By Debbie Adams
In October 2019, the Town of Vinton was awarded its first EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant in the amount of $300,000. This grant fund has been instrumental in revitalizing communities across the nation.
A “brownfield” is defined as a real property with possibilities for expansion, redevelopment, and/or reuse, generally with the stigma of a potential or perceived presence of hazardous materials, pollutants, contaminants, or petroleum products.
According to Draper Aden Associates, consultants for the town on the grant project, “The purpose of the program is to return vacant or underutilized properties to productive reuse by providing funds for initial assessments and planning that will serve to incentivize investment and jumpstart redevelopment and revitalization.”
Lori Kroll, Community Resource Specialist at Draper Aden, and Dr. Stephanie Houston, Design Engineer, briefed members of Vinton Town Council on the grant at their meeting on March 3. Houston will serve as the project manager for the grant.
Kroll and Houston are from the Blacksburg Draper Aden Associates office. Draper Aden is a multi-discipline consulting firm with 46 years of experience. It has six locations in Virginia and two in North Carolina. Services the firm provides include “aerial services, construction administration and materials testing, environmental services, geotechnical and geophysical site/civil engineering, structural engineering, surveying, utilities engineering, and utility locating and mapping.”
Vinton received the $300,000 for sites potentially impacted by both hazardous substances and petroleum. The grant cycle extends for three years from 2020 to 2022. No match is required by the town. Thirty sites have been identified thus far. Properties need not be vacant, nor owned by the town, to be included in the program. Funding may be applied to privately owned properties.
The grant can be used for many activities including grant administration, community outreach, Brownfields inventories, site prioritization, environmental assessments, and renewal and remediation planning. The grant money can also be used to leverage funding from other grants.
Dr. Houston explained to council that, to this point, quite a bit has been accomplished in regards to the grant. The Town of Vinton has signed the contract for the grant; there was a kick-off meeting for the program in early January; an inventory is being created; two Property Approval Questionnaires (PAQs) have been submitted as well as a Quality Assurance Project Plan; and a list has been compiled of potential members for the Brownfields Redevelopment Advisory Group.
The Brownfields Grant program will become evident to the community this week with signage going up at the Gish’s Mill site and the proposed hotel site in downtown Vinton publicizing the project.
Houston noted that a Brownfields Grant was the catalyst for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute in Roanoke that was built on a brownfields site.
In other business, council adopted a resolution approving the 2020-2021 operating budget for the Roanoke Valley Regional Cable Television Committee after a presentation by Elaine Bays-Murphy of RVTV. The total budget is $481,538. Vinton’s share is $19,262 (4 percent).
RVTV-3, Cox Cable, was created in 1993 as an agreement between the Town of Vinton, Roanoke County, and the City of Roanoke. The Town of Vinton is represented on the committee by Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty, Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters, and citizen Sarah Reid.
Bays-Murphy shared that on May 10, 2019, the RVTV Digital Upgrade was completed and all video is now recorded in HD. She also noted that RVTV has taken its productions to the next level with the addition of a drone, thanks in part to Peters. In presenting an overview of RVTV productions for the Town of Vinton in the past year, she remarked that the most watched video was the impressive Vinton Projects Tour which included aerial footage of economic development sites filmed with the drone.
Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan briefed council on a Notice of Invitation for Bids for the construction of the Glade Creek Greenway Phase 2A and the intent to award the contract to low bidder Combs Land Solutions, LLC, DBA Summit Contracting. Council will take action on the item at the next council meeting.
Peters commended McMillan for her hard work on a project which has become complex due to increased construction costs and had to be re-bid, and also expressed appreciation to VDOT for their assistance in finding funding so that a $700,000 project can be completed at a cost of just $130,000 to the Town of Vinton. Town Manager Barry Thompson said that he and the Finance Department have identified funding to be appropriated for the town’s portion of the cost.
Council also adopted a resolution presented by McMillan on the Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts Implementation Plan, revised during the council meeting. Human Resources Director Donna Collins will be the Title VI Coordinator for the town.
Public Works Director Joey Hiner reported on the latest meeting of the Public Works Committee on February 27. Members continue to fine tune revisions to the town’s right-of-way ordinance. He asked members of council to tour the various rights-of-way with Assistant Public Works Director Bo Herndon.
Staff is also working on guidelines for cardboard refuse collection. Basically, cardboard boxes small enough to fit inside the refuse containers should be placed therein; cardboard boxes that will not fit in the refuse containers should be placed to the side to be picked up by the bulk truck. The town will issue more detailed guidelines on sizes of boxes once they are refined.
Hiner also talked about decisions on paving within the town. While Mountain View Road will be rebuilt in a VDOT project in 2021-22, council has suggested that $10,000 to $15,000 be used to “hit the worst spots” on Mountain View in the meantime.
Hiner also listed CIP budgetary items to be requested by Public Works including a wood chipper to replace one more than 15 years old, traffic signal improvements, a midi-excavator, a dump truck to replace a 1999 vehicle, and water line replacement and addition projects.
The traffic signal improvements item led to a discussion of the intersection of Clearview Drive and Hardy Road. Problems with a lengthy wait at the traffic light originate from an in-ground detector system which is susceptible to damage. An optical detector, such as those in use at other traffic signals in the town, is being considered. The cost of the project would be about $55,000.