Corbin Stone of Robinson Farmer Cox Associates (AFC) presented the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors good news concerning its financial disposition at its meeting in Low Moor on March 7.
AFC was founded in 1953, and the accounting firm has offices in Charlottesville, Roanoke and Blacksburg.
Following his presentation of the Alleghany County audit for the year ending June 30, 2022, Stone discussed with the Board the negative impact COVID-19 has had on budget making and the current problem of budgeting with high inflation and high-interest rates negatively impacting the stock market that has lost eight to 10 percent.
After Supervisor Stephen Bennett opined about the difficulty that COVID-19 brought about in complicating budget making, Stone agreed. Bennett concluded, “COVID screwed every number.”
To Bennett’s question about the way Alleghany County stacks up against other rural counties from a financial standpoint, Stone replied, “Alleghany County stacks up pretty good.” Stone’s report on the audit found that there were no problems.
“With the retirement of baby boomers, it is difficult to find employees,” Stone concluded.
A shortage of school bus drivers has plagued some school districts since COVID-19.
Suzanne Nicely filled in for both Reid Walters, the Alleghany County Administrator who was attending his father’s funeral, and for Ms. Susan Hammond, VDOT resident engineer who was unable to attend due to a conflict in scheduling.
Nicely’s reports were brief, and Supervisor Shannon Cox asked her to report to Hammond that a dangerous tree and a potential rock slide in her area both need to be added to Hammond’s VDOT worklist.
During the “Public Comment Section” of the Board’s “Regular Meeting Agenda,” several speakers addressed the Board.
Among them, four spoke about the Jackson River Trail Project 5 which was halted in the beginning because of the lack of proper permitting, then cited for infractions by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) out of Roanoke that sent a warning letter to the contractor.
Attorney Bill Wilson of Covington, founder and president of the Jackson River Preservation Assoc., expressed his concern about the lack of quality construction methods being implemented in completing the project that he supports.
In reference to the project that will benefit both Alleghany Co. and Bath Co., Wilson remarked, “We just want to get it right.”
The construction company has had the daunting task of turning an abandoned railroad track that borders Cedar Creek, a Virginia trout stream, into a scenic trail that has regional appeal as an adventure destination without polluting Cedar Creek and the Jackson River.
The pristine creek flows south out of Bath Co. into Alleghany Co. where it empties into the Jackson River about two miles downstream from Tom Botkins’ property that borders Cedar Creek on both sides.
Botkins, a retired environmental control expert at WestRock, informed Council that he has received a letter from Walters banning him from entering the construction site again after Botkins documented infractions such as excess material outside the silt fence and fill material that had been extracted from behind the crib walls such as creosote soaked crossties finding their way into Cedar Creek.
Botkins pointed out that the letter stated that the construction company had warned him several times to stay away from the construction site, but he was adamant in informing the Board that he had never received any such warnings.
He promised the Board that he would exercise all of the rights that he has as a landowner who owns land that borders the trail on both sides.
He challenged the County’s authority to ban him from the construction site because it would prevent him from having access to his land on the other side of Cedar Creek from his home.
Gregg Brelsford, a retired technical director for WestRock who stated from the podium that he had served in every paper mill that the company owns, said that he has chosen Alleghany County for his retirement home.
He weighed in on the Jackson River Scenic Trail Project 5 that completes the trailhead construction along Cedar Creek in Alleghany Co. and Bath Co. by siding with Wilson that the project needs to be done right the first time so that the County does not have to bear the expense of having the project redone.
Ben Leatherland, senior environmental scientist representing Hurt & Proffitt (H&P), spoke on behalf of the project’s, Summit Contracting. He noted that everything that could be done to protect Cedar Creek and the Jackson River is being done.
He conceded that the construction site presented a multiplicity of challenges in that there were pollutants such as creosote crossties that had been there for decades.
Leatherland said, “They have pulled out all of the creosote ties.”
He noted that coffer dam bags are filled with gravel rather than silt so that no seepage into Cedar Creek will possible when the coffer dam bags are used.
As for the construction company, he concluded, “They are in the top 20 percent of the companies with which we work.”
After a public hearing on amending Chapter 48-Recreation of “The Code of the county of Alleghany, Virginia” in Article II – Jackson River Scenic Trail use to include electronic power-assisted bicycles due to changes in the Code of Virginia,” the Board voted 7-0 to approve the amendment.
Also, following a public hearing to rescind and reenact Article IX – Transient Occupancy Tax in Chapter 58-Taxation of “The Code of the County of Alleghany, Virginia,” due to changes in the Code of Virginia, the Board voted 7-0 to do so.
The Board also approved by a 7-0 vote to approve the opioid settlements with CVS, Walmart, and others.
Appoints were made as follows: Ms. Suzie Broughfman (Jackson River District) to the TAP Board of Directors to replace Ms. Angie Campbell beginning immediately and ending on Dec. 31, 2025 and Mr. Robert McDowell (Jackson River District) to the Industrial Development Authority for another term after his appointment expires on March 25.
Cox encouraged everyone to view Beaverdam Falls’ website which won the Website of the Year Award from the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. She pointed out that it is in her district, and she encouraged everyone to come and visit the area.
Before the chamber was cleared for the closed meeting, Board Chairman Matt Garten confirmed that the Harrisonburg DEQ’s requirements have been met, and the Jackson River Trail Project 5 has a green light to be completed.
Before entering its closed session, the Board members expressed their condolences to Walters in his absence. Earlier in the meeting, the Board voted 7-0 to pass a Resolution of Respect for Mr. Jamie R. McDavid.