By Brandon Martin
Both Jim Adams and Debra Buchanan said they are ready to tackle the laundry list of challenges in their respective roles on the Henry County Board of Supervisors.
Adams, of the Blackberry District, and Buchanan, of the Horsepasture District, were reelected to their respective posts of chairman and vice-chairman at a Jan. 4 reorganizational meeting.
Although Adams has served as chairman for the past five years, he said he does not anticipate 2021 will resemble years past.
“There always seems to be something a little bit different. Regardless of the year, there’s always different things in front of you,” Adams said.
Buchanan, who has served as vice-chairman from 2002 to 2006 and 2017 to the present, said “every day can be different. It never gets repetitious, sometimes just more challenging.”
Adams’ priorities include continued support of the community during the pandemic.
“In general, our goal would be to have a reversal of what we saw in 2020, and return to whatever normal would be,” he said. “We need to continue what we need to do to get ahead of the spread of COVID-19.”
In addition to the overreaching pandemic, the two also will focus on infrastructure and economic development.
“A lot of 2021 will be about doing what it takes to finish up” projects like the new jail, Adams said. “We expect most of that work to be done in 2021 to finish by 2022. Well ahead of it (jail) opening, we will be looking for additional positions for the sheriff’s department.”
The county’s Southern Connector project also is in view, according to Adams, who said he expects a decision on that project, but “funding will not be local. It’s a tremendous project and right now those funding sources have not been identified from the federal level or the state level.”
The county also is working to generate additional local revenue through job creation.
“We have lots, not only in the Patriot Centre, but at Commonwealth Crossing,” Adams said. “Certainly, we’d like to see new clients there. I think the business environment is starting to get strong again. I think in 2021, we will see some new business which means job opportunities and a better lifestyle for folks so they can afford things that are part of their life goals.”
Buchanan echoed those sentiments.
“I’m optimistic about economic development. I see good things happening in 2021, with job creation and retention,” she said. “We want to make sure that we have a skilled and trained workforce. We also need to continue to support our existing small businesses.”
Education is another priority.
“We are continuing to support education in whatever way we can. We have a good working relationship with the county school system,” Adams said. “We’d like to see a strengthening of coverage of broadband in all homes. Broadband is a goal. We are going to have to see some help from the state and federal level to help accomplish that.”
If the City of Martinsville continues to move forward with its plan to revert to a town status, reversion is another issue the county may face in 2021.
“There’s many unknowns regarding reversion. We will thoroughly review and discuss every option,” Buchanan said, adding that the county has “worked hard to keep our taxes low. Even with the downturn in the economy, we didn’t raise taxes. We cut back where we had to, and we tightened our belt because it wasn’t fair to the citizens who were seeing the downturn in their paychecks. We also worked hard to put competitive packages together for economic development.”
Along with the associated financial concerns, Buchanan is concerned about annexation.
“I’ve never felt that annexation is fair,” she said. “It’s not fair to the citizens of Henry County at all. If we can work out an agreement that the citizens of Henry County can work with, then we can move forward. We don’t need to take a step back. We don’t need to be spending so much time on reversion when we’ve got other important things” that must be addressed.
After their reelection, Adams said each board member not only serves “with a glad heart, but they do serve with the utmost integrity. You all come prepared for the meetings. You may not always see everything equal, but you are defending your reasons for that with purpose and with some background. For that, you all are to be applauded for the service that you render.”
“I work with a good group of people,” Buchanan said of her colleagues on the board. “Any one of you could serve as chairman or vice-chairman. As a vice-chairman, I can’t really accomplish any goal without the support of the rest of the board. I think we have one thing in common and that is putting Henry County forward and representing our people. I think we’ve done that, and I think we will continue to do that
Adams has been on the board since 2002. He also held the chairman post in 2008, 2012, and 2013.
Buchanan has served on the board since 1996. In addition to her time as vice-chairman, she also served four years as chairman — in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Both said they remain committed to serving residents.
“I enjoy the opportunity to lead but along with leading, I enjoy the opportunity to listen,” Adams said. “Whether it be someone addressing the board from the public standpoint or other board members. I think the opportunity of being able to at least hear other perspectives is the one thing that I enjoy the most.”
“I enjoy working with people and getting positive results,” Buchanan said. “It’s truly an honor that the people that I serve with feel comfortable with appointing me again.”
Tommy Slaughter, of the Reed Creek District, did not attend the meeting.
In other matters, the board:
Set their regular meeting dates for the year. Meetings will begin at 3 p.m., in the Summerlin Building on January 26, February 23, March 23, April 27, May 25, June 22, July 27, August 24, September 28, October 26, November 23, and December 21.
Adopted the board’s 2021 bylaws.
Set the annual planning session for Feb. 22 at 4 p.m., at the Emergency Services Training Center.
Renewed loan financing to the Henry County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) for the Patriot Centre shell building.
Appropriated $1,502,500 received from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for site improvements at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre (CCBC). The funds will be used to help with the cost of installing natural gas to the site.
Appropriated $1,095,525 from the General Fund balance for capital items, and $939,997 received as the county’s share of the fiscal year 2019 school division’s carryover funds, for the future purchase of an aerial fire apparatus.
Appropriated $24,441 in grant funds from the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services, and $15,000 from the Harvest Foundation, to purchase medical and training equipment.