Montgomery County leaders to discuss economic impact in upcoming task force town hall

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 5:29 AM EDT
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The New River Valley Public Health Task Force is hosting its third town hall Wednesday night. Town and city managers, as well as county administrators, will share with the public how local government has been working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

WDBJ7 hosted a conference call Tuesday with Blacksburg Town Manager Marc Verniel, Christiansburg Town Manager Randy Wingfield and Montgomery County's county administrator Craig Meadows to talk about Wednesday's meeting.

Meadows explained that local government's role has always been to facilitate services to its citizens, whether that's the court system, law enforcement or social services. COVID-19 never changed what they did, but it did change how they do things.

"We have worked very hard through electronic means, through telephones, teleworking, just a lot of different ways to provide high quality services to citizens in a way that's much different," he said.

Wednesday they'll be answering questions to help businesses and residents navigate the different phases of re-opening.

"How are things going to look as we go into phase one? How local governments will be responding to that? How reopening to the public may look in certain areas," Meadows said.

They'll also discuss the pandemic's economic toll on each New River Valley community, especially as COVID-19's impact on the national economy nears Great Depression levels.

"One of the challenges for local governments is our revenue sources with sales tax, meals tax and hotel taxes have all taken dramatic hits," Meadows said.

These taxes, among others, are a huge percentage of Christiansburg and Blacksburg's budgets.

"[In] Christiansburg, it was 44.6 percent of our budget in 2019," Wingfield explained. "In Blacksburg, it was 39.3 percent for the same period so we're pretty heavily invested in revenue sources."

And though the economy is slowly starting to reopen, there's still the potential for more revenue to be lost come fall.

"Impacts on Virginia Tech Football," Wingfield said. "If they don't have a football season next fall, that could be devastating to the local economy."

Virginia Tech has yet to announce its official plans for the fall, but Blacksburg's town manager said it does involve bringing students back.

"We're doing everything we can as local governments in the region to support that happening because it's going to take all of us to bring them back this fall," Verniel said. "The university is really the economic engine in our county, and really in our region. It's the largest employer and of course, it brings over 30,000 students here. So we're doing everything here as a region and as a task force to support the university reopening in the fall."

But even with the return of students, each locality is still a long way away from total recovery.

"We've definitely already felt it in this fiscal year's budget," Wingfield said. "We're definitely going to be feeling it in next year's fiscal budget. Beyond that I couldn't necessarily say, but I do think it has the potential to slow down the economy for years."

Wednesday's town hall is at 6 p.m.on the

. Click the link to also submit questions before the meeting.

Town Hall Line-Up

• David Ridpath, Radford City Manager

• Marc Verniel, Blacksburg Town Manager

• Randy Wingfield, Christiansburg Town Manager

• Jonathan Sweet, Pulaski County Administrator

• Chris McKlarney, Giles County Administrator

• Terri Morris, Floyd County Administrator

• Craig Meadows, Montgomery County Administrator

• Michael Geary, Montgomery County Emergency Coordinator

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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