Category Archives: Business

Dollar General Progress

The new Dollar General is well on its way to completion. At the end of July, the grounds were cleared and prepped for construction. We have seen quite a few changes over the past two months take place at this spot in our community. The beginning of August, the store began going up and within a day or two, was a skeleton of what will become a Dollar General. A week later, the building had walls and is beginning to look like a DG store.

In more recent days, we have seen periodic closures of Flat Ridge Road off Sugar Grove HWY due to the new drains and water works taking place to accommodate the new store.

This past week, we noticed one of the three crosses had been taken down presumably due to the installation of new drains and hopefully will be placed back as it was when they are finished.

As it turns out, little is known about the three crosses alongside Sugar Grove Highway. These three crosses are one of many sets that pepper the highways across more than 29 states, the Philippines and Zambia. Placed by Reverend Bernard Coffindaffer the first of which were erected about 65 miles north of Charleston in 1984.

Coffindaffer was a WWII Veteran who served in the Marines and fought in Iwo Jima

Our crosses here in Sugar Grove were placed September 25, 1986. The site is #424 according to documentation.

Sugar Grove Property Re-Zoned for Dollar General

The Smyth County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission hosted a joint meeting concerning the property located at 5409 Sugar Grove Highway near the intersection of Flat Ridge Road for the purpose of re-zoning it commercial.  The lot was originally zoned Agricultural/Rural.

Tim Dunnaway spoke to the Board of Supervisors explaining to them that this store would be smaller and more compact than other stores is planned for this particular property. The property is .9 acres.

VDOT does not require a turn lane at the property since there’s deemed to be plenty of room to slow down and turn in the area. Filling and other grading was seen taking place earlier in the week on the property and is being done to correct flaws and prepare for construction.

There were no citizens present who spoke at the public hearing that took place. Furthermore, Clegg Williams has not had any public comment on the project.

Dollar General announced plans to build 1900 new stores by the end of 2017.


Help Keep Resources in Smyth County

You may have heard that the Saltville and Chilhowie branches of Smyth-Bland Regional Library (SBRL) are in danger of closing due to a lack of county funding this year. This came about with a $97,000 cut in county funding and lead the library board to create a contingency plan that would include the potential closing of the Saltville and Chilhowie branches as well as a huge cut in workforce and elimination of current programs.

A petition is being circulated by Friends of the Chilhowie Library to be presented at the June 9 Board of Supervisors Meeting.

This topic is being covered on the Maple Leaf Blog because libraries provide a number of resources to Smyth County overall and should be considered an important resource available to everyone in the county no matter which town or area you reside in.  The programs that SBRL funds and hosts throughout the year are a valuable part of adult and child education in Smyth County and would likely otherwise not be available through any other organizations because other organizations just can’t bring the same resources to the table brought by the public library.

Everyone in Smyth County is encouraged to attend the June 9 Smyth County Board of Supervisors meeting and use Citizen’s Time at 5:15 to let the Board know that cutting library funding is not a step in the right direction for the future of Smyth County. Funding should be made available to SBRL as a priority because the library should be viewed as an educational resource available to everyone.

Wytheville Community College Announces New President

WCC LogoWytheville Community College recently completed their search for the next president of the college.  The finalists for the position included  Dr. Hara D. Charlier, of Abingdon, Virginia; Dr. Michael M. Robinson, of Marion, Virginia; Dr. Mark A. Smith, of Temple, Texas; and Dr. Dean E. Sprinkle, of Statesville, North Carolina. Out of this group, Dr. Dean E. Sprinkle was selected as the new president. Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia Community Colleges made this announcement recently as the search concluded.

Sprinkle will begin his new post at Wytheville Community College beginning July 1. Sprinkle is currently serving as Senior Vice President at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC. Previously, he was Vice President of Instruction and Student Services and also served as the Dead of Student Services.

Sprinkle indicated that he is looking forward to relocating to the area and making Wytheville his new home.

He holds a PhD. in curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, a M.A. in clinical psychology from Western Carolina University, a B.S. from North Carolina State University and an A.A.S. from Lees McRae College in Banner Elk, NC.

Cost of Smyth County News & Messenger Increases

If you have been keeping up with Smyth County News & Messenger, you may have noticed that they published earlier in the year that they would begin charging a fee for online access to all of their newspaper’s online content. Apparently their holding company now seems to think that they are worth more than .75 per paper copy.

It was noticed recently that the cost has increased from .75 cents to $1.00 to purchase a Smyth County News & Messenger as well as other local newspapers owned by Berkshire Hathaway.  It is worth pointing out in this blog that the cost for Sugar Grove residents does not seem to be justified by the coverage we see in the newspaper or rather the lack thereof. In fact, it would seem that if you live in Sugar Grove, you should be able to purchase one of these papers at a discount because there’s seldom any coverage relevant to our community in the newspaper.

On top of the price increase for paper copies and the threat of a substantial subscription fee for online access to local news, it’s  been noticed that there’s an unusually annoying and increasing number of pop ups popping up on the newspaper’s website as well.

Changes such as this not only make general local news such as the dates of public meetings and hearings inaccessible to the public but also are actually going to hurt our local newspaper because of the increase in price and inaccessibility at their web portal.

Perhaps if the local newspaper would provide coverage on issues, events and news concerning all parts of the county rather than selective portions of the county, sales and business would improve to the point that there would be no need to increase cost. Other newspapers outside of our area have not increased their cost but have taken the time to cover Sugar Grove’s events and news from time to time.


AEP’s Deferred Deposits & What They Mean For You

AEP Deferred DepositsAppalachian Power is the only company providing utility services to our region of Southwest Virginia and it would be putting it lightly to say that customers are upset each month after seeing the high cost of their winter utility bills despite their best efforts to conserve energy and keep costs down. “Financially crippling” or perhaps “financial hardship” would be a better description of what most customers experience when they open their bill.

It is not uncommon for the average bill in our area to exceed $500 but what happens when you start seeing other charges pop up on your bill? What does it mean? What does Appalachian Power have to say about it?

AEP has been adding “deferred deposits” to bills for a while now. Some customers experience $35 added to their initial bill while a majority of customers are seeing hundreds of dollars added to their bill under this description. What gives? Are they not already collecting enough money? Yes, we think so!

AEP claims that their deferred deposit fee that you see on your bill is in accordance with Virginia Code, the Administrative Code and AEP’s Terms and Conditions.  They also state that the amount is based on 2/12 of the account holder’s billing history for the past year and if the account is paid on time for a period of 12 consecutive months, the deposit amount will be refunded with interest.

What AEP didn’t say in their statement is that they won’t actually refund your money. They will keep it and add credit to your account so in essence, you aren’t getting anything back in your pocket when you pay these deferred deposits.

We’ve heard from some in our area who are living on a fixed income, get paid certain days of the month or who are plain and simply unable to pay. This group seems to be the ones that are getting hit the hardest.  Some have even contacted AEP requesting that their due date be changed so that it falls closer to the date their check arrives. In most cases, the company hasn’t obliged these requests and continues with their billing spree and efforts to find new ways to steal money from their customers.

For those who are simply unable to pay due to a lack of funds, they can expect to receive very little help from AEP and will likely be kicked while they are down. The company has a long history of not only charging “deferred deposits” but also charging astronomical disconnect and reconnect fees along with additional deposits when service is cut off.  When people can’t afford to pay their unexpected and financially crippling electric bill in the first place, it doesn’t help their situation when a huge corporate company monopolizing the market adds more fees making basic services completely unattainable.

For those qualifying for utility assistance, they do not actually get a lot of help if the money that is put on their account won’t even cover the actual cost of electricity use because it was applied to fees that mounted up when services were shut off or bills were paid slightly late but perhaps in full.  Additionally, these fees do nothing but help drain and squeeze charitable organization’s resources.

Many of those affected do pay their bills on time and have accounts in good standing but they struggle to do so; adding additional service fees seems uncontainable in those cases.

If you’re having difficulty paying your utility bill this winter, you can check with your local Department of Social Services to see if there’s assistance available for you or you could check with one of the many churches in your community. Aside from that, if you want to take a stand against this rapidly growing problem in our area, you can contact your representatives. You will need to look to your elected Delegates and Senators since they are the ones passing House Bills that add to the woes of our citizens who get handed the bottom line cost in the form of high utility bills.  Additionally, the State Corporation Commission accepts complaints on these issues from consumers across the state.

Calling All Developers

Sugar Grove, Virginia is an awesome location for a business with several commercial properties waiting to be purchased and/or developed into the next profitable venture! This is a shout out for all potential property developers, business professionals or anyone who is interested in starting up a new business or bringing your business to Sugar Grove.

The community has several ideal properties along Sugar Grove Highway/Route 16. The main road is part of the popular Back of the Dragon motorcycle route and passes through the middle of the community. Along with this wonderful tourist attraction, we have available high speed fiber optic cable for business use and the lower tax rates of being located outside of an incorporated town within Smyth County.

The community is nestled approximately 12 miles south of Marion and Interstate 81 between two beautiful mountains. Community advocates and local officials are currently pursuing establishment of cellular services that would not only enhance the community but would also meet your business and technology needs.

Our school, a central location in the community, offers an ideal learning environment with small class sizes and student to teacher ratios making this community a preferred location in Smyth County not only for business but for family, recreation and rural living without being too far away from the necessities.

Farm Food Freedom in Virginia

Did you know that raw milk in Virginia is more illegal than tobacco, alcohol or firearms? This is unbelievably true yet how many of us have enjoyed fresh whole milk straight from the cow and lived to tell about it?  HB 1290 is designed to make it easier for local farmers to pack and process their goods to sell to paying customers. Previously, it was illegal for farmers to sell unpasteurized milk.

Virginia Food Freedom makes the statement on their website that “Virginia is experiencing a serious downturn in the independent job sector” and provides supporting information to outline this.  They also have a petition that you can sign to support their cause located here.

HB 1290 is designed to benefit those who would like to purchase locally produced food items from farmers and neighbors rather than conventional grocery store items. Foods such as those prepared at home currently must be prepared in a certified kitchen. Because many individuals do not have “certified kitchens” available at their homes, they are unable to legally package and sell their homemade goods.

Presently, Virginia’s existing state laws place restrictions on what home cooks and farmers can sell and produce and even limits on the amount of certain goods that can be produced for sale.  We all know that we have people in our communities who are fabulous cooks or have something special that turns up at a community meal that’s popular. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could buy a few jars of that famous homemade spaghetti sauce you love that a local neighbor makes? If HB 1290 is passed, you may be able to do it!

If this law is passed it could help supplement the income of local farm families and those who enjoy preparing local foods for sale to the community.   For Sugar Grove, it could also improve the offerings at our farmers market seasonally.

We will be looking at fewer chemicals present in our food, less cancer, fewer allergies and healthier foods if this passes. Please consider visiting the website and adding your name to the petition.


Smyth County’s Decision to get out of the A-Corridor

Contributed by Ron Blevins–
As many know, about three years ago I brought a view of Lean Governing to the Smyth County Board of Supervisors. This was a way for the county to be operated in a leaner more economically sound manner. I have worked in Lean Manufacturing in the past and wished to apply this same principles to the governing process. Within this process we must change costly habits and separate wants from needs. After these have been separated we must attempt to eliminate the want and concentrate on the needs of the county. This all must be done without interfering with the overall function of the county government.

The discussion of the A-Corridor (a regional economic development conglomeration of six counties and two cities) came up in the Economic and Industrial Development Committee. The Committee went over several factors such as the cost of being in the A-Corridor ($32,000 a year) over the last 20 years for a total cost of around half a million dollars of taxpayer money. The benefits that we as a county and to the citizens over the last 20 years have been few and far in between. The benefit just did not justify the cost over the past twenty years. At this point the committee voted to send this matter on to the full board for consideration.

At the December 2014 regular meeting of the Smyth County Board of Supervisors, Tom Elliot of the A-Corridor was on the agenda. Mr. Elliot gave a power point presentation to the Board of the benefits of being in the A-Corridor. Unfortunately the presentation fell short of being convincing to the Board that the A-Corridor was in the best interest of the County and its Citizens. The Presentation consisted of a map of the state of Virginia with counties colored in different colors, and saying that if Smyth County was not in the A-Corridor our county would be colored gray [along with several other counties in the state]. Mr. Elliot gave no mention to what the A-Corridor had done for the county over the last twenty years, even though the county had been paying into it for this long. He did mention that HE was instrumental in bringing a newly opened business, [which is debatable].

After the presentation, Board members had a chance to question Mr. Elliot about the advantages of the A-Corridor. There were several questions raised by the board including:

***I noticed throughout the presentation you [Mr. Elliot] made many references to yourself such a “me” and “I” instead of the A-Corridor. [His response] When I say me or I, I am referring to the A-Corridor……I am the A-Corridor.

***I also asked Mr. Elliot, why have I been on the board for three years now and this is the first time I have seen you before the board? He stated that he did not think it was necessary, but he could come talk to us in the future.

***Mr. Elliot was also asked what the A-Corridor had done for Smyth County in the last 20 years. [His answer] I cannot give you any specifics over the last 20 years, but “I” was instrumental in bringing MEC to Smyth County. This fact was debated by County staff.

After discussion by the board, which included other board members that who felt he did not keep the county in the loop over the past 20 years and the county had not been represented well over this same time period. The fact that he himself said when showing sites to potential companies, he only made a single stop in Smyth County. Finally the thinking that we could use that same $32,000 annually to market and attract companies to the county and increase the availability of jobs for the citizens of Smyth County.

After discussion, the motion was made to withdraw from the A-Corridor and invest that money directly into the county and its citizens. The motion passed 7-0.

Winterize Your Vehicles

Every year temperatures plunge below freezing during winter in Sugar Grove and as we all know, there are certain things that need attention prior to this change in the weather. Your vehicle is not something to be neglected during this time.  Here are a few tips on keeping your vehicle running and with great deals on service offered right here in the community from Bob’s Garage, you have every advantage over the winter season when it comes to your vehicle!

  • Make sure you’re using the proper oil for existing weather conditions. The outside temperature will affect the running temperature of your vehicle and therefore the appropriate oil is necessary for optimal performance during cooler months.
  • Check your coolant!  You want to be sure that you have the appropriate mixture for cooler weather to prevent water from freezing in your radiator. A standard blend is 60% coolant to 40% water during winter. Check your owner’s manual for more information.
  • Inspect the battery, terminals and cables for corrosion, cracks and breaks. Additionally, check the fluid in the battery by snapping off the top covers to see that they are equally full. Top off with distilled water if necessary. If shopping for a new battery, never buy one if the manufacturer’s date is more than 3 months outdated.
  • Switch tires; there are tires for summer driving and there’s tires for winter driving to help better travel in icy or snowy conditions.
  • Treat your windshield and change windshield washer fluids in your vehicle to one that has anti-freeze as one of the components to help wash away winter grime without freezing on the window.
  • Pick up something to thaw the door locks and stash it someplace besides inside your car so that you can have access to it if you need it.
  • Don’t forget to check or pack an emergency kit in your vehicle. This kit should include the following: Flares, blankets, boots, radio, engine oil, washer fluid, coolant and a flashlight.

You can have most of these services performed on you vehicle at Bob’s Garage in Sugar Grove. Bob’s Garage is a full service garage offering state inspections, tire changes, rotations, and more!  Be sure to mention that you heard about Bob’s on the Sugar Grove Community Page.

Bob's Garage, Sugar Grove Virginia