Brunswick Times Gazette; June 12, 2019- Harris introduced Senator Louis Lucas and Delegate Roslyn Tyler and welcomed all those in attendance. She said the purpose of State Talk was to bring citizens an update on things happening at the local and state level.
Harris said that the Board of Supervisors has been working hard to make Brunswick County a better place for all citizens and those who visit the county.
“I am so glad you all could come to hear what is going on in the county and on the state level,” said Harris. “There is a lot of connection between what goes on locally and at the state.”
She gave an update on what the board of supervisors has been working on over the last year.
“The board of supervisors has retreats and meetings and has established a vision for the county. We have to not only look at now but what’s to come,” said Harris. “In that vision we have economic growth and development, revitalizing neighborhoods, recreation and tourism, health and environment and culture. If you do not plan, you plan to fail.”
Harris said the Brunswick County Conference Center is owned by the county and that it is available for citizens to rent. A kitchen is being installed in the center so that when food is being served it can be done easily and more efficiently.
“The board of supervisors works collaboratively to make things happen in the county,” said Harris. “Tonight, I want to tell you about some of the things that we have been working on.”
She said the board is excited that the James Solomon Russell-Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives will be moving into the conference center later in the summer. A planned grand opening is set for August 10.
“Saint Paul’s College was a major part of Brunswick County. The county partnered with the new museum when it began moving the historical artifacts, documents and archives from the campus,” said Harris. “We realized the need to keep this in the county and have been working with the group as they have been developing the museum.”
Harris also told the group that there is a bowling alley in the conference center and the county is exploring whether it will be feasible to try and open that up for use by citizens.
Harris talked about the importance of business and economic development in the county.
She told the group that a ribbon cutting was held on February 14, 2019, for Calhoun Mulch located off of U.S. Route 1, Boydton Plank Road. Calhoun Mulch expanded their existing business by constructing a new office building on a portion of property that was obtained from Brunswick County.
KASS Foods, USA, focuses on manufacturing healthy snack products in various segments including organic, children, adult, as well as sweet and savory snacks.
The Tobacco Commission awarded a $447,000 Southside Economic Development grant to assist with the renovation of the former Southern States building located on the Virginia Tobacco Heritage Trail in historic downtown Lawrenceville. With assistance from the Southside Planning District Commission, the Town of Lawrenceville was able to secure a Community Development Block Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for additional building renovations needed for the project. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held in June and everyone is invited.
Brunswick County has purchased three properties in the County along Highway 58, Governor Harrison Parkway. The purchase of these properties positions the county to be ready for an industry that would want to locate here.
Harris also spoke about the board of supervisor’s support of the school system. The board increased the school budget in FY19 to hire 3 additional school resource officers so that each elementary school has an officer.
The Board of Supervisors approved funding in the amount of $30,000 conduct a feasibility study of school facilities and added over $1.2 million dollars in funding to the Brunswick County Public School FY20 budget to give step increases and a 3% raises for teachers and staff.
Harris said that public safety is also a top priority for the board. She said a new Emergency Communications System went live on April 9, 2109 and a ribbon cutting was held on the same day. The County invested over $2 million in the new system.
In 2017 staff applied for and received a grant from the Greensville Memorial Foundation to help purchase a new ambulance that was received in 2018. In 2019 staff applied for and received another grant to help purchase another ambulance for Brunswick Emergency Medical Services.
Harris also talked about the new Brunswick Byways Visitor Center, which opened in June 2018. She said the center was recently certified by the Virginia Tourism Corporation as a certified visitor center and Signs are now being erected on I-85, Highway 58 and Christanna Highway directing visitors to the center. The County’s new LOVEwork sign was also revealed at the visitor center on April 11, 2019.
Other topics Harris discussed were the St. Paul’s College committee which has been established to explore options relative to the potential use for the property and counties involvement in improving broadband.
Senator Louis Lucas said she was pleased to have been invited to participate in the program.
“It has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of Brunswick County and work on legislation that impacts the county in a positive way,” said Lucas. “I am always ready to help in any way possible.”
Lucas said during the 2019 legislative session the General Assembly had to consider over 3,128 bills.
“Out of those bills that were introduced, 1,898 were actually passed,” said Lucas. “Some of the bills that passed were ultimately vetoed by the Governor.”
Lucas serves on the Senate Education and Health, Courts of Justice, Finance and Commerce and Labor committees. Lucas said that she and Delegate Tyler work closely together to better serve the citizens in their districts.
“Delegate Tyler and myself have two of the largest districts in the Commonwealth and most of the localities that she represents, I represent,” said Lucas. “So, when legislation comes up that affects counties in our districts, we confer with each other before we vote in the senate and house so that we both are on the same page in terms how that legislation will impact our districts.”
Lucas talked about the parental leave bill for state employees that passed the general assembly this year. She also talked about casino bill that she co-sponsored during this year’s General Assembly session.
“I love casinos,” said Lucas. “I worked for over twenty years to get my casino bill passed.”
Senate Bill 1126 regulates casino gaming in Virginia and also authorizes a Joint Legislative review to study gaming laws in other states and report those findings to both the Senate and House General Laws committees before the next General Assembly session. Once all the regulatory items have been worked out the legislature will vote on gaming again and then there will be a referendum in Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Richmond and Bristol. The bill also authorizes gaming in Virginia to be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board.
Lucas said she is proud that because of legislation passed this year over 627,000 drivers in Virginia who have had their drivers license suspended because of not paying all of their court cost and fines will be able to get their license restored.
“If you have no license to drive, you aren’t able to get to work to pay your fines,” said Lucas. “Starting July 1, those individuals can get their drivers license back.”
Lucas said the General Assembly provided a three percent pay increase for teachers across the state, provided the locality matched that three percent.
“A lot of counties are saying that they aren’t able to match the three percent increase,” said Lucas. “If the locality doesn’t match it, they don’t get it. I want to applaud Brunswick County for providing the increase, which means they county will get the state increase as well.”
Lucas also talked about the school facility study being conducted and the increase in the budget for broadband across the state.
Delegate Roslyn Tyler said it was a pleasure to be with everyone to give an update on what is going on at the General Assembly. “Thank you for allowing me to represent to the 75th District. It is truly an honor.” said Tyler. “Neither one of us would be here to represent you without your support and your vote.”
“I have represented this district for 14 years and it’s my primary focus to try to help people in need. I think we are the voice for the voiceless and I take my job very seriously,” said Tyler.
She is the top-ranking Democrat member of the House Education committee, a member of the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee and was recently appointed to the House Appropriations committee by the speaker of the house. She also serves on the Joint Commission on Health, Center for Rural Virginia and the Martin Luther King Commission.
Tyler said she is focused on healthcare, education, jobs, broadband and hunter’s rights.
“We need more jobs in the area so that our young people will stay here instead of moving away. I also believe that we need to do more to retain our teachers and our corrections officers,” said Tyler.
Tyler explained that her district has probably more employed correctional officers than anywhere in the state. Sussex I, Sussex II, Greensville and Lawrenceville Correctional Centers are located in her district. She said these correctional officers work and in sometimes dangerous situations, so she worked to increase these officers starting salaries, during the last session.
Tyler said she supports affordable health care for citizens. She told the group that she worked to get the Medicaid expansion passed this year.
“I’m a healthcare provider and have been a physical therapist for 28 years,” said Tyler. “Before we passed Medicaid expansion during the last session there were over 400,000 Virginians without health care. Now, 3586 people have received health care in the 75th district as a result of Medicaid expansion.”
Tyler said she supports hunter’s rights and works with loggers to help resolve issues affecting them and to help get legislation passed that helps their industry.