Vinton Town Council honors Vietnam veterans

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Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey introduced two new members of the crew to Vinton Town Council– Melissa Andersen (center) and Courtney Cherry.

Vinton Town Council opened its meeting on March 21 by approving a resolution to proclaim March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Vinton.

Council members, the town staff, and citizens present stood as Councilman Keith Liles read the proclamation “expressing appreciation, respect, gratitude, and respect to our Vietnam veterans and their families for their courage, commitment, and sacrifice in protecting our country.”

A public wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the Vinton War Memorial High Ground Monument on March 29 at noon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster recognized Acting Sergeant Michael Caldwell and Officer Jeremy Shrewsbury as Officers of the Month for February. He also informed council that Detective Todd Bailey has received the prestigious honor of being selected for the Virginia Forensic Science Academy— a nine-week course held in Richmond.

Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey presented the monthly report for February. There was a unit in service 100 percent of the volunteer hours with the Advanced Life Support medic truck marked up 89 percent of the time and a Basic Life Support unit 11 percent. The First Aid Crew accumulated 1979 man-hours for the month.

The fractile response time to calls was a commendable 8.73 minutes, when 12 minutes is the standard.

Guffey told council that the First Aid Crew now has 51 members with five in the application process. He introduced two new members— Melissa Andersen and Courtney Cherry.

Andersen is a senior at Christian Heritage Academy and plans to pursue a Bachelor’s in Nursing with a Minor in Spanish. She just obtained her EMT. She “loves to serve others” and has been on several mission trips. She also enjoys long-distance hiking, kayaking, and sports. Andersen will be turning 18 next week. Her proud mother, Beth Andersen, is a medic on the crew.

Cherry is a junior at William Byrd High School where she is a member of the Air Force JROTC and the marching band. She plans to attend James Madison University to study music education. She would like eventually to join the Army Band.

Guffey said once again that he is glad to welcome all new members, but especially young members, to ensure the longevity of the Volunteer First Aid Crew.

Vinton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Richard Oakes presented his organization’s funding request for fiscal year 2018 to council. They are requesting $19,000, which will cover contractual services, equipment replacement, training, uniforms and gear, office supplies, and paying the active 911 paging system fee. Funds received last year were used to purchase a turnout gear dryer and replacements for antiquated furniture in their day room.

Oakes said that the volunteers have added four new members in the past year with a goal of adding 10 new members in 2017.

Finance Director Anne Cantrell asked council to adopt a resolution appropriating $25,000 to allow the Finance Department to complete radio-read meter installation for the commercial route. Town Manager Barry Thompson said that converting all meters to radio-read will allow the town to receive more detailed information and improve staff efficiency as they will be able to simply drive by and read the meters. The system will also allow for 24/7 data to be pulled in case of customer issues.

Council adopted a resolution requested by Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters transferring $25,000 in the General Fund from the Community Development Block Grant Match Expenditures to the Economic Development Budget to conduct a Feasibility Study of the historic Gish Mill property. Peters briefed council on this item at the last meeting.

“The purpose of the study is to assess the site’s current condition and plan for its eventual rehabilitation for potential commercial or civic use while also preserving its historic character,” said Peters.

The study will include a Structural and Building Assessment of the “internal bones of the building,” an Historical Inventory, Land-use and zoning (what the site and structure can accommodate), Flood Mitigation and Design (what floodway challenges exist and how to address them), a Concept Plan and Rendering Development to identify uses and the eventual look of the property, a Public and Stakeholders meeting to gain citizen input, and cost estimates.

Peters anticipates the study will begin in April and be substantially complete by mid-summer. He told council that staff is seeking available grant funding to assist with both the planning study and the eventual rehabilitation of the property.

Chief Foster briefed council on a Community Survey on Public Safety and Law Enforcement that the police department will be conducting. The department recently received a Department of Criminal Justice Services grant to purchase a Mobile Services Community Unit “to promote outreach and education, community engagement, and crime prevention.” It is a continuing part of the department’s emphasis on community policing.

As part of the grant the police department is required to conduct a community survey. The survey has been created on Survey Monkey and will be conducted at the beginning of the grant period to collect baseline data and at the end. It will assess citizen satisfaction with the Vinton Police Department— what is important to the citizens, not just what is indicated by current call data.

The survey will assess community involvement with the police department, safety, the perception of procedural justice, the performance of the department, and the level of contact and satisfaction with the Vinton police. One question on the survey asks citizens to identify the three issues they consider to be the greatest problems within the community.

The survey will be accessed electronically through the town and police websites. The current plan also includes distributing paper copies of the survey to citizens. Notifications will be made through social and print media and on the town utility bills.

The Mobile Unit is on order after bids were received. It is being custom-built by Dynamite Trailers in Benson, N.C. Foster believes it will be delivered within two weeks. The plan is to use the Mobile Unit for outreach at special events and at multi-family complex events. The unit will have countertops, a gas grill, and lighting. The police also plan to take along bike helmets for children and to assist children with bicycle repairs.

Thompson briefed council on the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s National Hidden Heroes Campaign with action to be taken at council’s April 4 meeting. The campaign identifies and supports military and veteran caregivers with services and resources available in the community.

Town Manager Thompson and Chief Foster both thanked Roanoke County Sheriff Eric Orange for partnering with Vinton on two important projects. Orange has agreed to allow weekend offenders to pick up litter once a month in Vinton in a clean-up effort.

Orange and Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall have also agreed to allow the Vinton Police Department to use the county firearms training facility at Dixie Caverns twice a year– which solves a dilemma which could have been costly to the town. In the past, the department used the Botetourt County training facility, which has now been closed to outside agencies.

Thompson also shared the news that while Vinton Farmers’ Market vendor Whitey Barton passed away recently, his business partner Gabino Rueda will continue to operate the produce and plant booths at the market— a great relief to the town as through the efforts of Barton and Rueda, the Farmers’ Market has experienced a revitalization in the past few years.