Town Council approves employees’ hazard pay, gratitude bonuses; hears plans for ‘Drive-Through Christmas Parade’

By Debbie Adams

Vinton Town Council members adopted an ordinance at their meeting on September 1 authorizing hazard pay and gratitude bonuses for its employees for the increased risk assumed between March 20 and July 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full-time uniformed sworn public safety employees will receive hazard pay from CARES Act funding in the amount of $2,000 each. Emergency services workers will receive $1,500 in hazard pay (per nature of their position and duties) from CARES Act funding and a gratitude bonus of 40 hours of awarded leave from the Town of Vinton (to be used before December 31, 2021). A total of $48,443 will be dispersed from the CARES Fund for the hazard pay.

The Town of Vinton will be providing Hazard Pay and Gratitude Bonuses to town employees in recognition of their increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress passed the CARES Act of 2020 in response to the pandemic. Roanoke County received $8.2 million from the fund and granted the Town of Vinton its equitable share of $706,693.

Public Works field employees will receive a $1,000 pay out and 40 hours of awarded leave from the town. Full-time employees of the town will receive a gratitude bonus of $700 each plus 40 hours of awarded leave provided by the town. Part-time employees will be given a $250 gratitude bonus. The gratitude bonuses will be funded by the town through operating budget transfers of $45,361 from the General, Utility, and Stormwater Funds.

Payments will be made to employees on September 24.

Council had planned raises for its employees in the original FY2021 budget before COVID-19; however, the economic downturn forced the town to revise the budget and postpone those salary increases.

The September 1 council meeting was held once again via Zoom.

Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Angie Chewning and Vinton Director of Community Programs and Facilities Chasity Barbour shared news about traditional events in the town which will continue this fall and winter – in modified form due to COVID-19.

“Fall Fest” will be held on October 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All craft and food vendors will be located on one side of the street and spaced 20 feet apart. They will be required to wear masks and gloves and maintain social distancing of six feet between customers. All downtown businesses will receive a free spot in front of their stores for the festival. Visitors will be able to enter their stores in limited numbers.

There will still be entertainment on two stages – on the Farmers’ Market stage and the Municipal Building stage – between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Chewning said many vendors have signed up, excited about the event being held when so many others have been cancelled throughout the area.

Their biggest news was that the Chamber will still be sponsoring the traditional Christmas parade, but in an untraditional manner, on December 3.

The “Vintage Vinton Unique Drive Through Christmas Parade” will feature stationary floats from 7 to 9 p.m. as cars are invited to drive along the parade route, beginning at Highland Avenue (near the Billy Byrd Apartments) and proceeding to Mountain View Road. Floats will all be located on one side of the parade route, spaced 40 feet apart.

The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce has announced plans for a “Vintage Vinton Drive-Through Christmas Parade” on December 3. The floats will be stationary along the parade route. Cars will drive through.

There will still be a live Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony before the parade, albeit via Facebook, at 6:30 that evening.

There will still be judging of the floats. Police Chief Fabricio Drumond will be driving the parade judges through the route to assess the entries. Visitors joining the drive-through parade are urged to decorate their cars for judging as well.

Santa and his elves will be waiting at the end of the parade route with some treats for the youngsters.

Vinton Baptist Church members will be continuing their tradition of assisting downtown businesses in decorating their storefronts for the holiday season.

In other council business on September 1, Treasurer Anne Cantrell and the Vinton Finance Department accepted the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting (the CAFR) for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2019. This is the 24th year that the town has earned the prestigious award, which represents the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting.

Council was briefed on the National League of Cities Residential Water and Sewer Service Line Warranty and the Water Loss Protection Program by Jim Golden with Utility Service Partners Inc. and Jenna Hazelet from HomeServeUSA.

The warranty program educates homeowners about their service line responsibilities and offers affordable protection from unanticipated service line repair costs – water, sewer, and interior plumbing.

Golden told council that most residents do not realize that they – not the town – are responsible for repairs to lateral water and sewer lines on their property. Homeowners in participating cities and towns are eligible to purchase low-cost repair service plans for broken or leaking outside water and sewer lines, covering up to $8,500 per occurrence.

Hazelet described ServLine as an insurance-backed program providing up to $2,500 protection from excess water bills due to leaks.

Council will take action on approval of the programs at a future council meeting.

Members of council adopted a resolution concerning the town’s new purchasing policy, which was thoroughly discussed at the August 18 council meeting. The policy sets the threshold for small purchases at $100,000 for goods and services and remains at $30,000 for professional services. Items greater than the small purchasing thresholds will still be procured through formal bidding and requests for proposals as dictated by the state.

There are two purposes for the change: to maximize the competitive environment by which the town procures goods and services and to allow for efficient and timely decisions to be made to ensure the best value for spending taxpayer dollars. The current policy is very restrictive and takes up staff time procuring smaller purchases which could be purchased with just one quote.

Council next adopted a resolution authorizing the town manager to execute a License and Service Agreement with Tyler Technologies Inc. for Munis Software.

During the pandemic, it became apparent that the current (and antiquated) software in use by the town lacked abilities to allow the town’s workforce to efficiently telework and provide services to the citizens.

Employees experienced connectivity issues while working from home in the spring. The town will use a portion of the CARES funding allocated to Vinton by Roanoke County for the project.

Cantrell says they anticipate the total cost of the project to be around $300,000-$350,000 depending upon the modules they decide to use. CARES funding should cover from 40 to 50 percent of the cost, depending upon meeting the December 30 due date for expenditure of CARES funds. The remaining cost will be covered in the town’s FY2022 budget.

Acting Town Manager Pete Peters updated council on several items of interest:

  • Additional CARES Act funds are anticipated from Roanoke County in mid-September for a total of about $1.4 million.
  • While the town did not receive an applied for Housing Rehabilitation Grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development to improve the Cleveland Avenue area, it has been briefed on the grant application and will re-submit in October.
  • The construction visible along Gus Nicks Boulevard below the Billy Byrd Apartments is related to phases of the Glade Creek Greenway. A sewer line is being replaced at the same time.
  • Crosswalks have been installed and are almost ready for operation at the intersections of Washington Avenue and Pollard Street near Vinyard Station in downtown Vinton and at Vinyard and Hardy Roads near Lake Drive Plaza.
  • Roanoke County and the Virginia Department of Health have announced plans for drive-through COVID-19 testing later in September at the Vinton War Memorial.

 

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