Council votes on refuse collection changes; McCarty to run for seat again

Sabrina McCarty

Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty announced at the Vinton Town Council meeting on January 16 that she plans to run for re-election to council in the May election. McCarty was first elected to council in 2014. She is employed by Pinnacle Financial Partners in Vinton as office leader. She has worked in the banking industry for over 27 years.

McCarty served the Vinton community as president of the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce for three years and on the Vinton Board of Zoning Appeals. She has been a resident of the town for almost 20 years.

Voters will select two council members in the May election. Vice Mayor Matt Hare announced previously that, due to increased work responsibilities, he would not be seeking another term.

Council voted to make changes to refuse collection in Vinton with the purchase of a semi-automated refuse collection truck with flippers, which will most likely be used with garbage cans purchased by the town for use by Vinton households. The cost of the new truck (already in the budget) is estimated to be approximately $240,000, with additional flippers for the current refuse truck, which will become the back-up truck, costing the town an additional $16,000.

Council reached a consensus on the need to purchase 3,300 trash containers for households that will most likely be paid for out of the town’s fund balance at a cost of around $190,000. The discussion at the council meeting focused on 96-gallon containers.

Councilwoman Janet Scheid spoke forcefully about the need to move the town forward with the purchase of the trash containers for residents, encouraging other council members to take action.

Town Manager Barry Thompson emphasized the need to get a revised refuse ordinance in place before the cans are “rolled out.”

The regular council meeting was preceded by a work session on all aspects of trash collection in Vinton. To facilitate the discussion, Brandon Gann, Financial Services analyst for the town, had conducted a survey of 108 municipalities across Virginia. His research determined the source of refuse collection in each area— whether trash is collected by the town, contracted out, collected by the surrounding county, or collected by a regional authority.

He included information on whether each locality charges fees for refuse collection and the amount charged for both residential and commercial refuse collected, what type of refuse truck is used by each, what can size is used, and how many collection points each serves.

Of the 108 towns surveyed, 25 towns and the City of Roanoke collect their own residential waste and charge a fee ranging on average from $2 per month to $18.50.

Of those same 26, three use flipper trucks only, four use one-arm bandits or a combination of one-arm bandits and flipper trucks (like neighboring Roanoke City), 15 use manual collection, with one of those using a dump truck.

Gann and Public Works Director Joey Hiner presented the survey to council and showed a video demonstrating the semi-automated, rear-loader flipper trucks in action in Roanoke City. These trucks require a crew of three, with the driver and two loaders, and employ a 96-gallon can for each residence.

Hiner reviewed the current refuse ordinance in Vinton, which Scheid described as “awkwardly worded,” but whose intent seems to be that residents should bag their refuse and then place it in a can with a tight-fitting lid. The container and its contents (for the safety of the crew) should not weigh over 50 pounds. The ordinance does not dictate the size of the cans.

Currently in Vinton, a four-man crew works Monday-Friday from 5:30 a.m. until about 1:15 p.m. (with no formal lunch break), using one truck to pick up residential refuse at approximately 3,300 service points. They collect domestic-type waste from single-family homes, duplexes, apartment complexes (up to 12 cans per site), and small offices. The only dumpsters the crew services are four at town facilities.

When the semi-automated flipper truck goes into use, the crew would most likely be reduced to three— a driver and two loaders.

Council and staff discussed possible modifications to the ordinance and enforcement of the adopted policies.

In the work session and during the regular council meeting that followed, Thompson informed council that a decision was needed immediately on purchasing a new refuse truck as the 25-year-old back-up truck essentially “died” last week when the compactor failed and will require a prohibitive $80,000 to repair. (Lease/purchase of, and financing for, several vehicles and equipment for Public Works were approved by council at a December meeting.)

Thompson also indicated that the town has spent $20,000 since July on maintaining the regular refuse truck, with a serious brake problem occurring just last week. Although parts were located to repair the vehicle, the town is now “in a bind,” and needs to move forward on the new vehicle.

Public Works has determined the specifications for the new refuse truck, which will take three to four months to build. They are working with neighboring localities to develop a back-up plan if another vehicle is needed in the interim.

In other action, council issued a proclamation thanking Public Works, the Vinton Police Department, the Fire/EMS Department, and the Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew for their exhaustive efforts during the extremely cold weather between December 31 and January 7.

The proclamation said in part:

“The Public Works Department braved these conditions repairing water breaks caused by the adverse weather conditions, thawing frozen meters at customer sites and providing road salt on bridges and road slopes when the threat of inclement weather prevailed while still continuing their normal everyday duties and assignment.

“The Police Department responded to a power outage on January 6 by going door-to-door in affected neighborhoods to check on residents. The Department also arranged transportation for individuals in need to a warming center at the Vinton War Memorial opened by the town’s Emergency Services Coordinator Deputy Chief Chris Linkous, and staffed by town employees and a volunteer.

“The Fire/EMS Department, along with the Volunteer First Aid Crew, responded to an increased number of fire and EMS calls related to the adverse weather conditions.”

During the council meeting, Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster recognized Officer Danny Cox as Officer of the Month for December 2017. He also shared some statistics on police department efforts during 2017, in comparison with 2016. Calls for service increased 16 percent year to year; traffic stops increased by 84 percent; drug arrests increased by 187 percent from 87 in 2016 to 250 in 2017; and overall criminal cases were up 68 percent rising from 462 to 777. DUI arrests were up from 54 in 2016 to 90 in 2017.

Chief Foster attributed the changes not to an “uptick in crime,” but to a “more proactive police force, now fully staffed and extremely dedicated to serving the citizens of Vinton.” He said that he “couldn’t be prouder” of his officers and “the incredible job they do.” He also thanked Town Council for its continued support.

Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey presented the December and year-end report on his organization as did Volunteer Fire Chief Richard Oakes. RVTV has begun broadcasting new recruitment videos for both organizations.

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