job corps

State lawmakers have joined their congressional colleagues and Coeburn town council in formally opposing plans to close the Flatwoods Job Corps center.

One week ago, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a press release stating that the U.S. Forest Service intends to withdraw from operating Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers.

Planned changes include shutting down nine such centers across the country, including Flatwoods.

Monday night, Coeburn’s council passed a resolution against the proposal.

It states that closure “would be devastating to the Town of Coeburn and the surrounding community as the Flatwoods Job Corps has been and continues to be a tremendous partner with the Town of Coeburn in order to better our Town and our community.”

The resolution adds that the Flatwoods center creates jobs “in an area of our state that desperately needs employment opportunities.”

It notes that Flatwoods is a recent honoree as national Job Corps center of the year.

Before council passed the resolution, Mayor Jeff Kiser noted that the center is a major water and sewer customer of the town. For the last year or so, the center’s monthly town utility bill has ranged from about $10,000-14,000.

Wednesday, town council received a letter from state Del. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, and state Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Fries, regarding the proposed closure.

The letter, addressed to U.S. Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta, states that “Flatwoods has and continues to serve an important role in helping young adults attain critical skills needed to find quality employment while working to preserve our National Forest and natural assets.”

Flatwoods was named a national center of the year in 2013, and in 2016 was named the Job Corps national director’s center of the year, the letter notes.

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, also have sent a letter urging federal authorities to keep the Flatwoods center open.

For now, the Job Corps changes are only a proposal that will be published in the Federal Register of regulations and opened up to public comment.