The panel of local and state officials answered questions from the audience regarding issues that affect Gallia County.
Over the past month, gas prices have soared causing legislators to take a closer look at the business practices of national and international providers.
According to a statement by U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, who was unable to attend the event, steps are being taken in the form of two bills - the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act and the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act.
“These bills would punish price gougers and go after foreign countries that fix prices and limit supply,” wrote Wilson. “I will continue to do my part to try to bring gas prices under control.”
Both bills have passed the House and are now before Senate committees.
The benefits of alternative energy was also discussed.
“(U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown) would like to see Ohio become the Silicon Valley of alternative energy,” said Jeanne Wilson, a representative of Brown's office.
Gallia County Commissioners President David Smith said the commissioners have started focusing on alternative energy see how it can benefit Gallia County.
“Commissioner (Joe) Foster is chairing a committee we have appointed (to look at) what opportunities we have in Gallia County to benefit from (alternative energy),” said Smith. “Sooner or later the (gas prices) are going to take a toll on our economy and we need an energy policy from the national down to the state level.”
Lawrence Burdell, vice president of the Ohio Federation of Soil & Water Conservation Districts, stated that creating wealth starts with the soil.
“We (need to) maximize the use of our free natural, renewable resources to produce a product and add all the value to it,” said Burdell. “In the past we depended on these resources for food and fiber. Now we are being asked to produce not only food and fiber, but also energy.
“This is a geat challenge as well as a great opportunity for Gallia County,” Burdell added. “We at the Gallia County Soil and Water Conservation District are preparing to be leaders in this effort.”
Ethanol production has been at the top of the list of discussions in past years regarding Gallia County's role in alternative energy.
According to Burdell, right now Gallia County is not in a position to be aided by ethanol.
“Unfortunately, right at the moment, ethanol has had a negative effect on Gallia County, because we are a corn deficient county. What livestock we do have, much of the corn is being bought,” Burdell said. “What we have to look at is the total effect, the long range effect, this at some point will have to balance out.”
Locally, Gallipolis City Commission President Dow Saunders updated the audience on several actions the city is taking to improve the quality of life in the city, including the Ameresco energy savings project and the controversial rental inspection program.
The recent agreement between the city and county to provide sewer service to the Kanauga-Addison area was also discussed.
Also on hand to discuss issues were State Rep. Clyde Evans, who spoke to the audience about higher education; Brandon Kern, representative of State Sen. John Carey's office, who spoke of changes to Jobs Ready Sites rules; Shannon Slavin, representative of Congressman Charlie Wilson's office, who talked about several projects, including the Farm Road project, taking place in Gallipolis and Gallia County; and Cara Dingus Brook, representative for U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, who discussed the reauthorization of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Other topics covered included the Farm Act, high-speed Internet access and economic development in Gallia County.
The legislative event, sponsored by AT&T, was initiated to give businesses and residents an opportunity to discuss concerns with state and local legislators.
“The chamber is here obviously to foster business and be a liaison between businesses and the legislators,” said Legislative Event Chair Ryan Smith. “That's why we hold this event, so that from a business perspective or individual perspective, our voices are heard.”