By Taylor Boyd
Crystal Harris and Dr. Clyde DeLoach are taking their turns as chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, on the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.
The board held its reorganizational meeting on Jan. 11.
Harris, of the Smith River District, also was appointed to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and the STEP Board (Support to Eliminate Poverty). She also will serve as the liaison with the Patrick County School Board Liaison and the town/county liaison and on the Local Elected Officials (LEO) Committee. Harris will serve on the county’s Personnel Committee as needed.
DeLoach, of the Blue Ridge District, is serving his first term on the board. He was appointed to the Patrick County Department of Social Services Board and the Virginia Association of Counties (VACO) committee. He will serve on the Personnel Committee and as school board and town/county as needed.
Information about the length of Harris’s tenure on the board was requested multiple times from county staff. However, it had not been provided by press time.
Denise Stirewalt, of the Peters Creek District, will serve on the Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) and the West Piedmont Planning District Committee (WPPDC).
Clayton Kendrick, of the Mayo River District, was appointed to the Broadband Committee, the Economic Development Authority (EDA), the WPPDC, and the WPPDC Executive Committee. He will also serve on the Public Service Authority (PSA) as needed.
Jane Fulk, of the Dan River District, will serve on the Recreation Committee, Planning Commission, Emergency-911 Committee, and the Solid Waste Committee, as needed.
The entire board will serve on the Building Committee, as needed.
County Administrator Geri Hazelwood; Donna Shough, director of Human Resources; Treasurer Sandra Stone; the county’s new finance officer, along with DeLoach, and Kendrick will serve on the Budget Committee as needed.
Fulk, DeLoach, Hazelwood, and Shough will serve on the Insurance Committee as needed.
In other matters, the board:
Heard comments about the closing of Goose Point Park.
County Administrator Geri Hazelwood said the board received comments about the closing.
Linda White wrote that “we are the family who fought so hard a few years ago when the engineers were going to stop day use at Goose Point Park, and we got five day-use passes for camping. I am not just fighting as a property owner on Goose Point Road, but I am fighting for Patrick County’s and other counties rights to use the park.
“Last year they closed the park for a few months because of COVID, and they are trying to do it again. In the past years they just shut off the bathrooms and put a porta potty down there and closed off the campground and left it open access to the lake for boating. This is all that is needed now,” White wrote.
“I have spoken to Chris Powell and he said they did not want to pay to clean the bathrooms in the off-season. The campground has tripled in capacity for the past few years. They have the money to clean the bathrooms, but all we are asking for is to put porta potties in and leave the lake accessible to launch boats.”
White added that recently at the park, “we ran into a lady who was sitting above the amphitheater and we asked if she was in trouble because there was no one down there. She replied she was painting the scenery around the lake. An example of how the lake gets used in the off-season. In this COVID time, it is a good place to go down and peacefully read a book. Please help us or tell us who to contact. If we do not, no one else will,” White added.
Hazelwood said Garry White wrote “the Goose Point Recreation Park and boat launch is the only one open in Patrick County for this local area. Someone in the Smith River District needs to address this issue and keep it open for Patrick County residents.
Garry White added the park “is being used as I see them coming in by my house.” He cited examples that includes shoreline fishing, “just sitting, reading a book, sitting on the shoreline, painting the scenery, walking around the areas exercising, biking, riding, picnicking. There are many ways to use the park without needing the bathhouse.”
He added the park had been closed on Dec. 31.
“Why? It was a pretty day on Jan. 1, 2021 and we were out near the road and saw a gentleman take his kayak down to put it in. He told me he had driven from Carroll County to put his kayak in the water just to find out it was closed on such a pretty day.
“When it is open, and should be open all time, it is not advertised that it is open. In the summertime when the park is so full when boat users try to use the lake, they are turned away and told to leave. They do not let them in. They just tell them the park is full and turn them away,” he added.
“If the people on Goose Point Road wanted to put their boat in tomorrow, we would have to take it out of here and drive over to the dam or over to Ryan’s Branch to launch our boat. Ryan’s Branch is about 25 miles, one-way trip,” Garry White wrote. “This is a federal park funded by our taxpayer money. Why is it not kept open all the time?”
Christopher Powell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operations Manager, said the park is closed due to the pandemic and the additional cost of maintenance.
“The pandemic is still strong in the area, and the cost to operate the park safely for all the public there, we have to provide increased levels of service we aren’t used to paying this time of year.”
If not for the CARES Act (federal) funds, “we probably wouldn’t have been open the past two months,” he said. “The financial burden for us is really hard, and the use that park gets during these quiet times is very low.”
Powell said there were discussions about keeping the boat ramp open, but “there is no way to isolate the campground and the boat ramp. Our decision is tough. It’s not easy, but of course we think for the upkeep and maintenance for public safety. I think it’s the best use of tax dollars for the public to close for these two months and reopen in March and provide our good quality service for all the people coming to Philpott.”
Powell said if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, the park would be open as in previous years. “Unfortunately, as we all know this is not a usual year. What’s different this year is that we are trying to provide a safe place for people to come and keep it that way,” he said. “We don’t have the means for isolating the campgrounds from the boat ramp.
He added that porta potties have not been installed there in the past and that closing the park until March 1 was not something he wanted to do.
“We have a regular maintenance cost, plus the increased cost of keeping the park safe and clean, and that’s what it comes down to,” he said, and noted that in the past, “as many as one person has used the boat ramp the entire month in January. Like I said before, it’s in the best interest of everybody’s tax dollars. While we keep this closed this time of year, we reopen in March when fishing, spring, and the weather picks back up.”
Kendrick said “I’d like to see them stay open, even on a limited schedule if possible. There has been sometimes I’d go and buy a picnic lunch and go down there. It’s right peaceful and a place to get away. If feasible, it would be nice to keep it open.”
“I know that sometimes you have to do what you have to do because of the situation,” Fulk said and added that she wishes the park remained open, but understands it is a difficult situation.
Harris asked if visitors are required “to have a pass to go down there. Do the people that live on that road have a pass to go in like they have in the past?”
Powell said Goose Point Road residents “don’t get any additional favoritism versus the general public.”
*Amended the county budget from $28,796,991.09 to $29,508,406.51 due to the $711,415.42 in grant funds received by the Patrick County School division.
* Tabled a discussion of replacing the HVAC unit at the Patrick Henry Community College site. The estimated cost from the contracted service provider, Vipperman Air Conditioning, is $21,647.
*Extended the Continuity of Governance for an additional six months in case the board needs to meet virtually.
*Adopted the meeting schedule to meet the second Monday of every month and the fourth Monday as needed.
*Adopted Robert’s Rules of Governance.