Town Council briefed on redevelopment projects, community police survey

Captain Chad Helms was recognized by Deputy Fire and EMS Chief Chris Linkous for graduation from the Virginia Fire Officer’s Academy held at the University of Richmond in June.

Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters updated members of Town Council on several redevelopment projects at their meeting on June 20.

He informed them that the former William Byrd High School has now been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, “the final ingredient” necessary for the project to proceed. The property received a Virginia Landmarks designation in March. The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors approved final sale of the property to Waukeshaw Development in May. Initial demolition is expected to get underway in August.

Peters also said that Roanoke County has issued a building permit for renovations to the old Vinton Library on Washington Avenue. Lucas Construction, the general contractor, plans to be onsite on June 23, with interior renovations beginning next week. No opening date for the new Macado’s has been set, although late fall is “still realistic.”

Roanoke County is accepting proposals for the redevelopment of the McDonald Farm located in the Vinton Business Center. The site was recently cleared of brush by the Town of Vinton with interior clean up of the barn by Roanoke County. Site planning was completed by Balzer and Associates.

The Roland E. Cook Lofts project is near completion with the first residents set to move in next month with a ribbon-cutting possibly late in July. Sixteen apartments have been leased. Peters said that the tenants represent a wide range of ages.

A contract has been signed with Hill Studio for a preliminary study of the Gish Mill property on Gus Nicks Boulevard. A footprint of the building will be established and a structural assessment completed. A Brownfield Grant application has been submitted on behalf of the town for an environmental assessment. There is also the possibility of a $500,000 grant for rehabilitation of the building.

Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster recognized Officer Jeremy Shrewsbury as Officer of the Month for May. He also presented the results of a Community Survey conducted as part of the Mobile Community Services Grant required when the police department was awarded a grant to purchase a mobile outreach unit.

Foster told council that 135 Vinton residents responded to the online survey from all areas of Vinton. More females took part in the survey than males, but the respondents represented a wide range of ages and races that substantially match the town’s demographics.

Thirty-five percent of those who responded indicated that the Vinton Police develop relationships with the community at a high level– either “a lot” or “to a great extent.” One-third feel that the police regularly communicate with members of the community “a lot or to a great extent”; 42 percent believe that the police work with the community to solve local problems at those same levels– an indication of the strength of the community policing concept Vinton is hoping to increase with the use of the mobile unit for outreach activities. Forty percent believe the department involves officers at a high level in working with the community to address the causes of crime.

Asked to identify the three major law enforcement issues in the Vinton community, respondents chose drug abuse, traffic issues, and residential and auto burglaries and thefts.

Foster said that the department is making good progress in addressing those issues with nearly 30 charges placed for vehicular breaking and entering. Prosecution is pending in robberies at CVS, Cricket Wireless, and the BP station. As for traffic, enforcement has increased significantly over the period of a year with 274 summons/arrests in May 2017, as compared to 146 in May 2016.

Seventy-two percent of those surveyed say that they feel safe outside alone in the community during the day “a lot or to a great extent,” while 48 percent feel safe on the same level at night. Sixty percent say that they feel the Vinton police treat people fairly on those same levels. Nearly 70 percent say that officers are respectful “a lot or to a great extent.” Sixty-five percent give high ratings for trust in the department.

The area of the survey the police hope to improve is in “interactions with the Vinton Police.”

The department will conduct the survey again in the fall after the mobile unit has been in use for a while. Chief Foster plans outreach with the unit on National Night Out on August 1 at the Vinton War Memorial. He has plans to grill hot dogs for the community on a massive “Grillzilla” at the event. The department also plans to use the unit for programs at multi-family housing locations and at other special events.

In other actions, Town Council adopted the Vinton budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1.The budget has been under discussion for several months.

The balanced budget totals $12.7 million and includes $8,563,152 in revenue and expenditures in the General Fund; $3,742,150 in the Utility Fund; and $428,042 in the Stormwater Fund. The budget includes a Cost of Living increase of 1.5 percent for town employees and a CIP purchase of two Ford F150 trucks.

Deputy Fire and EMS Chief Chris Linkous recognized Captain Chad Helms for his participation in and graduation from the Virginia Fire Officer’s Academy held at the University of Richmond during the week of June 5. He was chosen from 129 applicants across the state to attend.

According to the VFOA, the academy is designed to train officers in leadership skills with the concept of “Safety Through Leadership” as the foundation for the curriculum. The academy “provides students with the necessary leadership tools to make the tough decisions and foster effective changes that will improve firefighter safety and survivability.”

Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey presented the May report which indicated that a unit was in service 100 percent of the volunteer time. The medic truck was marked up 83 percent of the time; the Basic Life Support Unit, 17 percent. The volunteers logged 2074 man-hours in May with a Fractile Response Time of 8.47 minutes, when 12 minutes is considered standard.

The First Aid Crew currently has 53 members. Officers for 2017-2018 were recently elected and will be installed by Mayor Brad Grose at the upcoming awards dinner. Jason Peters, who was elected sergeant, has been a member of the squad for 25 years. Josh Parker was named second lieutenant; he has been a member for two and a half years. Brandan Arthur will serve as first lieutenant and has been a member for almost five years. Sandy Guffey will serve as captain; she has been a member of the squad for 20 years. Chris Sayre was elected to serve as assistant chief; he has been a member for six years. Guffey will continue in his position as chief. He has been a member of the squad for 26 years with overall experience of 32 years.

Council adopted an ordinance amending a section of the Town Code to treat the disposal of cigarette butts and other litter as a civil violation punishable by a fine of $50 as opposed to a criminal conviction as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Councilman Keith Liles suggested installing cigarette butt receptacles at strategic locations such as the Vinton Farmers’ Market to encourage those attending concerts and other events to dispose of cigarettes appropriately.

Council voted to make July 3 a holiday for employees and to cancel the July 5 Town Council meeting.

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