Incumbent Dr. Tom Littrell and challenger Robbie McCraw are vying for the Piper’s Gap District seat on the Carroll County Board of Supervisors. In today’s edition of The Carroll News, they answer five questions posed by staff writers.
What role do you see for Woodlawn School?
McCraw - A proper response regarding my opinion for the future of Woodlawn School would warrant further investigation to determine the true purpose for its closure. An earlier Carroll News article referenced “older portions of the school would most likely need to be torn down with hopes to salvage the existing cafeteria, library, and gym areas to be used as a community area.” The article also stated “desires to see Woodlawn School to be used as an office for the Recreation Department.” The structural innuendos and an approved multimillion dollar school renovation budget reminds me of the same dilemma experienced with the condemnation of the former Oak Street Hillsville Elementary School; a facility initially deemed unsafe for day-to-day classroom education, but now housing such programs as preschool, alternative education, Virginia Cooperative Extension, etc. I am unsure as to what site repairs miraculously reinstated the former school’s safety, but am most certainly aware of the large debt incurred. I support advancing our educational options, but with a cost-effective approach and an accurate presentation of information to the public. With the closure of Woodlawn School for educational purposes, the building is obviously already safe enough to be utilized for recreational purposes / community events and the kitchen equipment harvested for the purpose of resale was reinstalled for future use. Is history repeating itself? Has the future of Woodlawn School already been decided? I feel a community assessment of ideas for future use of Woodlawn School is deemed necessary to better serve public interest.
Littrell – When the Carroll County School Board voted to close Woodlawn School, the agreement was the building and grounds would be turned over to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors. This was to happen once it was no longer being used as a school. I foresee the main building being used by the community and sports teams. Service organizations could use the kitchen and dining areas for meetings and fundraisers. Citizens could use the same area for receptions and other gatherings. The library or classrooms could be used for meetings by various groups. The gym and locker rooms could be used for different sports from the school system and the recreation department. This could be for the basketball, wrestling and volleyball teams, as well as indoor baseball practice. The outside fields could be used by baseball, soccer and softball teams. The facility could be administered by the County recreation Department as an extension of the present operations. Woodlawn School has quite a bit of history associated with it. The important impact this school has had on the community over more than a century should not be forgotten. Future uses could include picnic areas and other recreational opportunities as they are requested. I believe Woodlawn School should be used a community center and an additional recreation department facility.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Board of Supervisors?
McCraw - I feel the Board of Supervisors, acting as a unitarian body of government, faces the largest challenge in regaining the respect and trust of the citizens of Carroll County. Business actions such as false representation of information, committee formation with apparent conflict of interests, rules formatted as the need arises, limiting public comment, etc. are recognizable areas that need vast improvement. In order to prosper economic development, our citizens must be assured that decisions made by the board are not self-serving, but instead, a holistic approach to open government. Once this major feat has been accomplished, I feel citizen discontentment will be lessened.
Littrell – With county unemployment running higher than the state average, the biggest challenge is being able to create a fair and balanced budget. The budget must include those services that the citizens want, such as excellent schools, public safety, recreation and social services to mention just a few. The revenue portion must be affordable to our citizens. Revenue can be enhanced by greater utilization of our interstate exits. Those travelers stopping to stay in our motels and hotels, eat in our restaurants and purchase goods, bring in lodging and meals taxes and an increase in sales taxes. The more we can entice those folks to visit Carroll County, the more it will help the revenue side of the budget. We need to build on our tourism attractions. Agriculture is the largest single source of dollars in the county. We must encourage our agricultural producers by supporting the SW VA Regional Farmers Market and make sure we continue Land Use. Continued attempts to collect delinquent taxes must be ongoing.
What can the Board of Supervisors do to improve the economy of Carroll County?
MCraw – A - Concentration on the leasing of current vacant shell facilities to industries prior to the launching miscellaneous monies toward The Wildwood Project development. Once shell facility businesses are secured and occupied, options may then be explored for advancement of other projects. B - Water and sewer capabilities are present at Exit 8. Proper resource management in this area would benefit not only the Fancy Gap / Pipers Gap residents, but all Carroll County residents. Revenue generated in this area from interstate travel would greatly increase. C- Forego the above referenced idea of compartmentalizing Woodlawn School into “recreation department offices” because of the already existent massive structure (not suitable for education) and available acreage. A redevelopment of current recreation department strategies would stimulate revenue from not only county residents, but again, from interstate travelers and tourists. This vacant, undeveloped, “highly valued” real estate with properly organized attractions, such as a water themed park, baseball / softball tournament activities, etc. could possibly render a self-supporting amenity with surplus revenue. Currently, with the exception of Lake Ridge, our families must travel outside the county for such participation. D - Scrutinizing cost analysis of all county income and expenditures could possibly reveal outlying available revenues and the need for greater accountability to decrease possible wastes or misuse of funds.
Littrell – The board of supervisors must continually market the positive aspects of Carroll County. The county works very hard to help new businesses looking to locate here or to assist existing businesses that would like to expand. The county needs to be known as a “business friendly” area. The board has made sure that public water and sewer services are available at all four interstate exits. County owned natural gas lines have been or will soon be extended to Mohawks, Carroll County High School, the industrial park at Exit 14 and Exit 19. It’s anticipated more businesses will take advantage of natural gas in the service area, which should result in a big savings in their energy costs. Most businesses require those services be in place before any consideration is given to choosing a site. Carroll County has been aggressive in marketing the industrial park at Exit 19. It has been chosen as one of five Virginia mega sites which means it is also heavily marketed at the state level. I feel it is only a matter of time before this endeavor will bear fruit. I believe education is an economic tool. Carroll County must support public schools to the best of its ability. A person with a high school diploma is much more likely to become a productive citizen and much less likely to become a burden on society. That burden can occur in at least two ways. That person might be unable to secure employment and require public assistance or perhaps commit a crime and be incarcerated. I believe maintaining a positive public image would enhance our chances of being selected by companies over the many competing counties and cities.
What would be your main focus as member of the Board of Supervisors?
McCraw - One of my main focuses will be to continue with and instill my belief that as an elected candidate, I will serve the residents of “the Greater Pipers Gap” area and of Carroll County to the best of my ability. My voice of equality will be heard throughout my term as a board member versus approximately 1 ½ months prior to an election year. I will carry forth a servant’s heart with a mission –minded focus in hopes of increasing the cohesiveness of my fellow board members. If accomplished, we will then be enabled to be better stewards of the county’s best interest.
Littrell – I feel it is my responsibility to be fair and impartial and use common sense in every decision, with the consequences of that decision to always be in in the best interest of the majority of the citizens of Carroll County. There is no place in county government for special interests or personal agendas. I always study the issues in order to make an informed vote on everything that comes before the board. I always try to conduct myself with integrity and honesty. I have found that closed sessions are conducted with the appropriate guidelines. There are instances where discussions, if held in the public arena, would be detrimental to the conduct of business. Some examples would be buying or selling property, personnel issues and legal matters. I can assure everyone that no decision is made in a closed session and if action needs to be taken, a vote is always taken in open session.
Why do you think you are more qualified to serve on the Board of Supervisors than your opponent?
McCraw - As stated in several newspaper articles, Tom and I bring different modes of expertise and expectations to this election: I’ve been married 29 ½ years to my high school sweetheart (Love); resident of Piper’s Gap community for 29 ½ years (Dedication); reborn at age 14 and a member of Blue Ridge Chapel Baptist Church for 30+ years, as well as Deacon Board member for 10+ years (Faith); two children, ages 25 and 22. Father to brothers 1-27 and many others (Invested); while never a Boy Scout Leader, I have taught “Duty to God, Country, and Self” on the Sandlot football field, on the Pee Wee wrestling mat, supervising youth from 8 different states in a unified effort on miscellaneous mission teams, and to every child / adult that graces my door. I’ve never personally served our country in the military, but was born on a military base while my father served. My extended family has many members whom have retired from military service (Honor); former member Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department for 10+ years (Service); board member of the Fuller Center For Greater Carroll County (Involved); Galax Lion’s Club member (Community); 30+ years combined work history for large industrial/ retail businesses with showcased job descriptions as purchasing agent, sales specialist, and budget analysis (Experience); land owner in Piper’s Gap and Hillsville (Preservation); while realizing a cost awareness of expenditures and outsourcing are necessary for economic growth, I am conservative in my belief that “if you don’t have the money, then you don’t chastise the “farm” for growth” (Common sense). The above referenced question as to what makes me more qualified than my opponent would best be answered by “I am as equally qualified” as my opponent, but perhaps with a stronger desire to improve communication, enhance an open government, and bring forth new ideas for the future of Carroll County.
Littrell – I have served on the board of supervisors for almost six years and graduated from the Virginia Association of Counties’ Certified Supervisors Course to prepare myself for the job. I have successfully operated a small business for over 40 years dealing with budgets, personnel issues, capital improvements and the public. After college and dental school, I served in the U.S. Air Force as Captain from 1970-72. My family and I then moved to the Twin County area and have lived in the Oakland Community on a small farm since 1978. I have been active in the Oakland Ruritan club for 29 years and treasurer of my church for over 10 years. I am an Eagle Scout and have served as a scoutmaster for 40 years. I enjoy trying to help my constituents with their questions and problems and feel it is vitally important to continue the regional cooperation with Grayson County and the City of Galax. My experience, accomplishments and work ethic make me qualified to be a member of the board of supervisors. I will energetically continue to apply less from the past and cultivate new ideas for the future.