By Debbie Adams
Major changes to the leadership of the Town of Vinton were announced at the council meeting on January 7. Councilwoman Janet Scheid announced that she will not be seeking re-election on May 5.
Scheid was appointed when Vice Mayor Wes Nance resigned in July 2015 and was then elected on her own to a four-year term in May 2016. She brought a great deal of expertise in planning, zoning, and the greenway system to council from her years with Roanoke County as a planner in the Planning, Community Development, and Parks, Recreation, and Tourism departments. In 2008 she became the county’s Greenway Planner and retired from that position in 2011.
Scheid had previously informed council members and town leadership of her intention not to run for a seat on council again. She commented at the council meeting that she has many plans for the future and things she wants to accomplish in the years ahead.
Council also announced it would be going into closed session at the end of the regular council meeting to consider procedures to replace Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster, who has been nominated by President Trump to serve as a US Marshal representing the Western District of Virginia.
Chief Foster opened the council meeting with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln, who said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” The chief praised the Town of Vinton for its efforts in the past four years he has served in Vinton to create that great future for the town and its citizens.
Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Justin Davison presented a report on the organization’s activities and accomplishments in the second quarter of the fiscal year. Of particular note was the partnering of the Chamber, town staff, and Vinton businesses and organizations for Town of Vinton Night at Explore Park’s holiday Illuminights. The town sponsored a very popular attraction at the event— the Marshmallow Roasting Pit, which Davison said helped showcase the town.
Davison mentioned upcoming ribbon-cuttings in January with Greenway and Boothe Realty and the Seven 47 Boutique.
He announced the popular “Lunch and Learn” series sponsored by the Chamber that will feature developer Dale Wilkinson on January 8, the Lancerlot in March, and Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in May.
The Chamber’s annual Senior Expo is scheduled for March 24.
Davison thanked the Town of Vinton for its support in 2019, sharing the quote, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Council adopted a much-discussed ordinance from previous council meetings amending Chapter 82, Streets, Sidewalks, and Other Public Places, Article III, Public Rights-of-Way Use Fee and Chapter 86, Article IV, Tax on Purchases of Utility Service, Division 2, Telephone, and Division 3, Enhanced Emergency Telephone Service of the Vinton Town Code.
This was in response to a request from Cox Communications in November to use the town’s public rights-of-way and town-owned facilities such as streetlights and traffic signal poles for their small cell facilities.
Council was briefed by attorney Michael Lockaby on the request at the November 5 meeting.
A Request for Proposals for a non-exclusive, long-term franchise to use and occupy the town’s public rights-of-way for the purpose of constructing, installing, and maintaining wireless communication facilities and infrastructure was advertised in The Vinton Messenger.
At the December 3, 2019 council meeting, the bid opening was held and only one bid was received – from Cox Communications. At that meeting, Lockaby also briefed council on the proposed changes to Chapter 82 of the Town Code regarding Rights-of-Way Use Fees and Taxation.
He explained changes to the ordinance to council at the January 7 meeting. He noted that all users pay to use the public rights-of-way, usually a fee of mere pennies per foot calculated by VDOT. The ordinance has been updated to match state law in what he described as a “housekeeping” item.
In other action, Mick Michelsen was reappointed to another five-year term on the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Town Manager Barry Thompson announced that the town closed on the Goodwin property on December 27— one of six contiguous parcels of property within the intersection of South Pollard Street, Cedar Avenue, and 1st Street in the downtown area, considered a gateway to Vinton.
In October 2018, the town adopted a resolution accepting Assignment of Rights and authorizing the mayor and town manager to execute documents to purchase the parcels.
At the time, Assistant Town Manager/Economic Development Director Pete Peters described the property as “the targeted catalyst of Town Council for an economic redevelopment project which will benefit the town by providing jobs and increasing the town’s tax base.”
Peters called the purchase of the properties “advantageous because of close proximity to anchor businesses, public services, and ancillary services such as restaurants.”
The properties included the locations of Country Corner, Super Auto Sales, a vacant lot, and an abandoned house.
Peters said with the closing on the Goodwin property, the town now owns all six properties. Demolition is slated for February, followed by preliminary grading and environmental analysis.
Peters said that the specifics of the economic development project(s) being considered for the properties are not finalized, as yet. A hotel would be a best outcome, but there are other possibilities for the use of the properties as well.
Council adjourned to closed session.
In addition to discussions during the closed session on the chief of police position, council also planned to discuss a sanitary sewer easement on the Methodist church property and disposition of publicly held property– namely Gish’s Mill.
Town Council members will hold their annual retreat on February 21.