developed for response standards required by the state code. County Attorney Melissa Dowd suggested that the Sheriff’s office be a party to signing the agreement – she also suggested a section of the plan referring to a proposed system of improved practices, which includes moving to a medical dispatch center instead of the current system implemented by the sheriff’s office, be removed from the plan and instead be presented as a separate recommendation to the Supervisors. The Board voted to accept the draft of the plan, contingent on these suggestions.

The meeting ended with a closed session for personnel, but not before outgoing supervisor Lee Blagg sounded a warning on budget issues and  implications in the future.

“I just think we need to keep in light, since we’ve come through the budget process, and David and Kevin have pounded and punted people to try to have it like it ought to be, and present your items before budget time. Unfortunately, the legislature and lots of people don’t do that.

Since we passed the budget, we have spent somewhere in the neighborhood oh $135,000 was not budgeted. We’re talking ball field, voting machines, $25,000 tonite. That’s money that we’ve spent already, 60 days into the year that we didn’t have down in black and white.

So everybody needs to be aware that this is not the bank – this is taxpayers’ money. That’s $.02 on a tax ticket.

We’ve dipped into the pot in excess of $400,000 the last two years, and sooner or later, it’s going to hit the fan.”

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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