In keeping with expectations set forth in Section 4-11 of the Town Charter that the citizenry and council be updated at least annually as to the condition, functionality, and general welfare of the town, and also as is usual and customary for the office holder in most localities, Hurt’s mayor composes and delivers a state-of-the-town address each year, usually during the first quarter. The 2019 address was given on Tuesday, February 5 at 7:00 PM, during the town council’s monthly business meeting. Please see text below.
“Fellow citizens, council members, staff, distinguished guests… as we convene and move forward into another year and the 2019-20 term of council, thank you for joining us. It is an honor and a pleasure to work in collaboration with all of you as we endeavor to serve the best interests of our community and region.
Our positive, progressive steps are also our most visible. The display of American flags along Prospect Road, in effect the axis of our town and heavily traveled, has been extremely well received by citizens and visitors alike. Those flags, displayed during national holidays and observances, serve to bring our community together. “One nation, under God” if you will. In addition, our town received the special honor of becoming a Purple Heart Community, a designation now noted at the entrances into town. We are indeed proud of our country and our veterans, past and present. These advancements originated with one citizen’s idea and serve to illustrate the strength of the Hurt community.
Public safety was an area of definite progress last year, and one we anticipate continuing in 2019. Hurt Volunteer Fire Department achieved major strides with its building renovation/capital improvements. We continually receive compliments about this organization and its members, and we are extremely proud of them. Concurrently with that, Delta Response Team was contracted to permanently locate beside HVFD, providing much needed EMS for northern Pittsylvania County. DRT, like our HVFD, proves to be most impressive.
The Hurt Police Department realized improvements, the first in July when we expanded coverage to three full-time officers. Most recently and notably, an anonymous benefactor stepped forward in December to contribute $30,000 toward the purchase of three new police cars. We are most grateful to that individual for his/her generosity and philanthropy. The new vehicles are expected to arrive by spring.
While discussing public safety we would be remiss not to mention that Hurt PD is now equipped with and trained in the use of Narcan, to aid in the struggle against opioid abuse. Two of our three officers are trained as instructors in the “REVIVE!” program.
At Town Hall, we continually strive to provide more and better services to our citizens. Last year we converted to a much more efficient utility billing format, substantially reducing operational costs. We also replaced an antiquated, dysfunctional phone system and began better utilizing our website and social media. Up for consideration this year will be June tax billing similar to the county’s, along with a new website feature to enable convenient online payments. Both would be beneficial to citizens, and the latter would help reduce office workload.
A few observations about town finances are noteworthy: (1) Hurt enjoys the (enviable to some) condition of remaining debt-free in a tough economic climate; (2) We have some of the lowest taxes and fees among towns our size in this region of Virginia; (3) Our reserve funds at the end of 2018 were higher than they have been in more than a decade, totaling just over $558,000. Collectively, these (along with the fact that we did not cut core services to accomplish them) are indicative of movement in the right direction.
Transportation continues to be another area of focus. New Year’s Eve was marked by closure of the Staunton River Bridge, a local landmark for 90 years. Now, one month into 2019, work has begun on its two-year replacement project. In the meantime, collaborative efforts are underway with Pittsylvania County and the City of Danville to establish a regional public bus transit system for the U.S. 29 and 58 corridors between Hurt, Danville, and South Boston. Pending grant funding approval, this initiative will provide an affordable transportation alternative for numerous citizens throughout the Pittsylvania-Halifax region. We are continually updated by Danville’s Mass Transit Director about this exciting and new venture, which is slated to begin during the second half of the year.
Recreational facilities are important to the quality of life in any community, and another source of encouragement is Pittsylvania County’s plan to refurbish Wayside Park which is just outside town limits. For many area residents this will be a most welcome improvement. Many who remember family reunions and class picnics there will once again see life breathed into one of our community’s landmarks. Younger generations will have the opportunity to explore both the history and the progress the park offers.
In terms of infrastructure, we all can expect our aging water system to need additional maintenance and upgrades. Good work has been done on several system components, thanks to our public works coordinator and external contractors. However, we must remain cognizant of reality. Steps taken these last few years represent a beginning, not an end, and we must plan accordingly.
Aesthetic concerns will remain another area of increased attention, as the appearance of our town is not only a quality of life issue for current residents, but is also critical to attracting both new citizens and the commerce that is so direly needed to revitalize our community. We initiated conversation last year with state officials over litter control, and must continue with diligent efforts to address this issue.
Economic development has rightly been our primary focus over the last three years. Continuation of this pursuit as aggressively and relentlessly as our resources will permit is more than a best option. Indeed, it is an imperative for our future as a town.
Experiences of the past 36 months have taught us how exasperatingly slow economic development often is. To those of us who seriously want to be part of the difference and make things happen, it seems like geologic time. Amid those feelings, however, there are indications that over the next couple of years we will see our patience and perseverance begin to pay off.
Last year, county officials enlisted the services of Marcus & Millichap, one of the premiere commercial real estate brokerage and investment firms in the nation, to market the Southern Virginia Multimodal Park (SVMP) nationally and globally. Interest in the site is definitely out there, as eight Fortune-500 companies and numerous smaller entities have looked at SVMP as a potential site for industrial/commercial development.
Furthermore, SVMP received designation in 2018 as a federal Opportunity Zone and a state Enterprise Zone, each of which provides considerable government incentives for prospective occupants to invest therein. Those designations can be critical factors when corporate decision-makers select sites.
Turning attention to 2019, we come upon another major milestone. If God be willing and our plans succeed, at noon this Friday we will see this council chamber fill up for the organizational meeting of the Staunton River Regional Industrial Facility Authority (SRRIFA). At long last, our newly formed economic development consortium will commence operations with one purpose in mind − to develop SVMP to its maximum potential, thus rejuvenating our local economy.
RIFA’s already operate in other parts of the Commonwealth, including the southern part of our own county, but this particular one is special to us. We find ourselves blessed to be the host locality, and also of great significance is the fact that this RIFA is unique by being the first of its kind in Virginia to consist of four localities (others have two or three). With this move, Hurt and our Altavista neighbors step into new territory. We will begin playing the proverbial economic development game in a new arena and in a higher league, with Pittsylvania County and the City of Danville as our teammates. Needless to say, we have high aspirations that taking a regional approach will eventually net better results.
After SRRIFA operations are underway, one of the next anticipated steps in 2019 will be the execution of a Development and Option Agreement between SRRIFA and Hurt Partners LLC, owners of the SVMP. At that point, SRRIFA will become the main entity driving development of the property, and the agreement includes language to address long-overdue aesthetic improvements to the property. In addition, we have learned that almost $100,000 in grant funding has been approved by the state to defray the cost of site improvements. Thus, it appears increasingly likely that later this year we should see some outwardly visible work get underway there.
We can all appreciate good news and something to look forward to, even more so following last year’s disappointment over the closure of Dominion’s Pittsylvania Power Station. Effects from the loss of that power plant affected numerous families throughout the area. It even reached us here at town hall, and has led to the impending departure and relocation for one of our members. Councilman Norman Bivens has served our town faithfully over the past several years and in various roles, including Vice-Mayor, committee chair, planning commission representative, and more. In all of that, he has consistently contributed great ideas and insights along with his time and energy. Those will not be easy shoes to fill, and we greatly appreciate Norman for his service. Godspeed for Norman as he begins a new chapter in his career.
There’s a familiar old saying that when one door closes, another opens. Many among us are looking for such turnarounds in our local economy. We must remain hopeful that they will happen, and until they do, it is incumbent on us to persevere and press forward.
In conclusion, I extend a sincere note of gratitude to everyone for what you do each day. From fellow citizens to council and staff members, first responders, contractors, and suppliers… each of you fills a unique and important niche. Collectively, you keep our town alive. Please know that your contributions are appreciated and valued. As always, I look forward to our collaboration as we move Hurt forward. In view of the turmoil in our national and state capitols, and sometimes even locally, I ask everyone for your prayers for our community, our Commonwealth, our nation.
Mayor, Town of Hurt
Page last updated: Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 6:10 AM