The Lee County Hospital Authority Commissioners met with Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine, and Congressman Morgan Griffith, along with members of various federal and state agencies yesterday in Washington D.C. The Commissioners hoped to update our leaders in Washington on the status of the re-opening of the Lee County Hospital and to speed up progress. The updates were well received and support for the re-opening of the hospital was strong. More details will follow as they become available.
The Jonesville Town Council met in a recessed meeting Monday June 22 to vote on a budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. A unanimous vote approved the budget amounting to $1,666,206 for the general fund for 2015 and $1,777,682 for 2016, including a 2.5% raise for all employees and no tax increase.
The council voted to approve the rezoning of property on Main and Milbourne Streets with a 3 to 2 vote.
Mayor Jim Ewing reported on a new policy regarding prayer at council meetings, which opens the prayer opportunity to speakers of all religious backgrounds and follows a policy of non-discrimination.
The council will meet again Monday, July 6 at 7 p.m.
After securing a search warrant on Thursday afternoon, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office discovered a meth lab in the Dot area of Lee County.
According to a press release, Sheriff Gary Parsons reported that Lt. A.J. McQueen secured a search warrant for a residence at 306 Clarence Laws Drive in Pennington Gap. Around 1:30 Sheriff’s officers, assisted by the Virginia State Police Tact Team entered the house and found one active cook in progress, four inactive, and a large amount of chemicals used to cook methamphetamine. Parsons said the residence was occupied by 47 year old Jerry Lynn Laws, 59 year Michael Gene Laws, and 47 year old Joseph Feck. Charges against all three will be sought at a future sitting of the Lee County Grand Jury.
A $50 thousand grant has allowed Mountain Empire Community College to offer a new course this summer on unmanned aerial systems, also known as drones. MECC is the only community college in the state currently offering such a class. Students of all ages will learn how to build and fly drones, an up and coming industry due to the versatility of unmanned aerial technology. Instructor Fred Coeburn will be teaching students to design, build, maintain, and fly their own drones. This technology can be utilized for everything from emergency or medical supply transportation to remote areas, to farm maintenance.
The class is being offered on Tuesday nights until August and will be offered again in the Fall.
The college hopes to expand the class into a full program.
Wise County Circuit Court Clerk Jack Kennedy wrote a grant proposal to secure a match dollar grant totaling $100,000 to start up the drone industry in Wise County.
On July 15th, international and national law experts will gather in Wise County for a drone and space law conference.
On July 17th, Wise County will partner with NASA and the Remote Area Medical clinic to deliver medication by drone transport during the annual clinic. A NASA plane will land at the Lonesome Pine Runway carrying hundreds of pounds of medication that the drones will then deliver in ten pound packages to doctors and nurses at the clinic.
According to an interview with Kennedy, this will be the first humanitarian delivery of medications by a drone in the U.S.
On Wednesday, June 24 at 4 p.m., the Lee County Hospital Authority will hold a special meeting in Washington DC at the Offices of Senator Mark R. Warner to update Senator Warner, Senator Tim Kaine, and Congressman Morgan Griffith, as well as a number of federal and state agencies, on the efforts of the Authority to re-open a hospital in Lee County.
Dryden Crusaders and Friends are raising money for the students at Dryden Elementary School with multiple events this Saturday June 27. The Cruise-In and Car Show will begin registration at 11 a.m. at Cumberland Auto. The entry fee is $10. Those interested can contact Tiger Coleman at 276-546-6511 or Jerry Parsons at 276-546-1040.
The Lee Theater will host the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys from Sevierville, TN along with Town Branch Bluegrass and The Britton Family at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 per person. Again all proceeds will benefit the students of Dryden Elementary School.
As a reminder, Lee County Public Schools will offer breakfast from 8-9 AM and Lunch from 11-1PM at no cost to those 18 years old or younger. Meals will be served at Dryden Elementary School, Elydale Elementary School and Thomas Walker High School. Lunch only will be served at St Charles Elementary from 11-1 PM. Adults may eat for a small charge. The Summer Food Service Program will continue until August 14th.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors met last Tuesday June 16, for a public hearing about the 2015-2016 county budget, set at $63,017,198. A final budget must be adopted by June 30. The only public comment came from Donna Stanley of Behavioral Health Services regarding justification of their budget request. County Treasurer Rita McCann reported the total county assets and liabilities at $14,815,740 with $10,047,929 in the general fund as of May 31.
Animal Control Officer David Middleton submitted a letter of resignation, effective June 19. The position will be temporarily filled by Deputy Animal Control Officer Alan Fortner. The board passed a motion to officially promote Fortner to this position and advertise for the position of Deputy Animal Control Officer.
Pennington Gap Rescue Squad Captain Freeman Vandergriff presented reports of answered distress calls in the St. Charles area between 2012 and 2013. He asked the board to allocate the St. Charles squad’s share of the money to the Pennington Gap squad and discussed the possibility of using their equipment. The board will consider this situation.
Daniel Boone Soil and Water Conservation District Chairman Jerry Ingle requested $46,400 to counterbalance the increase in operations and for the addition of a full-time certified conservation planner, moved from part-time.
Appropriations approved by the board included $66,006 to the Lee County Hospital Authority, $4,980 to the Sheriff’s Department, $1,559 toward local tourism through a grant which was matched by the Town of Pennington Gap for an extra $1,250, and more than $2,000 for miscellaneous expenses. The total appropriations came to $256,435. The board will meet again in recess this Wednesday, June 24 at 1 p.m. for a budget workshop.
To wrap up the 2015 Mountains of Music Homecoming Event, Natural Tunnel StatePark will be offering a 5.5 mile Cherokee Run Canoe Trip on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m., $15 per person and no one under 5 allowed. At 2 p.m., visitors can hike the strenuous Stock Creek Passage for $5 a person, or visit the Anderson Block House from 2-4 p.m. for free. A free Night Hike will wrap up the day at 8 p.m.
Continuing with the Lee County Hospital Authority meeting last Wednesday:
Commissioner Tom Clarke said the Hospital Authority hopes to raise $25 million with the assistance of the commissioners and community members who can approach those who might contribute. Commissioner Diana Pope confirmed that upon request by the Authority’s Vice-Chairman Ronnie Montgomery, the Board of Supervisors has agreed to donate back the $66,000 paid by the hospital authority in delinquent taxes. This money will assist with start-up funds.
Clarke stated that in order to open a Comprehensive Urgent Care Facility on September 1, Commissioner Malcolm Perdue has assisted in drawing up a list of possible Lee County Physician collaborators. The commissioners will be applying for Special Projects Grant Funding, with Clarke suggesting a request of no less than $5 million dollars from the Tobacco Commission. He also stated that he had spoken to First District Delegate Terry Kilgore about these possibilities and that the Authority may apply for a $1 million grant from the Special Projects Grant Program. The commissioners adjourned until Wednesday, July 8 at 3 p.m. at the Community Center in Pennington Gap.
The Lee County Hospital Authority has made advancements toward the reopening of the Lee County Hospital, as they outlined in their meeting last Wednesday. Hospital Authority attorney Jeff Mitchell told Commissioners that People Inc. has offered a $250,000 loan program to assist with the hospital purchase and a possible $700,000 loan for use after the purchase. The company will want to know plans for use of use funds.
Mitchell also noted that he has been working with Senator Mark Warner’s staff to set up a meeting with federal and state regulatory agencies to aid in the reopening of the hospital and the completion of necessary licensure a d registration.
Commissioner Tom Clarke reported that $250,000 will be needed to open a critical care unit.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Department received 6,652 calls during the month of May. Two hundred and four calls were received for the rescue squad and 23 by the Volunteer Fire Departments. Two hundred and ninety-five calls were dispatched to the Fire Warden, the Jonesville and Pennington Gap police departments, Conservation Officer, VDOT, Juvenile Services, the Department of Social Services, Animal Control and the state police.