Lori Graham, Contributing Writer
Blacksburg Town Council received public comment for fiscal year 2024 funding requests during their regular meeting on Tuesday, March 28.
A continued or increased need of funding for many local non-profit organizations was shared by the presenters. As the town and surrounding region that utilizes the town’s offerings returns to a post-Covid way of life, so does the need for support, they shared. Blacksburg organizations also shared many triumphs with the town council, including growth in visitors to area entertainment, museums, and educational opportunities, as well as recognizing a large percentage of Blacksburg volunteerism.
Kim Carlson, Chair of the Lyric Council Board of Directors spoke about The Lyric Theater’s service to the community in 2022.
The theater “served over 20,000 patrons at over 100 different events; 45 different screenings of films, documentaries, international films, and art films,” she said.
Additionally, The Lyric Theater had just signed a lease for another 30 years. Also shared at the meeting is the retirement of Executive Director, Susan Mattingly, who has served the theater for 23 years.
Representatives of local arts and history non-profit organizations, such as the Blacksburg Community Band, The Montgomery Museum of Art and History, The Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation, and Smithfield Plantation said they need continued economic support as they see an increase in visitation following the pandemic. Funds are needed for operating costs and maintenance fees, they said.
Michael Hudson, the Executive Director of Smithfield expressed an impactful statement to the council members that it’s a “bleak time for American museums.”
“As you can see programs are being put out,” he said.
Community agency representatives also spoke to the Blacksburg Town Council about needed funds to support important health and education organizations that provide increasing support to local citizens.
Ginny Ayers, Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers in the NRV informed council attendees of their need for ongoing economic support of town funds. Money received from the town would support programs like Be Well NRV Literacy, “Tech Bytes”, GED preparation classes, and others that are supported by 150 area volunteers, 50 of which reside in Blacksburg.
Director of the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library, Karim Khan, discussed an increasing number of visitors to the library along with additional programs adding to positive growth for the library system.
“We went fine free as of July 2022,” said Khan. “This year we took the plunge; revenues didn’t go down because of growth in passports and printing from mobile devices.”
A successful partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools using their direct access program is also allowing children to use their school library card to borrow materials, putting “over 1,000 books a month in children’s hands,” according to Khan.
Additional community programs that support healthy fresh food options, such as The Friends of the Blacksburg Farmers Market and Live, Work, Eat, Grow, a program supporting community gardens in the region, also expressed gratitude and requests for continued support from the Blacksburg Town Council.
The Blacksburg Town Council then heard general comments from citizens with concerns impacting urban development.
Oliver Peacock, a 21-year old Blacksburg native and Virginia Tech student currently studying building construction, as well as the son of a construction business owner in the area, garnered the attention of Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith and council members. His focus of concern is the lengthy process in obtaining a building permit in the town of Blacksburg.
“I understand the process of getting a building permit and it shouldn’t take 17 months,” said Peacock. “If you are not going to let them be a part of the community, then something other than just ignoring their requests for building permits should be done.”
Hager-Smith responded to Peacock for him to give her a call sometime this week.
Several additional comments were presented to the council from concerned citizens pertaining to the Glades Spring Crossing rezoning for a development project that is proposed to bring affordable housing to the Blacksburg area.
Tracy Sterling, Blacksburg resident, shared that the “current proposal does not promote responsible or sustainable development and can be improved upon,” and Casey Hodges discussed the standards for variances of curbing gutter and the conflicting issues with the Glades Spring Crossing project. Hodges asked the council members to “consider why are the standards there and hold them to it.”
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