By most accounts, 2018 has been a tough year for members of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, but many are looking ahead to what they hope may be a brighter year.
Rickie Fulcher, who is set to take over the helm as chairman in January, said the county must first identify “who it is and who it wants to be and what direction do we want our county to go.”
He said that priorities must be identified and set in economic development, tourism and other entities.
Once that process is complete, “we can get the EDA, tourism,” the Town of Stuart and others on the same page and working together toward common goals, Fulcher, of the Peters Creek District, said. “It’s going to take everybody working together to accomplish” goals.
For example, “do we need a full-blown hospital? No, but we need something,” Fulcher said, adding that when that ‘something’ is identified, the county can move forward in making it a reality.
The hospital is one among many issues, he said, adding that overall, “it is going to be an interesting year.”
Jane Scales Fulk, who will serve as vice chairman in 2019, said she is hopeful broadband service will saturate the county, providing a much needed service to residents as well as business owners and potential businesses.
She also said she would like to see more infrastructure in the county, with new businesses locating here.
“We’ll just have to work towards that. We need more of an economic boost,” said Fulk, of the Dan River District.
Lock Boyce, outgoing chairman, said the answers to the county’s problems are the same ones he detailed at the start of 2018.
“I told them what to do last January and they didn’t do it. There is no reason for this county to be in the financial shape that it’s in,” Boyce, of the Mayo River District, said.
He added the county must take its “fair share of the Transient Occupancy Tax. That would help a lot. They’re just wasting the money” from the tax, he said.
“The other thing we need to get … is public safety in shape,” Boyce said. “There’s no excuse for us paying what we’re paying for that paid ambulance service.”
Boyce added that he advocates eliminating the emergency services coordinator position, and retooling “the entire emergency services situation.”
He said the county also needs to restructure its debt, as was recommended at the Dec. 17 board meeting. “That would save us a considerable amount of money.”
An expansion of Medicaid is hoped to alleviate some of the county’s costs for inmate care, Boyce said, adding that he will not support a tax increase until “we do these things.”
Other board members “are just chomping at the bit” to increase taxes, he said. “That is all I’ve heard from them. They illegally kicked me off of the board several years ago. The minute they got me off the board, they raised taxes. Practically at the next meeting, they raised taxes and there’s no reason for it except to build up money that you can waste,” Boyce said.
Then, Boyce had moved outside of the Peters Creek District, which he was elected to represent. But, he said the law allows for supervisors to represent a district in which they live 151 days. He said he planned to meet that requirement.
Now, he said he is unwanted on the board because he stands in the way of people dong as they did in “the bad old days, went on exorbitant trips, big banquets. And I will shame them into not doing that, and I will continue to go after them about getting some fiscal responsibility,” Boyce said.
Crystal Harris, of the Smith River District, said going forward, supervisors must resolve several issues and “bring respect back to this county, but it is going to take more than one person. It’s going to take the majority of the board” acting in unison, she said.
“We need to resolve our budget. We need to tighten the departments that are not staying within their budgets and” hold top county officials and department heads accountable, not only in terms of staying within their budget, but also ensuring procurement policies are implemented, Harris said.
“That is not being done in some departments,” she added.
Her vision includes maintaining the county’s current residents and businesses while enticing others to locate here.
“We have to work together as a group instead of” a county official and an individual supervisor “going off on their own secret agenda. We need to work together. We’ve lost too many good people and too much business,” Harris said.
“Who wants to come into all the turmoil that’s going on now,” she asked. “We need to attract and keep our young people here and give people something to look forward to, something to bring them back,” she said.
“The word ‘team’ does not have the letter ‘I’ in it, and we don’t need egos in it either. We are here to serve the people, and we need to respect people when they come to board meetings,” Harris said.
“We should not get our heckles up when we are held accountable. We ran (for office) to take the heat and the majority of us try to do what we think is right based on the information we are given,” she added.
Karl Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District, did not immediately return a call for comment.