DALEVILLE – Former Botetourt County Board of Supervisors Chairman Billy Martin wants citizens to know the state of the county is strong.
During the annual State of the County Address last week, Martin said 2020 was unlike any other year in Botetourt’s 250-year history.
“The changes and challenges of this past year have been unprecedented. We have seen so much pain and hurt across our county, yet we have also seen people come together in unimaginable ways. As a result, we have become strong and will continue to strengthen in the coming year.”
Despite the numerous deaths, hospitalization and nearly 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Botetourt County, Martin said county government was working hard.
First, after years of talk and construction, the new Colonial Elementary School is open to staff and pupils. He said the building will bring opportunities to all.
“Everyone has come together to make sure our students and teachers have a facility that will last for generations,” Martin said.
Another area of success in 2020 was the county’s efforts at expanding broadband, even during the pandemic. Martin said the Board of Sueprvisors approved more than $3 million of federal CARES Act and state funding to wire more than 1,400 homes and businesses last year.
“In fact, broadband expansion remains one of the highest priorities of both the board and the community” in 2021, he said.
Last week, the county received another grant of $1.3 million from the state to add nearly 550 fiber-to-home connections. When all these projects are built out, more than 85 percent of the county will have access to broadband, he said.
“We still have a long way to go to get to 100 percent coverage, but we are pointing in the right direction,” said Martin.
CARES ACT funds were also used to benefit the county in other ways, besides connecting the county to the world. Martin explained the funds were used to improve technology to enhance heating and air conditioning systems in county buildings. Also, the money was used to help businesses and farms to survive the pandemic. Martin said 82 small Botetourt County-based businesses received nearly $265,000 in grants, while 50 farmers received more than $157,000 in grants from the county.
Martin also detailed county agencies’ success during the last year.
The Community Development department saw in increase in business during the pandemic due to its flexibility, he said.
The department issued 823 permits, a 5 percent increase over 2019, and saw the value of those permits increase by 8 percent to $62 million, compared to the previous year, he said.
The county’s libraries were busier than before as they found new ways of doing business during a pandemic. The libraries offered virtual classes, online collection browsing and curbside pickup, while still having 123,000 in-person and virtual visits. More than 94,000 items were borrowed, he said.
The Botetourt Department of Social Services also had a record-breaking year in 2020. Martin said the department helped 1,400 people in Botetourt County get medical insurance. Additionally, the department had 20 children in foster care, a record number for the agency. However, six are on track for adoption this year, another record.
The Commissioner of the Revenue and Treasurer’s Offices also “achieved a major feat” in 2020, the supervisor said. The offices completed the conversion to a new tax software program. “This is the first update since the 1990s and was a huge project,” he said. The offices also moved to the county’s government complex in Daleville late last year, Martin said.
The Parks and Recreation and Maintenance Departments saw major changes last year after new leadership joined both departments, Martin said.
The 2020 elections were successfully administered by the county’s Voter Registrar Office. More than 82 percent of voters turned out in November’s General Election with 9,000 voters deciding to option for early voting.
“I’m excited to see that so many of our citizens took part in the democratic process, and I thank the Election Board, the Registrar, and all her staff and poll workers for helping us vote,” he said.
Finally, the county’s public safety teams were busy in 2020. The Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office responded to 22,000 calls, served more than 6,300 civil papers, issued nearly 4,000 traffic citations, and made 628 arrests while dealing with the COVID-19 impact on the county.
The jail population average was 141 last year, he said. “And thanks to all of the efforts of the jail staff and the policies put in place, there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the jail population,” he said, describing that as a “miracle.”
Meanwhile, fire and EMS responded to more than 5,400 calls for service last year. Martin explained the department led the county’s overall COVID-19 response, including in-house testing and vaccine coordination. He said the deputies, jailers and fire and EMS “never let the stress get to them.”
“I know many have had to deal with COVID exposure and infections, worked on their days off, and covered extra shifts all to get the job done. I and the rest of the county will never forget those efforts,” he said.
Next week, state of the county education system.