Lee County Board of Supervisors Meeting 01

In part one of our coverage of the recent Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board voted on and approved an amendment to their fiscal year budget for 2020-2021 in the amount of more than five million dollars, so they could benefit by using funding from the federal CARES Act. This is separate to their acquired funding from the Broadband Expansion grant. At their public hearing the Board voted on and approved the CARES Act funding in the amount of $3,655,309 and another $1,615,241 for the Broadband Expansion endeavor from the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The Board of Supervisors also granted approval to a request from the Southwest 4H Center located in Abingdon for some CARES Act funding to help with the financial impact they’ve been experiencing as a result of having all of their Summer Camp programs cancelled because of the COVID19 Pandemic Guidelines. Orginally the Board had promised just over ten thousand dollars to help this past July, but they generously increased the amount to cover the orginally requested amount from the 4H Center Director in the amount of $21,000.
The Board of Supervisors went on to award fund requests from the funds provided by the CARES Act. Of those awarded, one granted request was in the amount of $6,500 for the installation of glass partitions which include sliding windows at the patient intake area of the Lee County Health Department, as well portable plexiglass shields to be used on the courtroom bench for Juvenile and Domestic Relations and General District courts.
Additional information on CARES Act funding that the Board of Supervisors has spent or to what they have allocated it for lists the Broadband Expansion at just $1.4 million and the acquisition of six new ambulances topped the list of expenses, leaving less than $200,000 remaining to be spent.

Lee County Public Schools Remote Learning Update

Beginning today, Tuesday, December 1, Lee County Public Schools will be operating remote with limited exceptions through the end of the first semester. We will continue remote per the approved calendar for the first full week of January and return to in-person instruction on January 11, 2021.
 They have decided to go remote today and Wednesday due to forecasted inclement weather. We are already scheduled for remote learning every Friday, so the call for Thursday of this week allows for a measure of instructional consistency.
Thank you for your continued patience and effort as we work to continue to serve our students, their families, and our community.
Brian T. Austin, Ph.D
Division Superintendent
Lee County Public Schools

Lee County School Board Meeting December 10, 2020

The next meeting of the Lee County School Board is scheduled for Thursday evening, December 10th, 2020 at 6pm, at the School Board Office located in Ben Hur, Virginia.

Pennington Gap Town Council Pt 2

At the most recent meeting of the Pennington Gap Town Council, during their Reports to the Council portion of the meeting, Pennington Gap Town Manager Keith Harless revealed that no less than seven firms had submitted bids for engineering projects for the Town with Harless proposing a committee to be in charge of reviewing the proposals. He added that along with himself, council members McElyea, Pope, Skidmore and Wanter with take part in a Zoom meeting to judge the interested firms and reveal their findings at the December 21st, 2020 Pennington Gap Town Council meeting.
Harless then offered up comments on the continuing personnel policy updates with Treasurer Rowe, suggesting an extra review by the personnel committee before their December meeting. On a side note, it should be noted that Harless was recently awarded the 2020 Cumberland Gap Regional Tourism award, which was presented live on the Monday Morning Show that airs weekly on WSWV FM 105.5 at 7am. The award was given in recognition of his efforts to bring tourists to the Lee County region and to the town of Pennington Gap.
The creation of another committee was established, this one for the Farmer’s Market with members Harless, Martin and Stidham to serve. It was noted that Stidham had already been dealing with both the Trade Day and Farmers Market duties.
The council entered into their Closed Session portion for the rest of the meeting to discuss issues such as options for their annual Christmas dinner which is held for town employees each year.

Pennington Gap Town Council Approves Solid Waste Ordinances

At their latest meeting, the Pennington Gap Town Council voted on and approved some related changes to the ordinances concerning the containment of and removal of solid waste. These new changes will apply to household, commercial and institutional customers.
These changes require household to utilize containers supplied by the town for their solid waste. There is a provision included that if for some reason it isn’t possible to provide a container then 1.5 millimeter trash bags, no larger than thirty gallon size could be used or other trash cans.
Both of these new ordinances require that businesses and households which are determined to have excessive waste will also be required to pay for an additional trash dumpster. According to Town Manager Brian Skidmore, several trash dumpsters have already been placed in several locations as part of their trial run. Adding that the changes were made to help reduce the possibility of contamination and the spread of disease to town employees, with the added benefit of cleaner sites for area residents.
Matthew Johnson offered insight into the new ordinance which is affecting the residents of his mobile home park. Adding that his residents already pay for trash pickup services to the town and receive curbside pickup close to their dwellings, which for those with physical restrictions is necessary and preferred to carrying it to a central communal location. Johnson went on to mention that the recent placement of a trash dumpster during the trial run has already resulted in an accident with an individual having backed their vehicle into it.
Skidmore offered the information that some dumpsters could be relocated if necessary. He went on to state that anyone with a physical need could contact the Pennington Gap Town Hall and arrange for their trash to be collected.
Town of Pennington Gap Mayor and Vice Mayor were both on hand to offer comments that suggest working with everyone to ensure the satisfaction of both safety for town employees and convenience to area residents.

Virginia Department of Health Holiday Guidelines

When making decisions about going to public spaces or attending social events, it’s important to think about the risk of spreading COVID-19. Factors to consider include your own ability to wear a mask, your risk for developing severe COVID-19, and whether you live with someone at higher risk for developing severe illness. Additionally, factors about the risk of spreading COVID-19 at the particular social events should also be considered:
Level of COVID-19 spread in the community
The number of people at the gathering
Location: Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings.
Duration: Spending less time with people outside your household is safer.
Behavior of people attending the gathering: If other guests have not been following social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, and mask recommendations before the event, there is a greater risk.
Provide masks for guests or ask them to bring their own.
Provide hand sanitizer.
Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so guests do not share a towel.
Make sure everyone uses their own cup and dishes and uses utensils to grab shared foods like chips.
Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.

Low Income Assistance

You could be eligible for programs that can help you afford basic needs. Aging can be challenging, but paying your bills shouldn’t be. Find Help. On average there are four programs that help with income assistance benefits, three food and nutrition benefit programs, twelve housing and utilities benefits programs and nine other assistance programs for an individual who earns less than a thousand dollars a month.
Some of the potential benefits you could be missing out on are Social Security, Old Age, Survivors, Disability. Supplemental Security Income, Federal Retirement System, Railroad retirement and others. You may also qualify for SNAP, a program that helps you to buy necessary food for good health, Emergency Food Assistance program which provides assistance thru local food pantries or soup kitchens, Feeding American network has meals and deliveries available to anyone who needs is without obligation and is free and confidential.
These are just a few options available to people that may need a little assistance to make ends meet. Find out more by contacting your local Department of Social Services Office.

APPCAA Inc. of Lee County Virginia

Appalachian Community Action & Development Agency, Inc., (AppCAA) formerly known as RADA, has effectively served the needs of low- to moderate- income individuals in southwest Virginia since 1965. AppCAA serves Lee, Scott and Wise Counties as well as the City of Norton. The work performed by AppCAA is guided by its primary purpose to eliminate poverty and make its clients more self-sufficient. This is accomplished by the development of resources and services to low-income individuals and households in its jurisdictions.
Located at 119 Hill Street in Jonesville, VA 24263.
Contact Phone: 276-346-0054
Fax: 276-346-3391
Website: http://www.appcaa.org/
Services Available: Emergency Assistance (rent or mortgage); Homeless Intervention Program (HIP); Housing Services

Wise County Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Uzma Ehtesham age 52 of Wise county, has pled guilty last week in an Abingdon US District Court to Health Care Fraud in the neighborhood of half a million dollars. While she has waived her right to be indicted, she is being accused of illegally charging Virginia Medicaid and Medicare approximately $500,000 between 2010 and 2016. As of right now, she is supposed to pay restitution in the amount of $1 million and faces a possible twenty years in prison when she returns to court for sentencing on January 28th, 2021.
According to court documents, Ehtesham had billed for individual office visits, although she held them with multiple persons. She also billed extensive costly visits that in reality lasted mere moments. Documents show that she was seeing more than 50 patients a day.

Ballad Health Hiring

Recently Ballad Health announced they were looking to fill 350 nursing and bedside care positions within their medical system, and in an attempt to do so have even increased the pay. At the time of this recording, approximately 300 Ballad Health team members are in isolation leaving a lot of openings that need filling.
According to Chief Physician Executive Director, Clay Runnels, Ballad Health has taken even more steps to bring in new staff team mates. Currently, approximately 20% of Ballad Health’s hospitalizations are related to COVID19.
Ballad Health is considering the possibility of adding tents to their parking lots to temporarily increase their Emergency Room waiting areas. These tents would be in place to create additional space for the overwhelmed Emergency Departments.