Counties in Regions 12 & 13 gathered at the Washington County Government Center on September 12 for a robust discussion of issues of importance to local governments. Washington County Chairman Saul Hernandez and VACo President Tim Reeves welcomed attendees, who represented nearly all of the counties in Regions 12 & 13.
Tazewell County Administrator Eric Young made a presentation about the County’s approach to tourism as a component of economic development in a 21st century economy, in which industries are more mobile, and employers are interested in locating in communities with features that assist them in recruiting and retaining workers. Mr. Young encouraged attendees to think of tourism not solely as an end in itself, but as a way to support community amenities, such as restaurants and outdoor recreation opportunities, that help to make a locality a desirable place to live; these amenities can assist existing businesses with retaining their staff (particularly younger workers), and help to recruit new businesses. Tazewell County has worked to use the area’s geography to its advantage by promoting its outdoor recreation opportunities, such as ATV and hiking trails.
The afternoon concluded with a roundtable discussion of issues of importance to attendees, which ranged from concerns about costs associated with the Children’s Services Act to issues surrounding stormwater management. The need for counties to have additional options to raise revenue was a consistent theme in the conversation. The funding challenge posed by declining enrollment in local school divisions, which remain responsible for significant fixed costs, including capital needs, while losing the state revenue that is allocated on a per-pupil basis, was another topic of extensive discussion. Other issues under discussion included the stresses posed by jail costs; infrastructure needs, such as sewer projects; and the need to encourage alternatives to law enforcement as the providers of transportation for individuals who are subject to Emergency Custody or Temporary Detention Orders.
VACo extends its appreciation to all the members and sponsors who attended and is especially grateful to Washington County for hosting the event.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle