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We made it through 2021, which was a productive and successful year for Pittsylvania County.
I first want to thank our many volunteers that did such an amazing job in 2021. We have more than 20 volunteer fire departments and 12 volunteer rescue squads that provide service across Pittsylvania County. Despite the negative impacts of the pandemic, frequent hospital diversions, and increased 911 call volume, our agencies have continued to serve their communities well! Response rates have continued to rise among our agencies, which is a testament to the dedication of our volunteers and the creativity of these agencies. We also voted to remove any requirements that volunteer fire and rescue agencies provide the County annual financial reports and/or audits of all available funds because we as the County have no right to micromanage the finances of these agencies that are operated by selfless, dedicated people.
If you know someone who volunteers, thank them for their work! And if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer yourself, visit pittsylvaniacountyva.gov/volunteer.
In addition to the annual support that the Board of Supervisors provides, we have utilized federal dollars from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act to assist our volunteer agencies. We have helped purchase equipment and are working with agencies now on funding a variety of projects. We also instituted volunteer bonuses for to thank our active volunteers for their service during the pandemic.
We obligated the largest portion of our ARPA funds to a partnership with RiverStreet Networks. With a mix of State, Federal, and local money, as well as their own investment, RiverStreet is developing a $75 million fiber-to-the-home network that is expected to reach 12,000 locations within approximately three years. The Board of Supervisors is committed to expanding reliable internet access across our County.
We saw some major economic development announcements during the year. We are pleased to welcome Tyson Foods, Walraven, Inc., and MEP, LTD to Pittsylvania County and are excited that AeroFarms and Staunton River Plastics were able to break ground on their facilities. Projects like these, which provide quality jobs and contribute to a strong tax base, are very important for ensuring that people can live and work in Pittsylvania County. We are thrilled with the economic growth that we saw in 2021 and are optimistic about continued economic success.
With funding from the State, our Economic Development program also administered a Small Business Assistance Program that provided 23 businesses with funding to help with things like rent, mortgage payments, and other costs associated with COVID-19. Our small business community is such a critical part of this County and we were happy to provide help to those businesses that had been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Another great, first-time initiative that was created in 2021 was the Pittsylvania County internship program. We partnered with several organizations – including Pittsylvania County Schools, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Pittsylvania County Community Action, and the West Piedmont Workforce Development Board – to administer this program, which allowed for approximately 15 students to get quality work experiences. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue this program in the future.
Another substantial move that we made was redoing our solar ordinance so that development can happen in a way that doesn't negatively impact surrounding property owners. By significantly increasing setback and buffering requirements, we can ensure minimal visual impact for those who neighbor these projects. We can also negotiate siting agreements with these projects, which ensures that Pittsylvania County receives some tax revenue that will help us pay for some upcoming, unavoidable capital costs.
There are a lot of positive developments happening in Pittsylvania County, and we will continue to work on your behalf to make this County better in 2022.