By Debbie Adams
Vinton Police Chief Fabricio Drumond introduced the department’s newest police officer to Vinton Town Council at its meeting on March 2. Officer Robert Rowell was born in Nashville and moved to Vinton in 1989. He attended W.E. Cundiff Elementary and then graduated from William Byrd High School in 1999. At WBHS, his school-related activities were track and cheerleading.
Soon after high school, Rowell joined the United States Navy and served on the USS Hayler as a damage controlman and firefighter and as a search and rescue swimmer. He was honorably discharged in 2004 and returned home. He is married and has three children. In his spare time, he enjoys woodworking, helping his parents with farm work, and flying ultralight aircraft.
Rowell has been involved in the medical field since the age of 16 and at one time volunteered with the Vinton Rescue Squad.
He pursued a career in law enforcement, attending Virginia Western Community College, where he acquired his Criminal Justice Degree and then completed his Law Enforcement Certificate at Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy.
He worked for the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office for four and a half years, where he obtained his Jailer Certificate, before coming to Vinton as a patrol officer.
Chief Drumond spoke of Rowell’s passion for law enforcement and his dedication to serving the community and those in need.
Mayor Brad Grose, Vice Mayor Sabrina McCarty, and council members Laurie Mullins, Keith Liles, and Mike Stovall welcomed him “to the team.”
Randy Layman, president of the Vinton Historical Society and Vinton History Museum, presented the annual museum report to council. Despite the pandemic, the History Museum has continued to serve citizens during the past year and serve them well in “not the best of circumstances.” He reported to council of a recent donation to the museum—the desk chair of the late Mayor Gus Nicks.
Layman thanked Town Council members for their continuing sponsorship and financial support. He commented on the effects of COVID-19 on both the operation and finances of the museum. The museum was forced to close for the first months of the pandemic and reopened with health guidelines from the CDC and VDH strictly enforced as to masks, social distancing, and sanitation.
The museum usually hosts about 1,600 guests annually, but due to COVID, attendance was down to about 600 visitors in 2020. The museum was unable to hold its two largest fundraisers in 2020—its yard sales. A yard sale is planned for late summer 2021.
The museum and its volunteers have continued to be innovative, holding an online CHAIR-ity auction fundraiser with chairs from the old William Byrd High School painted by local artists. They have introduced a Little Free Library on the front lawn of the house museum on Jackson Avenue where patrons can borrow and donate family-friendly books for both children and adults. The Historical Society has also instituted a new Facebook page focusing on the history of the town–the Vinton History and Memories page.
The museum is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On March 5 and 6, the museum will be hosting an InVinton Community Scavenger Hunt.
Town Manager Pete Peters briefed council on a proposed lease agreement with Cargill Animal Nutrition (formerly Southern States) for its use of eight vacant lots adjacent to the mill for the purpose of temporary parking for trailers and an employee parking area. Three of the lots lie on the south side of 11th Street; the other five lots are on Railroad Avenue.
The term of lease will be for one 15-month term and three additional one-year renewals at a total cost of $800 per year–$100 per parcel. The property was originally acquired by the town through a FEMA flood mitigation project and thus cannot be sold or built upon. The entire annual lease revenue will be donated to the Vinton Needy Family Program. Council will take action on the proposal at the March 16 meeting. Peters noted that Cargill and Southern States before them have been “great corporate partners and neighbors.”
Vinton Finance Director Anne Cantrell next briefed council on a proposed amendment to an agreement for Application Hosting and Technology Support Services between the town and Avenu Enterprise Solutions, LLC.
The town entered an agreement with ACS Enterprises in November 2011 in which ACS is to provide remote hosting and service of software that was previously hosted locally by the town. Ownership of ACS changed multiple times since the original agreement, with price increases.
In 2018, Avenu Holdings, LLC, became the current owner. The proposed agreement will make needed updates to the agreement and renews pricing with terms for 2021 of $54,520 (up from $49,275 in 2020).
The town is in the process of upgrading its ERP software to Tyler Munis, but doesn’t anticipate full conversion until January 2022, so it needs to maintain its existing software agreement until the transition is complete and data is extracted from the original system for archive purposes. An internal budget transfer will cover the unplanned increase in costs, with additional funding to be requested during the FY22 budget process.
Council will take action on March 16.
Cantrell also briefed council on a resolution to appropriate $35,000 from Fund Balance to the Utility Special Projects Expense Account for unresolved change orders on the Glade Creek Sanitary Sewer Line Relocation Project.
Council approved funding for the sewer line relocation project in the amount of $14,450 and a contract for the Glade Creek Streambank Restoration Project in the amount of $59,980 in April 2020 with a total project cost not to exceed $89,430. Change orders were not to exceed $10,000. In the course of the project, the town noticed exposure of the sewer line and decided to relocate it.
Unfortunately, the town had to change vendors resulting in unplanned charges. During the relocation of the sewer line project, the contractor encountered rock charges not accounted for during the original contract price and has invoiced the town for the charges. Council will take action to rectify the situation and provide additional funding at the March 16 meeting.
Peters updated council on the reopening of the Municipal Building to customers on March 29. It has been closed since January due to COVID.
He announced that the annual State of the Town Address will be virtual this year, produced and broadcast by RVTV and planned for March 25.
Peters also noted the painting of three crosswalks in the town for added safety—between Carilion Clinic and the employee parking lot, between the Vinton Library and the Vinton History Museum, and between Our Daily Bread/Vinyard Station and Vinton Baptist Church.
He also informed council that an “active slate of contracts” is in the works for the Gish Mill redevelopment project.
Council appointed Kellie Moore to the Board of Zoning Appeals as an alternate to complete the unexpired term of Joseph Robertson who resigned. Her term began on March 2 and ends on June 30, 2022.
Ray Sandifer was appointed by council to the vacant citizen position on the Roanoke Valley Regional Cable TV Committee for a term beginning on March 2 and ending August 31, 2021.
The annual Vinton Town Council retreat is scheduled for Friday, March 5, from 1 to 5 p.m.