Wise County supervisors commit to High Knob repair project

WISE — A project to repair electrical service at the High Knob Recreation Area received full funding from the Wise County Board of Supervisors this week.

The board voted 8-0 to provide $4,170 requested by the High Knob Enhancement Corporation to replace a 600-foot electric line from the bathhouse to the amphitheater stage.

Enhancement Corporation member Chris Jones told the board that the corporation has been involved with a series of projects at the recreation area in support of the High Knob Music Festival for six years. He said the organization’s latest plan includes replacement of the on-ground electrical line after an inspection found several nicks in insulation including exposed wire running across a creek at the site.

Jones said that county building inspector Johnny McElrath and electrician Michael Addington have already reviewed the existing line and recommended an overhaul including 1,800 feet of wire, 600 feet of conduit, service panel boxes, circuit breakers and necessary outlets, equipment and concrete reinforcement as needed.

Jones said the corporation’s efforts at High Knob have drawn support from Wise and Scott counties as well as Norton, whose city council has committed to $1,000 in city funding each of the two most recent fiscal years to help the corporation.

“The crown jewel of High Knob is the recreation area,” Jones said. “We’re trying to save it.”

District 1 Supervisor Fred Luntsford Jr. questioned the project’s benefit to the county.

“As I see it, the trickle-down benefit is mainly for Norton,” Luntsford told Jones.

“I do respectfully disagree with that,” Jones replied.

District 3 Supervisor J.H. Rivers said he supported a contribution from the county’s transient occupation fund. District 4 Supervisor Chair Dana Kilgore said High Knob draws large numbers of people from the county.

District 4 Supervisor and Vice Chair Robby Robbins said High Knob is “the anchor for tourism in the county.” He noted that the U.S. Forest Service — responsible for High Knob’s operation — has been hit with long-term budget cuts for maintaining recreation areas in the Jefferson National Forest and depends on partnerships with volunteers and local governments for upkeep.

County Administrator Mike Hatfield said that the LENOWISCO Planning District has provided $5,000 for a water supply study for the Friends of the Clinch Ranger District as part of helping support national forest recreation areas.

Kilgore asked the board if it wanted to consider making Jones’ request part of the meeting’s new business agenda, getting unanimous approval.

On Rivers’ motion, the board agreed to provide the $4,170 contingent on available funds in the county budget.

Jones later said that he would like to see the project start if weather permits this year, adding that the spring of 2020 was more likely. Work could be completed in less than two weeks, he added.

In other business, the board approved a Nov. 14, 6 p.m. public hearing on a proposed boundary adjustment between Appalachia and the county to place about 1,000 acres of land in the town limits. The adjustment would help the town in linking its Powell River Trail with Big Stone Gap’s Greenbelt system and give the town abandoned mine land suitable for attracting industrial or commercial economic development prospects.

Hatfield also told board members that a planned bond refinancing to get better debt service terms on existing bond debt for the county school system’s consolidation was completed Wednesday.

While the supervisors and county staff were expecting to lower debt interest to 3.4 percent, Hatfield said the new bond was sold at a 2.94 percent rate.

“It was a very good day for Wise County in the bond market,” Hatfield said.