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Thursday, November 30,  2006




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VDOT Staffed Maintenance Facilities

VDOT Plan to Close Facilities Draws Criticism

by Cathy St. Clair
News Editor 
  Residents and legislators attending Monday’s Virginia Department of Transportation meeting to discuss VDOT-planned closures of maintenance facilities statewide questioned where the savings will come from in the plan and asked the commissioner and Commonwealth Transportation Board to reconsider its implementation.
  VDOT recently announced it would be closing area headquarters at 91 locations statewide. One of those closures planned is in Buchanan County at Big Rock. Under the VDOT plan, 12 employees there will be shifted to Oakwood or Deskins and that section of the county will be worked from those facilities. The Big Rock facility will still be kept by the department for salt storage.
  At the hearing held Monday night at Southwest Virginia Community College, far Southwest Virginia residents spoke highly of VDOT employees and the work they do to keep the road system maintained and open during periods of inclement weather.
  Sen. Phillip Puckett said he had questions about what VDOT has referred to as it business plan or business model and added VDOT’s plan sounded more like a corporation looking to downsize. According to the maps and data provided, he said it appeared Southwest Virginia was bearing a disproportionate share of the downsizing effort.
  “Almost 30 percent of what is happening is west of the New River,” Puckett said.
  He suggested the action planned was in an area of the state which because of its terrain is the most difficult to serve.
  Earlier in the day, Commissioner David S. Ekern and Bristol District representatives visited Buchanan County to give Ekern an opportunity to see firsthand what Buchanan County roads are like and the kind of distance between the Big Rock and Oakwood facilities.
  The majority of speakers in attendance Monday were there to speak out against the planned closures of the Big Rock maintenance facility in Buchanan County; the High Point facility in Russell County; and the Tazewell facility in Tazewell County. Additional closures projected in Southwest Virginia include those at Broadford and Sugar Grove in Smyth County; Jonesville and a salt storage facility in Lee County; Glade Spring and the Rt. 712 storage lot in Washington County; Nickelsville and Fort Blackmore’s old facility in Scott County; Rocky Gap and the Crandon storage lot in Bland County; Coeburn in Wise County; Baywood, Elk Creek, the Rt. 58 storage lot and the Volney storage lot in Grayson County; and the Phillips Storage facility on Rt. 11, the Rt. 717 storage and the Fort Chiswell facility in Wythe County. Dickenson County, which only has one office at Fremont to serve that entire county, is not targeted for consolidation.
  Closing Big Rock, High Point and Tazewell facilities, speakers suggested would leave long sections of roadway unattended at some the critical times in the snow removal process and further, they said it would seriously impact response times for other maintenance issues that come up from time to time.
  Del. Bud Phillips, who also asked VDOT to reconsider the plan, stated plainly that if VDOT moves forward with it, he will be one of the legislators to co-sponsor legislation blocking the department from ever implementing the plan.

For more of the story, see the print edition of the Mountaineer, on sale at newsstands now.  To subscribe to the Mountaineer, call 276-935-2123 today.

WV Hardware Store Eyes Whitewood School Location

by Cathy St. Clair
News Editor
  An agreement with a West Virginia company to locate a wholesale and retail hardware, furniture and appliance store in Whitewood, bringing with it some 25 full-time jobs, was approved last Tuesday by the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority.
  According to Buchanan County IDA Director Craig Horn, Sanamco Inc. is considering locating its store on a 2.33 acre section of the old Whitewood High School property.
  With it will come a more than $250,000 capital investment by the company.
  Under the terms of the agreement now being worked out, the company will pay the county the appraised value of $20,000 for the surface property and will agree to employ 25 full-time employees within 24 months of the start of the business at Whitewood.
  In the event the company does not start construction or initiate its project within 24 months of signing the contract with the county, the county IDA has the right of first refusal to re-purchase the property based on the appraisal amount.
  The property is located where the former Head Start building was located at Whitewood and in the vicinity of the old school tennis courts.
  Horn noted the project will not impact another project underway by Buchanan Youth Outreach Inc. which is attempting to secure funding to renovate the old Whitewood School to be used for an assisted living and daycare program, among other uses.
  Horn noted Sanamco is owned by Doug Smallwood.
  Smallwood operates another store like the one being proposed for Whitewood in Bradshaw, WV.
  Horn noted that if all goes as planned, the store could be open as early as spring.
  While the contract between Sanamco and the county IDA has not yet been formally signed, the offer has been made and Horn said expectations are the deal will be finalized sometime in December.
  Smallwood has reportedly visited the property several times in the past and Horn noted the county IDA is doing some flagging on the property now to mark it off to give Smallwood an indication of the lines on the survey. A portion of the property is located in the floodway, however, Horn said Smallwood is aware of that and is looking at ways to utilize the property taking that fact into consideration.
  The IDA board action to approve the property sale and the terms of the deal was unanimous.

For more of the story, see the print edition of the Mountaineer, on sale at newsstands now.  To subscribe to the Mountaineer, call 276-935-2123 today.

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