City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to support the creation of a precision machining lab at George Washington High School. The goal of the lab is to create a pipeline of medium-skilled advanced manufacturing workers to meet existing and targeted industry demand, as cited by the Boston Consulting Group report.
Precision machining, specifically in metalworking, has been a focus area for economic development in Danville and Pittsylvania County. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, when in Danville in May to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Gene Haas Center for Integrated Manufacturing, labeled workforce development and advanced manufacturing as pillars in building a 21st Century economy.
A precision machining lab at GW High would join the program in place in the Pittsylvania County Public Schools system in providing students the necessary skill sets and a career pathway for these high-demand and high-paying jobs.
The lab would be a two-year program, with 20 juniors accepted each year. The students who successfully complete the two-year program would finish their certification at Danville Community College with one year of credits toward that certification.
At Tuesday’s Council meeting, Mayor Sherman Saunders called the lab a good investment. He pointed out that DCC’s program has placed 100 percent of its graduates, and companies have come to Danville to visit the program.
“It is getting national attention,” Saunders said.
The estimated cost of setting up the lab is $1.65 million. With Council’s support, a grant of $800,000 is being sought from the Virginia Tobacco Commission. The Danville School Board has committed $50,000; and the City Danville would be responsible for funding the remaining $800,000.
In other action Tuesday, Council voted to:
• appoint Ken Larking as interim city manager. His appointment follows the retirement of City Manager Joe King on Monday. Larking has served as deputy city manager since March 18, 2013.
• amend regulations to allow food trucks and carts to operate on public streets and sidewalks. Several Council members noted the popularity of food trucks and carts in other cities, and they said the changes would give citizens more food choices. Revisions will be made if issues develop, council members said. The changes do not alter the operation of food trucks on private property. Mobile food vendors are subject to all the same regulations that a restaurant is required to follow.
• accept a grant to assist in developing Sandy Creek Park adjacent to Dan River Church location. The grant of $24,000 is from the RiverBank Fund of the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region. When completed, the 7-acre park will provide additional access to the river and space for individual and group use.
• accept and appropriate $59,010 from Pittsylvania County for providing electronic monitoring and outreach detention programs for county juvenile offenders served at W.W. Moore Jr. Detention Home.
• accept and appropriate a grant of $86,999 from the state Department of Juvenile Justice for Danville juvenile offenders serving at W.W. Moore Jr. Detention Home. The grant requires a local match of $38,830.
• appoint Fred Meder and Jarrett White to the Building Code Board of Appeals.
• reappoint Samuel Thomas and Gus Dyer to the Building Code Board of Appeals.
• appoint Gus Dolianitis to the Employee Retirement System.
• appoint David Totten and reappoints Krystal Farmer to the Fair Housing Board.
• reappoint Michael Scearce and Robert Q. Jones to the Planning Commission.
Council's meeting included a business session followed by a work session. In work sessions, Council reviews non-routine matters that will be voted upon in future business meetings. In Tuesday’s work session, Council discussed municipal gas code revisions and an agreement to allow Appalachian Power to serve the Berry Hill Road mega park.
River City TV airs live all Council business sessions. The first rebroadcast will be at 8 p.m. Thursday. Watch it on cable (Comcast channel 10 and Gamewood channel 122) or streaming at RiverCityTV.org. The taped broadcast is available now on the City’s YouTube channel -- DanvilleVAGov.
River City TV does not air work sessions, but they are open to the public.