DANVILLE, Va. (WFXR) – Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones and Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Warren addressed business leaders on Tuesday indicating that the region has made great strides in the midst of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Jones and the board chairman joined Danville City Manager Ken Larking and Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman in a panel discussion of the “State of the Region” hosted virtually by the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.
“We remain in unprecedented times with COVID-19, but since our State of the Region address a year ago, we have made great strides. We still have work to do – and that is exactly what we are doing – working for a better future.”Alonzo Jones, Danville Mayor
Officials thanked city and county workers for their hard work. Mayor Jones summed it up, saying, “You’ve heard me say this before: They don’t always get the credit they deserve, but believe me, life as you know it would not be the same without them.”
The panel addressed four topics:
- Use of federal and state American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding
- Economic Development
- Public Safety
ARPA and CARES funds have been used to help citizens in Danville and Pittsylvania County pay utility bills, rent and mortgages, as well as helping small businesses with payroll amid revenue shortfalls.
Funds also have been used for city and county operations and capital needs.
For example, funds enabled the county to place five new ambulances into its volunteer fire and rescue services as well as build a new emergency medical services station and invest in personal protection equipment for first responders and law enforcement officers.
“We are much more financially solvent today operationally than before the pandemic and our services are in a much more prepared state because we have been able to invest in things we do for our citizens. It has been a surprise.”David Smitherman, Pittsylviania County Administrator
Moving forward, Larking said new funds will be used in several areas which include economic development with a focus on assisting historically disadvantaged populations, housing and public safety.
Despite the pandemic, economic development activity is as high as it has been in more than a decade.
The panel noted that over 2,000 new jobs and $875 million in investments have been announced in the last year.
Those numbers include the casino resort being developed and Tyson Foods’ new facility that will be located in Ringgold.
Public safety’s highlights include the county’s first-ever efforts as a provider of emergency medical services, construction of a public safety facility in Hurt, improved emergency medical response times and calls answered in the county, and a new fleet of cars and computer equipment for law enforcement.
Lastly, for education, the panel noted there are enormous challenges from the pandemic’s impact on learning to infrastructure.
Each panel member encouraged the area business leaders to support the referendums in each locality that allow a one percent sales tax increase to support Danville Public Schools and Pittsylvania County Schools.
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