Students join Strasburg’s first online forum

Strasburg’s first foray into the “virtual” world went well, officials said Wednesday.

The online, real-time public forum held via the Internet and telephones attracted a few people who for about an hour asked questions and expressed opinions about Strasburg. Town Manager Judson Rex and Mayor Tim Taylor hosted Strasburg’s first such forum.

“It’s kind of historic ground here,” Taylor said to open the forum. “We’ve never done this before so I apologize up front if we happen to run into any technology snafus or anything like.”

Only a few, minor technical glitches arose during the forum, Rex said later Wednesday afternoon. In addition to a handful of people who logged into the online forum, students in Ashley Carper’s Dual Enrolled Virginia and U.S. Government course at Strasburg High School participated.

Student Kerigan Jenkins asked what is being done about the heroin problem in the area. Rex said police Chief Tim Sutherly would be the best person to answer the question, but explained that Strasburg’s department works locally through the town and collaborates with other communities in the regional task force to tackle the problem.

Dakota Funkhouser suggested the town could create a youth center or other activities to give young people more options after school. Taylor noted the town’s ongoing efforts to attract businesses, including those that are more appealing to young people.

“We need to get more feedback, thoughts on what you all would like to see,” Taylor said.

The mayor asked students what they would like to see in Strasburg.

“Everyone says Chick Fil A,” one student said.

Alexis Mathias asked if the town has plans to continue to host events that might cater more to the older population. Taylor said that some events, such as Music in the Park, do attract older audiences but are open to everyone.

In response to a question from student Melissa Ortiz, the town does have plans in place to build new roads as Strasburg grows. The focus as of now remains on maintaining and improving the existing roads, Rex said. Nicole Killen continued with the question about roads and asked if the town could consider limiting traffic on more narrow routes, such as Sharp Street, to one way. Town officials hear that comment frequently and likely will revisit the topic, Rex said.

In response to Bethany Gochenour’s question, Rex explained the town is planning for the future development of the annexed industrial park. Caleb Haines asked if there are plans to bring medical facilities to the park.

Katie Mumper asked if the town promotes the benefits of small businesses.

“I don’t think enough people realize that, like when you spend money at Denny’s or like McDonald’s or something, the money doesn’t go back into the town,” Mumper said.

The town recently created an arts and tourism district to help promote local, downtown businesses, Rex noted. The town offers incentives to qualified businesses to locate in the district.

Councilman Donald Le Vine also sat in on the forum and said the students asked interesting questions. Le Vine then asked the students how council could make its meetings interesting enough to attract more people and get them more involved in local government. Jenkins said the forum has helped her and fellow students get involved in local government but that she never knows about council meetings unless she sees the sign outside Town Hall. The town could do more to advertise the meetings, Jenkins said. Taylor asked if the town should use other outlets to get the word out.

“We always use Twitter and stuff, so Twitter’s definitely a good idea,” Jenkins said. “Facebook pages are better for more of the older population — older than us — so that’s a really good idea as far as advertising.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com