By Debbie Adams
Members of Vinton Town Council held an uncharacteristically brief meeting on September 15—via Zoom. Their “light agenda” featured only two action items, both introduced by Finance Director Anne Cantrell.
Council first adopted a resolution authorizing the Town Manager to execute a Second Agreement with Roanoke County for the use of CARES Act Funds. A primary component of the CARES Act is the provision of funding assistance to state, local, territorial, and tribal governments for direct costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county received a first allocation of $8.2 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund in June. The town’s equitable share of that allocation was $706,693.
The county has now been notified that it will receive a second allocation of $8.2 million and will again share $706,693 with the town, bringing the total to $1.4 million. These funds must be spent on or before December 30, 2020. The Board of Supervisors is set to approve the agreement at their September 22 meeting.
Council also adopted a resolution authorizing the Town Manager to execute a Master Project Agreement with Core & Main LP and Software as a Service and Spectrum Lease Agreement with Sensus USA Inc. for a fixed based meter reading system.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent that the town’s current meter reading equipment and software lacked abilities to allow the workforce to efficiently telework and provide services. On more than one occasion, water meter readers out in the field were approached by citizens and potentially exposed to health risks.
The town plans to use a portion of its CARES Act funding from the county to improve teleworking capabilities of employees by replacing the current water meters with Sensus meters that can operate on a primary radio frequency fixed based reading system. Pricing has been obtained through a request for proposals. Core & Main is providing the installation of Sensus meters and Sensus reading software.
CARES Act funding will be used to pay for items incurred by December 30. The remaining balance will be covered through debt issuance. The estimated cost is $1.3 million.
“As it currently stands, we will use approximately $365,000 of CARES Act funding to install the software, two radio antennas for remote read and as many as 500 new meters,” said Acting Town Manager Pete Peters. “This is subject to how quickly the contractor can get to work and obstacles they encounter as they proceed to replace meter boxes and the meters and still meet the December 30 CARES Act deadline.”
“The balance of the project to replace the remaining meters, as well as several utility infrastructure replacement projects (water and sewer line replacement) will be covered by issuing debt in the late winter or early spring of 2021,” Peters said. “The final total project amount is still subject to change, as we are updating cost estimates and contemplating timing of the project implementation and the capacity of the total debt we can take on given the approved water rates and programmed increases over the next several years.”
Peters and Chasity Barbour, Director of Community Programs and Facilities, updated council on upcoming special events. Fall Festival will be held on Saturday, October 3. The annual Christmas parade is scheduled for December 3 in a reverse format, with stationary floats and drive-through viewing.
While Vinton’s traditional downtown Trick or Treat has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, the town and Vinton Baptist Church are partnering for a free big screen movie on the lawn of the Vinton War Memorial on October 30 with prepackaged bags of popcorn, water, and juice.
“This will allow us to provide adequate space to socially distance and provide some candy in a controlled and sanitary environment,” Peters said.
The evening will include Halloween costume contests and more. Details are being finalized. Peters reminded council that the town does not restrict neighborhood Trick or Treating in the town.
Peters provided these updates as well:
- The Vinton Police Dept received $700 in unsolicited private donations during the month of August.
- HB5013–the bill to eliminate/reduce Qualified Immunity for Police Officers, has been defeated in the State Senate
- The Town’s Safety Committee (facilitated by Donna Collins) received a $4,000 VRSA Safety Grant
- An additional AED has been purchased for the Municipal Building as well as security cameras for the Farmers’ Market and Public Works, and interior emergency lighting for the Municipal Building
CARES Act funding has been approved for the following:
- Remodeling of Council Chambers flooring and chairs
- Water Meter Replacement, Software and Antenna(s) for Radio Read Conversion
- Remodeling of the Public Works locker room
- Remodeling the Police EOC
- Adding Touchless fixtures to public and staff restrooms
The Town will be partnering with Blue Ridge Off-road Cyclists (BROC) and Cardinal Bicycle to construct beginner mountain biking trails off of the main trunk line of the Gladetown Trail behind Craig Avenue Recreation Center. These trails will be available for community members and visitors to walk and ride bikes, as well as a location for Cardinal and BROC to conduct free mountain bike clinics and bike demos. Construction is anticipated to begin in late fall with a spring 2021 opening date.
As for Community Development projects:
- The Hotel Phase II ESA has been completed. The town may proceed with redevelopment of the site with no soil remediation required. Staff are working with the hotel consultant on an agreement to market the site to National Hotels Developers.
- The Vinyard Station parking lot construction is underway.
- The Bank of Botetourt has submitted building plans in order to obtain a building permit. Their groundbreaking ceremony is being planned.
- Staff is evaluating property development proposals for both Farmburguesa and The Dogwood for outdoor dining expansions.
- River Park has been issued a building permit for a shopping center remodel.
- Two additional bus shelters sponsored by the Vinton Lions Club are in development for Lake Drive Shopping Center and PFG. Property lease contracts are under attorney review.
- Crosswalks at the Vinyard/Hardy and Pollard/Gus Nicks intersections are in the final stages of construction.
Council shared a letter from Police Chief Fabricio Drumond commending Police Sgt. Michael Caldwell and Assistant Public Works Director William Herndon for redesigning the traffic pattern at Herman L. Horn Elementary School to better address traffic flow now that traffic has increased due to COVID-19 restrictions. Vinton officers have also aided the school by directing traffic during the morning student drop-off.
“The purchase of additional signage in support of Mountain View Road has significantly improved the operations of the school,” Drumond noted.
He thanked the town and council “for their support in aiding our mission in promoting traffic safety.”
At W. E. Cundiff Elementary on Hardy Road, Vinton police officers have positioned themselves on the main highways in an attempt to promote and address traffic safety. W. E. Cundiff is generally “better able to absorb a lot of the morning traffic with limited interruption to commuter traffic.”
“It is our goal to engage with our town’s elementary schools in a proactive and mitigative manner to control traffic, specifically in the morning timeframe,” said Drumond.
Citizens are reminded that there will be no regular council meeting on October 6. Instead the police will be sponsoring the National Night Out event at the Vinton War Memorial from 6 to 8 p.m.