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Augusta County Board of Supervisors approves 2023 legislative agenda

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VERONA — The Augusta County Board of Supervisors approved the county’s 2023 legislative agenda Tuesday evening.

The annual document highlights the county’s priorities to the Virginia General Assembly. This year, funding for behavioral health centers and school construction is included in the county’s priorities.

Also listed is a request to extend hazardous benefits to animal control and emergency communications staff. The document argues both positions encounter situations that should qualify them.

Another priority is the request for federal and state funding for constructing a third lane where interstates 81 and 64 overlap between Staunton and Lexington. Augusta County and Rockbridge County adopted resolutions supporting the lane in February, citing frequent crashes on the highway.

“Now is the time that we need to try to do something, if ever,” Riverheads Supervisor Mike Shull said in February. “I figure both counties working together to send this out; we may have a better chance.”

One area of slight disagreement among the supervisors Tuesday related to the legislative agenda’s request that Virginia leaves the wording surrounding its Certificate of Public Need program (COPN) unchanged. The program requires any healthcare providers seeking to open or expand a facility to provide evidence of community need.

Wayne Supervisor Scott Seaton motioned for agenda to request the assembly to modernize COPN regulations to improve patient safety, accreditation, quality, patient access and charity care.

Augusta Health President and CEO Mary Mannix and the hospital’s board of directors urged the board to refrain from pushing for updated COPN language at their Nov. 9 meeting.

“What COPN does is it levels the playing field,” Mannix said. “It ensures that another health system or another company doesn’t come into the community and siphon off those profitable services, leaving a health system like Augusta Health only with the services the community needs that operate at a loss. That would destabilize us, and in the long run, we would no longer be financially viable.”

Seaton’s motion was defeated 5-2, with Pastures Supervisor Pam Carter joining him. Vice-Chair Butch Wells said the board shouldn’t ignore the hospital’s request.

After the discussion, the board unanimously approved the legislative agenda.

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