Vinton Town Council faced another packed agenda on May 15 that included items ranging from proclamations to public hearings on financial matters to a report on the town’s economic development activities.
Council appropriated funds from a safety grant program which will implement installation of an electronic access panel on the front doors of the Municipal Building to allow them to be locked remotely in case of emergency, and has installed first aid kits in several public buildings and in all Public Works vehicles.
Vinton Police Officer Dustin Bray was named Officer of the Month for April. Vinton First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey presented his monthly report indicating that volunteers had donated 2131 man-hours in April with 212 calls for service received by the career and volunteer staff with 130 transports.
Vinton Volunteer Fire Chief Richard Oakes reported 86 man-hours by his volunteers, answering 34 calls in April.
Council issued proclamations naming May 20-26 as National Emergency Medical Services Week and National Public Works week.
Mayor Brad Grose thanked emergency personnel for the sacrifices they and their families make for the community. Councilwoman Janet Scheid commented on the amazing volunteer efforts and dedication in a town of Vinton’s size. Chief Guffey noted that EMS services in Vinton are a collaborative effort and informed council that the Vinton crew had assisted with the recent fire in Catawba.
Public Works Director Joey Hiner spoke about the impact that Public Works has on “our daily lives,” in essence helping to determine a society’s quality of life. Public Works employees labor every day, often at night and on weekends, in all weather conditions. Mayor Grose said that Vinton’s Public Works employees touch thousands of lives every day “who don’t even know it.”
Town Manager Barry Thompson and Finance Director Anne Cantrell presented the proposed FY2018-2019 town budget, which council had been briefed on in April, with two work sessions since.
Several changes were made to the original proposal including eliminating three unfunded positions, the decision to use fund balance in the amount of $190,000 to purchase trash receptacles for Vinton households to accommodate the new automated refuse truck now on order, moving funds from the milling and paving account to bridge maintenance, and transferring funds from various accounts to provide a bonus to employees at the end of the calendar year. A public hearing was held on the budget that, with the changes, will amount to about $12.2 million— a 4.64 percent decrease from the current fiscal year. Council will take final action on the budget at the June 5 meeting.
There were no public comments during a public hearing on increasing the business license tax to conform with surrounding areas. On June 5 council will vote to amend a town ordinance setting a minimum license fee for businesses with gross receipts up to $125,000, and increasing the tax rate per $100 for business, professional, and financial services.
Council adopted an ordinance providing a Special Use Permit to Elizabeth Meador to operate an in-home music studio for individual and group instruction in piano and voice in the Dillon Woods area. Council was impressed by her willingness to forego signage and limit the number of students to two to three at a time, eliminating parking concerns.
Council had been scheduled to vote on adopting a resolution in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act brought to council by William Byrd student Tessa Yarbrough with support from the Represent Roanoke Valley group.
She asked that the proposal be tabled until June 5 to give council members more time to study the issues and reconsider their reservations about certain parts of the resolution. Those mainly deal with tax credits for voters making small donations to political campaigns, redistricting reform, enacting a ranked-choice voting system, and the growing “revolving door” issue in which elected representatives or their senior staff “parlay their authority to attain high-paying jobs.”
Council “let die” a resolution on withdrawing from the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority which had been discussed during a budget work session. Mayor Grose passionately urged council to remain in the WVRIFA at a cost of $1,500 per year in the interest and spirit of regional cooperation.
Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters shared a riveting report on economic development projects in the works, year-to-date. He praised The Advancement Foundation for its contribution to economic development in Vinton, especially through the Gauntlet Business Program and Competition. The 2018 competition, which concludes on May 17, has involved 100 competitors with 31 business plans submitted. Some of those businesses may set up shop in Vinton.
He touted the robust special events and festivals calendar in the town for the upcoming season with over 20 concerts and festivals planned through Fall Festival. These events create foot traffic that benefits the town and local businesses.
He described progress on the Gish’s Mill/Holdren’s Store site. The first Request for Proposals (RFP) issued brought in three inquiries from developers with another RFP to be issued in June. Hill Studios developed three conceptual plans presented at a community meeting in November 2017.
He caught council up on the extensive renovations underway at the Lancerlot Sports Complex, which will bring a “sheet of ice” to Vinton for hockey and public ice sports. He described attracting Penalty Box Partners to the Lancerlot project as a “great win for Vinton.” In addition to becoming a practice facility for the Rail Yard Dawgs, the Lancerlot will become the site for hockey games for several collegiate teams. He was excited to announce that Virginia Tech is building a team room in the ice hockey area of the building.
Peters updated council on the Macado’s restaurant which now plans to open in late summer with 96 indoor tables, seating for 30 more at the interior bar, and including a 600-square-foot patio with a fireplace, and the “traditional Macado’s flair.”
He briefed council on the William Byrd Apartments at the former William Byrd High School on Highland Avenue and Gus Nicks Boulevard. Developer Dave McCormack of Waukeshaw Development says that leasing is planned to begin this summer with the first units available in September.
This project involves an investment of over $12 million, made possible in part by historic tax credits for renovations to the 100,000-square-foot facility. Apartments have been framed up in the main building and the annex, with workers currently focused on mechanical, electrical, and plumbing installations.
Peters delineated plans for expansion at Twin Creeks Brewing Company to double in size in physical space. Theirs is a true success story, having met their three-year plan in just one year, doubling their production, signing a distribution deal, and expanding hours. Twin Creeks has changed the face of downtown Vinton and continues to bring new visitors to the town through their innovative business and marketing practices.
Peters presented a conceptual drawing on a potential project at the former Vinton Motors property, which will most likely involve a restaurant. Negotiations are under way. The architectural elevation sketch emphasized the unique and dramatic Span Arch Roof Design that exists in the building.
He went on to describe transportation projects involving several phases of the Glade Creek Greenway and the Walnut Avenue corridor. Phase 2 of the greenway project will extend the trail from Walnut Avenue to Gus Nicks Boulevard.
He also mentioned the Hardy Road Crosswalk project coming up which will provide a signalized and striped crosswalk connecting the Dillon Woods subdivision and W.E. Cundiff Elementary.
Finance Director Cantrell reported an estimated fund balance for FY2019 of approximately $2.2 million. Town Code requires a 60-day fund balance of $1,360,177 to enable the town to operate in the case of no income at all in an emergency situation.