The refreshment and renewal of spring was the theme at last week’s Blacksburg Town Council meeting as Montgomery County Board of Supervisors extended an olive branch, the Police Department welcomed a new officer and citizens talked about saving birds from housecats.
Power struggles and clumsy communication, particularly over the sales and purchases of the old Blacksburg middle and high school properties, a series of skirmishes that dragged across years and administrations, left the relationship between the town and Montgomery County stiff and sore – until last Tuesday.
During Citizen Comments, supervisors Chairman Chris Tuck and Vice Chairwoman April DeMotts presented “state of the county” information to the town describing opportunities to work together and many ways that they already are.
“We wanted to refresh what should be a friendly relationship,” DeMotts told the News Messenger.
At the meeting, Tuck described the county’s budget concerns, focusing on the sales tax from online sales and that tax’s division among the state and localities as an opportunity for the county and town to work together to improve the situation for mutual benefit.
Tax from online sales is received at the state level, but doesn’t come down to the county level he said. One percent is returned to the county.
“When somebody buys something from Amazon, the [tax] is staying at the state level and not getting back to the locality where the purchase happens,” Tuck said.
Each penny of tax revenue is divided. The state gets half a cent and then the other half a cent is divided among the three of us, he said, speaking of the county, and the towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
That tax is divided among the three according to the total number of students going to school in those localities.
“One of the things we can work on together is to work with our state legislators to make sure that that money is getting back to the locality where the person is making that purchase,” Tuck said.
Following Tuck, Board Vice Chair April DeMotts described a number of environmental and civic efforts and successes.
She spoke about the county’s four years of effort to protect the area’s environmental and cultural interests from Mountain Valley Pipeline impacts, noting that despite hiring attorneys and raising multiple objections, the project has begun tree felling.
DeMotts read a portion of the county’s unanimously adopted resolution affirming the county’s belief in the science that tells us that climate change is real and recognizing climate change as a potential disaster that must be addressed by reducing greenhouse gases and supporting legislation that moves the county and state in this direction.
Both the county and the town are actively pursuing the state-level Go Green award, a Virginia Association of Counties program designed to encourage implementation of specific environmental policies and practical actions that reduce emissions and save local governments money, according to the VACo website.
The Montgomery County resolution also opposed all expression of hate toward “Muslims, racial minorities, LGBTQ individuals or immigrants,” expressing the importance of all visitors and residents of Montgomery County to feel safe and welcome in the county and the nation.
At closing, Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith said the town and county work better when working together.
“This evening’s presentation reinforces the notion that there is much more that we have in common than not,” she said.
Thursday night the county and town will have dinner together at the Alexander Black House to work further on the relationship in a relaxed atmosphere.
In other news
Citizen comments by Blacksburg residents Rebekah Paulson and Susan Glasson included a call to protect the two billion birds killed annually by roaming cats. Cats were cited as marauders of wildlife and disease vectors.
The duo noted the irony that the town of Blacksburg is a bird sanctuary. It is a Class 3 misdemeanor for any person in the town “to trap, hunt, wound, shoot or molest in any manner, or attempt to trap, hunt, wound, shoot or molest in any manner, any bird or wild fowl,” but that housecats and feral cats, allowed to roam, are the greatest danger to birds. Both recommended that it should be illegal for cats, as it is for dogs, to roam.
Also, that evening, in a traditional ceremony, Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson introduced newly hired police officer, Sgt. Josh Teubert, to the town.
Sergeant Teubert is a 10-year police veteran with a military background.
He came to Blacksburg from Roanoke with his wife, Heather and their three kids.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, he left a much bigger police dept. he starts over here as the newest guy,” Wilson said.
In the tradition of the ceremony, Teubert’s wife, Heather, pinned on his silver badge.
Describing Teubert as a quiet guy with skill sets including crash reconstruction specialist and SWAT, “We saw what a gold mine we had,” Wilson said, “what a fantastic guy this guy is.”