Town Council recognizes current and new employees, discusses tower

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Mary Ann Brenchick has been hired as Deputy Director of Public Works.

Vinton Town Council met on January 17 to recognize the first Employee of the Year, to welcome several new employees, to hold a public hearing on a proposed radio antenna, to hear several briefings, and to take action on finance issues.

Lydia Verdillo, an employee with the Finance Department, was chosen as Employee of the Year. This award was established in November 2016 to “recognize employees who have served the Town of Vinton in an exceptional manner, by exemplifying outstanding service through his or her work, and have exhibited a positive and supportive attitude.”

She was nominated by co-workers, chosen by a committee, recognized at the Employee Holiday Luncheon in December, and presented a plaque that will be placed in the display case in the Municipal Building lobby.

Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey presented his report on the squad’s services in November and December of 2016 and for the 2016 year as a whole. The volunteers donated a total of 20,285 man hours in the past year with a notable response time averaging 8.87 minutes when responding in under 12 minutes is the goal.

Guffey introduced two new members of the First Aid Crew, Whitney Tickle, who is a junior at William Byrd High School, and Donnie Garman.

Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster introduced a new officer, Josh Murray,who is completing his studies at the Police Academy and will begin working in Vinton after May 31.

Vinton Public Works Director Joey Hiner introduced Mary Ann Brenchick as the new Deputy Public Works Director.

After a public hearing, council granted a one-year renewable lease to WVJT, LLC, for space on the town’s Third Street water tank to place and operate radio equipment for an AM station. M.R. Murray, vice president and general manager, addressed council on this proposal at the meeting on January 3, along with radio engineer Jeff Parker. The company will pay the town $4,800 in rent for the first year of operation.

Public Works Director Hiner told council that radio equipment of this type is “not uncommon” to attach to water towers. His main concern was damage to the facilities and access by town personnel and he feels the proposed equipment will not be a problem.

Josh Murray was introduced by Chief Tom Foster as the newest member of the Vinton Police force.

Town Manager Barry Thompson, who worked out the agreement with WVJT and the town’s attorney, Theresa Fontana, said that the Western Virginia Water Authority has similar attachments which have caused no issues.

Murray said that once an engineering study is complete, WVJT will file for its license with the FCC and the translator equipment will be installed. Initially their parent station will be 106.9 from Bedford, which plays “the oldies.” Parker and Murray thanked council and especially Thompson for their efforts to work out the lease agreement so expeditiously.

Next, council was briefed by attorney Fontana for “tweeks” to the existing “Undeveloped Right-of-Way Vacation Policy” which covers petitions from citizens to vacate right-of-ways (ROWs) not currently being used for vehicular traffic– sometimes called “paper streets.” Language was added stating that the petitioner would pay the fair market value of the ROW as determined by a certified real estate appraiser.

Council was also briefed by Karla Turman from Planning and Zoning on a request for a Special Use Permit by Rachel Robertson to operate a small Pilates exercise studio (which is considered a Personal Service Business) at her home on Duke Drive. She would have one or two private clients for a total of no more than 15 hours per week. Clients would park in her newly paved driveway, not on the street.

Notifications have been sent to neighbors advising them of the request and of public hearings to be held by the Vinton Planning Commission on February 2 and by council on February 7. Mayor Brad Grose noted that typically the Planning and Zoning Department sends notices to all property owners in the vicinity, not just to adjoining properties.

Council adopted a resolution presented by Finance Director Anne Cantrell allowing the Finance Department to reallocate budget to cover payroll adjustments during the fiscal year.

She also asked council to adopt a resolution allowing her to create a ledger account to monitor the use of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Revolving Loan Program funds. As part of the $700,000 CDBG downtown redevelopment grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the town set aside $100,000 to be loaned to businesses in the downtown business district for improvements. As businesses pay back their loans, the money can be loaned out again in a continuing cycle. This action by council separates the Revolving Loan funds from the town’s general checking account. The resolution was adopted.

Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey (center) welcomed two new members: Whitney Tickle, who is a junior at William Byrd High School, and Donnie Garman.

Council discussed and then adopted a resolution supporting the Market Place Fairness Act, which encourages Congress to act to require online businesses to collect and remit sales taxes on purchases. Council made some changes to the language of the resolution, which was passed by the City of Roanoke, before it was adopted. Vice Mayor Matt Hare stated that he feels the General Assembly also needs to take action on this issue. Councilman Keith Liles agreed with Hare that collecting these taxes will not solve the problem of the decline of local businesses in competition with Internet sales. The issue is more complex.

Council re-appointed Doug Adams, Carolyn Fidler, and Roy McCarty Jr. to the Vinton Highway Safety Commission for three-year terms.

Thompson updated council on the proposed skateboard park. Engineering proposals are being submitted to FEMA for approval. He has met with Valley Metro, which has begun a ridership survey for buses in Vinton, and again voiced concerns about the Unlimited Pass policy. These talks stem from what are seen as exorbitant and difficult to sustain increases in costs for bus service in Vinton in recent years– and paid for by taxpayers.

Councilman Liles brought up issues with the stoplight at the intersection of Clearview Drive and Hardy Road, which may need some adjustments to change more quickly for traffic on Clearview. Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty noted that some of that traffic cuts through the BNC Bank parking lot to avoid long waits at the stoplight and causes traffic hazards there. A “No Thru Traffic” sign has been installed. A traffic camera would be another solution to the problem, but would require funding.

Councilwoman Janet Scheid told other members of council that downtown businesses have commented on an increase in foot traffic since Twin Creeks Brewery opened on Pollard.

Hare commended Town Council and the Vinton Police Department for their foresight and “leading edge in the Valley” in choosing a policy to have the State Police investigate officer-involved shootings instead of conducting an in-house investigation, if that should ever occur.

Scheid suggested that the town may need to educate the public on trash collection ordinances within the town which are being ignored by residents and then institute enforcement procedures.