Regions 12 and 13 Discuss Economic Development, School Funding, and More in Russell County
County representatives from VACo’s Regions 12 and 13 gathered in Russell County on August 23 to discuss legislative and funding priorities and to share successes and challenges. Russell County Chairperson Lou Wallace extended a warm welcome to attendees, among whom were county representatives, members of VACo’s Board of Directors, representatives of Planning District Commissions, and business partners. VACo was honored to be joined by Delegate Morefield and Delegate Wampler, as well as staff from the offices of Senator Pillion, Senator Hackworth, and House Majority Leader Kilgore.
During a roundtable discussion, attendees shared top issues in their respective counties. Several common themes emerged, including the importance of revenue diversification and preservation of existing local authority to raise necessary revenues; economic development (encompassing both the importance of recruiting industry as well as nurturing existing industries, such as enhancing local meat-processing capabilities to support agriculture); the vital importance of technological connectivity (both through building out broadband connectivity and improving cellular service); the need for effective substance use treatment and recovery programs; and the need for transportation improvements (such as paving of Rural Rustic Roads and construction of the Coalfields Expressway).
VACo staff provided updates on issues that were discussed at steering committee meetings the previous week. Steering committees met in Roanoke as part of the County Officials’ Summit and addressed topics ranging from the grocery tax and jail funding to school capital investments, cybersecurity, and foster care.
Delegate Morefield provided an update on discussions at the General Assembly, noting that there are opportunities in the upcoming legislative session to coalesce around, and advocate for, projects of regional significance. He also discussed local efforts to develop placements for children in foster care who have high-acuity needs, and expressed an interest in using some of the state’s opioid settlement funding to help children affected by the crisis, in addition to providing treatment for individuals struggling with substance use disorder. Delegate Wampler provided some updates on investments in the biennium budget that provide particular assistance to rural areas, including agricultural best management practices and state Standards of Quality funding, funding for the regional planning district commissions to pursue federal grant opportunities, investments in business-ready sites, funding for parks as a means of encouraging tourism, and support for addiction and recovery and mental health programs.
VACo is grateful to the county representatives, legislators, and business partners who participated in the meeting, and extends its special appreciation to Russell County for hosting the discussion.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle