The Regular February Meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors Focuses on Finances and Ambulances


The 7:30 meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors on March 5th began with a financial presentation by Saidee Begoon of Robinson, Farmer, and Cox. The final report for the county was over 100 pages, covering fiscal year 2023 and showing a “clean” rating on fairness and conformity to standard accounting practices, this is the highest rating given by the firm. Begoon noted the amount of work that went into the package and focused on areas of weakness, which she said had already been addressed satisfactorily by the county.


In the public comments, Leo Schwartz, shared opposition to the financial report, requesting the Board of Supervisors operate more openly with the county at large, specifically sharing information about the resignation of former County Administrator Roberta Lambert, who left in January. Schwartz felt embezzlement was at play and that the board was trying to hide something. Supervisor chair Henry Budzinski explained the county did their part in the investigation, that full restitution had been made, and that all investigations were ongoing with the state police and commonwealth attorney’s office. Schwartz was then asked to yield the podium after a generous five minutes. After talking over Budzinski, the board ruled unanimously to have Schwartz escorted from the meeting by Sheriff Bob Kelly. 


New business items brought the unanimous decision to declare April 2-8, 2024 Dark Sky Week in Highland County after Mike Bedwell gave a presentation on the importance of monitoring and educating about light pollution. The library will also be presenting programs during this week to talk about dark skies, culminating in the partial solar eclipse on April 8. 


The largest discussion of the meeting centered around the recommendations for the EMS comprehensive plan presented by Dan Hamilton, and the decision to put Ambulance 701 into use prior to the plan’s completion. The issue of Ambulance 701 was added to the agenda after the start of the meeting by Budzinski. Supervisor Paul Trible took issue with the late addition saying the supervisors were given plenty of opportunity to add to the agenda before the meeting and citing that the late addition made it difficult for supervisors to prepare. 


Trible gave a motion to sell Ambulance 701 to the highest bidder, but there was no second given and the motion failed. Supervisor Harry Sponaugle then motioned to move Ambulance 701 to the EMS location on Main Street, known as the former car wash, in an effort to reduce response times. He asked that this be done before Maple Festival, or close of business on Friday, March 8. Budzinski seconded the motion and it passed with two yeses and a definitive no from Trible. EMS Chief Nick Fialo said he would head up the relocation of Ambulance 701 and released a statement on March 7 at 6 p.m. saying the task had been completed. 


County attorney Melissa Dowd gave recommendations for new policies regarding virtual meetings as the governance was changed on the state level. As policies, not ordinances, these do not require public comment. 


There will be a budget work session on March 13, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. in the Highland Modular Conference Center and a work session on March 20. 

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Brit Chambers

Brit Chambers is a resident of Highland County, Virginia and a news reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio. She loves living in a small town and relishes the outdoor adventures and community feeling that Highland has to offer. Brit has a background in journalism, marketing, and public relations and spends her free time reading good books, baking sourdough bread, and hiking with her family.

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