- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2000

FLOYD, Va. This town in southern Virginia might have only 400 residents and one stoplight, but it will soon start printing thousands of dollars of its own money to keep cash spent on everything from doctors' bills to groceries within its borders.

The town is following the lead of Ithaca, N.Y., which has printed $65,000 worth of its own currency since 1991. About 45 cities around the United States have adopted their own "scrip," local currency that was common around the time of the Civil War.

"Money U.S. dollars doesn't represent anything except an exchange. Scrip is the same thing it's consensus," said Dawn Shiner, spokeswoman for the Floyd Scrip Study Group.

Once people get the idea that the money comes back to the community, they will support it, she said.

Floyd is the seat of Floyd County, 383 square miles of mostly rural farm area in the Blue Ridge mountains. To many residents, the idea of printing currency is not that unusual in a town where exchanging goods and services through bartering is common.

Jyoti Minnich, a 21-year resident of Floyd, said she has bartered her skill in reiki, a hands-on form of Tibetan healing, in exchange for vegetables grown locally.

"I know farmers have used bartering for many generations," she said. "Many people around here have done that."

The town's residents are a mix of farmers, retirees and young artists, known locally as "alternatives."

Main Street, which has the hardware store and the barber shop, now also has stores selling arts and crafts, herbs and whole foods, and a restaurant serving vegetarian entrees. Locals have dubbed the thoroughfare "Woodstock Alley."

Many local business owners are interested in scrip but want to see more details before they agree to support it.

"It would be nice to do it, but I don't know how far it will go," said Barbara Bernard, owner of Artcraft Florist and Home Accents in Floyd. She added that Floyd residents an eclectic bunch are usually game when it comes to trying new things.

Ithaca, the model for Floyd's program, started the local currency trend nine years ago by issuing "hours," bills that are worth $10 of labor.

"We printed our own money because we watched federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rain forest lumber and fight wars," wrote Ithaca Hours founder Paul Glover in his mission statement.

The system uses serial numbers, multicolored pictures and thermal ink, which disappears briefly when the money is photocopied, to protect against counterfeiting, Mr. Glover said.

"I know of no regulations against scrip, so long as they are not trying to pass it off as legal money," said Claudia Dickens, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department.

The Internal Revenue Service also allows scrip, so long as income taken from it is reported in dollars for tax purposes.

While the Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca distributes hours, the Bank of Floyd is not sure banking regulations would allow it to take the money.

"I don't know how scrip, if issued, would be transferred or handled except on a personal basis," said Leon Moore, the president of the Bank of Floyd.

Some residents, too, seem skeptical.

"I don't know how they'd work it here. Scrip is not something most people have heard about," said Hubert Robertson, 74, a Floyd native and manager of the Floyd Country Store. "I don't think they would use it much here."

Margie Ryan, the owner of Harvest Moon, a health food and herbal supply store, said she thinks businesses should be supportive of the idea.

"Personally, I'm for it. We would probably do a percentage of our sales in scrip," Mrs. Ryan, 46, said.

The Floyd Scrip Study Group is still working out the details: how much to print, the scrip's design, who will accept it. But the group hopes to have actual currency circulating by next year, with the cooperation of local businesses.

"It's not really that far-fetched an idea, but it will take an effort by the merchant community," said Janice Yearout-Patton, manager of Farmer's Supply and General Hardware.

Bert Diamond, 70, a Floyd resident, said he has not seen scrip used since it was given to coal miners living in West Virginia coal camps in the 1940s, but said it's a good idea.

"Floyd's a unique place. It could work. It would be a novelty," Mr. Diamond said.

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