The Carroll County Board of Supervisors is starting to consider its options in the unfortunate event that the Southwestern Virginia Training Center (SWVTC) is closed in 2018.
Virginia reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in August of 2012 to close four of the state’s five training centers, including the Hillsville facility, to move residents to other smaller homes or facilities. Under the agreement, the Southwestern Virginia Training Center in Hillsville is scheduled to be closed by June 30, 2018.
Carroll supervisors have continued to fight the closing of the SWVTC, but are now starting to consider all possibilities. Supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell broached the subject during the board’s Jan. 11 meeting. He said preventing the potential closing of the SWVTC is one of his passions. He hopes something will change regarding the status of the facility’s fate during this year’s General Assembly session, but realizes that is not guaranteed.
“The same situation in is occurring in Amherst County with the Central Virginia Training Center,” Littrell said. “They’re scheduled to be the last training center to be closed in 2020 and the county is certainly trying to keep the training center open there as well as we are here, but they have also taken a proactive approach in the unfortunate event that it were to be closed.”
Littrell said Amherst County has successful applied for and been awarded a $122,000 grant to study the economic impact on the county if the Central Virginia Training Center is closed. According to the supervisor, the study has already discovered Central Virginia Training Center has an $87 million annual economic impact on the county and region.
“We are always trying to attract new industry but I think it also very important that we try to retain the industry that we have here and the employees that we have here, roughly 400 employees of the Southwestern Virginia Training Center,” Littrell said. “We have gotten 15, 20, 30, 40 new jobs here, but if we lose those 400 we will be back in the hole again. So I think it behooves us to do everything we can possibly do to retain that facility. But in the unfortunate event it doesn’t happen, we need to be preparing for whatever might be in the future. So I would like to see if the staff could look into possibly finding some kind of grant to do a consult study to see what might happen if it were to close.”
Supervisors Phil McCraw and Joshua Hendrick both said they thought Littrell’s idea was an excellent one. New board members Robbie McCraw and Rex Hill also weighed in on the matter.
“I really appreciate Dr. Littrell and his diligence about the training center because it is something that doesn’t need to leave this county,” McCraw said. “Anybody you know, anybody you talk to about it, let them know it needs to stay open. He appears to have a true heart for it and I really appreciate that.”
Hill said even if the SWVTC is not kept open, elected officials should be held accountable for replacing it with some other state agency.
“That’s 400 jobs – that is a tremendous amount of jobs – and that will hurt if we don’t do something about it, either to replace it or keep it open,” Hill said. “We need to do everything we can to keep it open.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN