VINTON–Vinton Town Council meetings are predictably among the most civil and cordial of any local governmental body. The January 21 meeting had an almost festive tone as it opened with a ceremony honoring four dedicated members of the Vinton Fire and EMS Department who had been promoted this week.
Chris Linkous has been promoted from captain to deputy chief and serves as the department head for the town career Fire and EMS. He has been with the Town since May of 1995, starting out as a Firefighter/EMT. At the end of 1997, after an extensive promotional process, he was promoted to fire lieutenant and served as the department head of career fire staff for the fire department only. At the time, Lt. John Hobbs, who just retired at the end of December, was the department head of the career EMS staff located at the old Vinton First Aid Crew.
In 2001, the department started to work more closely with Roanoke County, and the County began adding career staff in the Vinton station. The town career staff from the First Aid Crew and the Vinton Fire Department then combined as one department and formed the current career division which is named Vinton Fire and EMS. It was at that time that Linkous was promoted to captain and became the department head for both the Town career fire and EMS. With the change to 24 hour career Fire and EMS coverage in the past year and changes in schedules, it became prudent for the new Deputy Chief position to be created to oversee the department.
Lt. Chad Helms was promoted to captain and will fill Linkous’ slot on A-shift. He has been with the Town since August of 2004. He was initially hired by the Town as a police officer but soon transferred over to the Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT. He continued with his EMS training and soon was promoted to Firefighter/Paramedic after successfully completing his EMT-I class. After an extensive promotional process, Helms was then promoted to (Fire) Lieutenant where he assisted with working on the budget when Linkous was placed on 24 hour shifts. Helms was one of the project managers in charge of the new renovations to the Fire Department to help house the staff needed to man a fire truck around the clock.
Larry Whiting was promoted to Lieutenant (Fire). He was hired as a Firefighter/EMT in late spring of 2007 and went on to pursue Advance Life Support training to become certified as a Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate (EMT-I) and was promoted to the rank of Firefighter/Paramedic. After an extensive promotional process, Larry was promoted to (Fire) Lieutenant and filled the empty slot that was created after Helms was promoted to Captain. Before being promoted, Whiting assisted Lt. Hobbs with ordering EMS supplies as well as preparing the station for their EMS State Inspections. Whiting is also furthering his EMS education to become certified as an EMT-Paramedic. He will complete his Paramedic class in the late fall of 2016.
David Rodgers was promoted to Lieutenant (EMS), taking the place of Lt. Hobbs upon his retirement. Rodgers was hired by the town in the summer of 2011. He is certified as a National Registry Paramedic and comes to the town with years of Advance Life Support experience that he gathered while working for the City of Portsmouth, the City of Charlottesville, Roanoke County, and part-time in Roanoke City. He was also at one time a flight medic with Carilion’s Life Guard 10 medical transport helicopter. Rodgers assisted Lt. Hobbs with teaching EMS continuing education classes so that the Vinton staff could maintain their current EMS certifications.
Many family members, friends, and co-workers were present at the promotion ceremony.
During the business meeting, Interim Town Manager Barry Thompson reported that measures are being taken to meet VML insurance requirements to keep the Gish’s Mill property secure from vandalism, trespassers, and the elements. Windows and doors have been repaired or boarded up as attractively as possible.
An area to the rear of the property near the creek is being fenced off because of an outcropping of the brick due to tree growth. Signage has been affixed to discourage swimming in the stream and general trespassing.
Public Works Director Gary Woodson returned to council with a requested update on the scope of the Walnut Avenue Sidewalk Improvement project and costs associated with adding additional sidewalks and striping to the plan.
Council members were in favor of adding an additional 85 feet of sidewalk from Walnut Avenue up Jackson Avenue near the Fire Station at a cost of about $1,000 to the town. Construction will not begin on the sidewalk project, which is funded by a $100,000 grant, until spring so Woodson recommended that council wait until then to take formal action.
Thompson asked council to consider forming an Economic Development Committee made up of department heads and two members of town council who would help Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters in developing a vision for the town’s economic growth and guidelines for incentives to attract new business, providing him with a “toolbox” to work with those prospective businesses.
Thompson emphasized that Vinton wants to be known as a “business community” and a “business-friendly community.” Mayor Grose and Council member Janet Scheid were appointed to represent council on the newly formed committee.
Vice Mayor Matt Hare updated council on the selection of a new police chief. When the position was advertised for a second time, the town received 40 applications. That pool has been narrowed to what Hare described as “five fantastic candidates” and interviews will be scheduled within the next two weeks.
Hare also presented the October and November 2015 financial reports for approval. The reports indicated that revenues are over what was projected with expenditures under projections in the General Fund. The Utility Fund continues to perform well due to rate increases, not consumption. Most all departments have been under-spending their budgets.
The council meeting ended on a positive note with Council member Scheid making her formal announcement that she will run for town council in the May election. She was appointed by council from a pool of applicants when Wes Nance resigned from council last summer upon moving to Bedford County.
In her announcement, Scheid said that her months on council have been joyful and enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. She thanked the other members of town council for giving her the opportunity to essentially “try the job on for size.”
She said that she enjoys working hard to solve problems surrounded by like-minded people—her fellow council members and town staff. She said that it is an exciting time in Vinton with many changes on the horizon that she would like to continue to be a part of. She believes she can have a positive impact on the town.
Thus far, she has shown herself to be an invaluable member of council demonstrating a wide knowledge of, and expertise in, the somewhat difficult topics the town is now facing with planning, zoning, stormwater, and the expansion of the Greenways.
Thanks to Deputy Chief Linkous for providing information on the careers of the Fire and EMS personnel who were promoted.