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State of the area addressed
Adams: Coffers are sound
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Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Adams and Mayor Kim Adkins described the state of Henry County and the state of Martinsville on Wednesday at a luncheon at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Henry County is in good financial shape, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Adams maintained Wednesday during his State of the County address.

Adams, who represents the Blackberry District, said that of the county’s $21.7 million debt, $16.7 million belongs to its schools. Only $5 million is incurred by the county itself, he pointed out.

Henry County has the lowest per-capita debt, at $598, among a dozen surrounding and nearby counties in Southside, southwest and central Virginia, a chart Adams presented during his speech showed.

He deemed that the county is “in fantastic shape” from a debt perspective.

The county has reserve funds of almost $30 million, including about $18 million in its uncommitted fund balance, other charts Adams presented showed. He said that reserves come in handy, for instance, when a grant is received that requires a match or an unanticipated expense arises.

Reserve funds have steadily risen since 2001, while uncommitted reserve funds have increased overall since 2002, despite slight drops in 2008 and 2011, his charts showed.

Adams noted various “points of pride” of the county, including:

• 250 new jobs, as well as $153,150,000 in investments, created by seven new and expanding companies in the past year. The largest single investment, at $135 million, was by RTI International Metals, which started production and initially created 28 jobs.

“We’re starting to see an uptick” in terms of economic development, Adams said.

• All of the county’s schools being fully accredited under state Standards of Quality, with nearly half of the county’s teachers having advanced degrees.

• The largest initiative in Virginia to provide students with iPads. Adams said computer manufacturer Apple “sends people to us” to learn how the county uses the devices to help students learn.

• Patrick Henry Community College and the New College Institute working with local industries to help align education with economic development.

• More than 600 programs for senior citizens were held last year, involving more than 14,000 participants.

• A new marina being built at Philpott Lake. Adams said he expects it will be open in 45 days or less.

• Nearly 15 miles of walking trails at nine locations, with eight river access points. Most of the mileage, and all of the access points, were developed in the past six years, Adams mentioned.

• Upgraded 911 emergency medical services dispatch capabilities. Adams said dispatchers now can provide callers life-saving medical instructions.

• Improved emergency medical services response times and advanced life support care.

Adams credited former county administrator Benny Summerlin, who died last year, for being involved in many of the county’s recent successes. He said that Summerlin “had a commitment to the community.”

Yet “it wasn’t all about him,” he said of Summerlin, noting that the former administrator preferred to focus on others’ involvement in projects.

Despite the successes, Adams said the county is facing some challenges.

Among them, he said, is a continuing decline in the number of volunteers at fire departments and rescue squads.

Adams encouraged county residents to volunteer with such agencies, either as a firefighter or medic or in another way, such as doing administrative work.

He also encouraged businesses to give employees who are volunteer medics or firefighters time off from work when they are called on to battle blazes or perform rescues.

Another challenge involves finding the money needed to renovate schools, improve housing for jail inmates and upgrade the county’s water and sewer infrastructure, according to Adams. The latter involves extending service to areas on U.S. 58 West, expanding the Philpott water plant and determining how to meet the demands of current and future industries, he said.

Other challenges that Adams mentioned, but did not detail, include state and federal unfunded mandates for things such as teacher pension liabilities, child protective services, and retirement and disability compensation.

Although there are challenges, Adams said “the bottom line” is that “Henry County is a great place to live, work, learn, play and raise a family.”

That is due to its low cost of living, excellent educational opportunities, “great places to work” and many quality of life amenities, he said.

Adams gave the annual State of the County address during a luncheon at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.

The event was sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. About 100 people attended, chamber officials said.

Mayor Kim Adkins gave a State of the City address. (See story, page 2-A.)

“We’re all going to be more informed” about the local governments as a result of the speeches, said museum Executive Director Joe Keiper.


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