VINTON–Vinton Town Council welcomed the new year at their meeting on January 5 with some new employees and some employees in new positions.
Deputy Chief Chris Linkous introduced Marrion Burden who has joined the Vinton Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT replacing Lt. John Hobbs who retired at the end of December. Burden is from Roanoke and started his career as a volunteer at Hollins in 2003. He served for nine years with Roanoke City Fire and EMS.
Interim Police Chief Jeff Dudley introduced police officer Jeremy Shrewsbury, a 2008 graduate of Staunton River High School, who grew up in the Goodview area of Bedford County. He has a degree in horticulture from Virginia Western and has worked at the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Department for a year. He begins 21 weeks of training at the police academy on January 6.
Mayor Brad Grose recognized Interim Town Manager Barry Thompson, also Vinton’s Treasurer and Director of Finance, who will serve in all three positions during the search for a successor to Chris Lawrence who has taken a position in Blacksburg as of January 4.
“The citizens of Vinton can be assured that we have people of competency doing a good job,” said Grose.
Grose went on to formally announce that he will be running for re-election in May and is in the process of completing the paperwork and collecting signatures to support his candidacy. He spoke of great progress in Vinton in the past several years and also of challenges to come. He believes that he can continue to make a positive impact in the town for its citizens.
Later in the meeting Councilman Doug Adams also stated that he will be running again for a seat on council and has begun the paperwork process. He said he has enjoyed serving on council and the camaraderie that exists not only on council but among the town’s staff. He believes that he brings a wealth of experience in public safety from years as a volunteer with the Vinton First Aid Crew which is beneficial to town council.
During their business session, town council adopted a resolution awarding a bid and authorizing Thompson to execute a contract with Virginia Infrastructure in the amount of $78,501 for the Walnut Avenue Sidewalk Improvement Project. The project is the result of a $100,000 grant. Some of the funds have gone to Gay and Neel, Inc., who designed the project which consists of the demolition of existing sidewalks along Walnut Avenue from Sun Solutions at 215 Walnut to 20 feet north of the alley adjacent to the Fire Department.
The project includes construction of 2765 feet of concrete sidewalks, 125 linear feet of curb and gutter, accessible ramps, an entrance improvement, and pavement marking for three crosswalks.
Council member Janet Scheid questioned why the original plan of sidewalks from the Greenway near the Walnut Avenue Bridge extending to the downtown Farmers’ Market had been scaled back to a shorter section of improvements. The answer came from Public Works Director Gary Woodson who said that the costs of the project, with 20 percent of the grant going to VDOT for administrative costs and also the design costs reduced the amount of money available for construction itself.
Vice Mayor Matt Hare reminded council that the scope of the original project was not meant to provide continuous sidewalks all the way from the market area to the greenway because of several paved sections along the route, such as near the former Manna Ministries property.
Woodson said that construction of the sidewalks would not get underway until the spring. Council asked him to explore the possibility and costs of additional sidewalks being installed while the contractor is onsite.
Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters briefed council on a proposed lease agreement with Southern States Cooperative for their use of eight vacant lots adjacent to the mill which allows temporary parking for trailers and an employee parking area.
Since 2004 Southern States has been leasing five lots from the town on Railroad Avenue and has asked to lease additional parking space. The plant manager asked to construct an 80 by 90 foot gravel lot to help improve an overcrowded employee parking area and ease congestion of truck traffic within the plant grounds. The improvements will be paid for by Southern States.
Restrictions prevent the town from benefitting from the revenue generated by the lease since the property was acquired through a FEMA flood mitigation project so the funds ($800 annually) will continue to be donated to the Vinton Needy Family Program.
Peters also presented a very comprehensive briefing to council on the potential re-development of the town’s gateway along Gus Nicks Boulevard which encompasses the old William Byrd property owned by Roanoke County and the newly acquired Gish’s Mill property purchased by the Town of Vinton.
His briefing included descriptions and discussion of street lighting, general signage and wayfinding signage, landscaping and the tree canopy, road improvements, a possible trail head and park amenities for a greenway expansion in the area, and the Gish’s Mill property.
His Powerpoint program illustrated the “spaghetti” of overhead utility lines along Gus Nicks, a clutter of mismatched signs at the gateways to the town, a lack of continuity of sidewalks, and bike lanes which end at the Roanoke City line.
He asked for council’s guidance and their vision in how to proceed in developing the sites. He mentioned the challenges which exist in cost, ownership, maintenance, and in the establishment of a general aesthetic “look” throughout the town, especially at the gateways.
He described safety and security measures being explored and adopted for the Gish’s Mill property to secure the building and to protect it from exposure to the elements.
Council members and the mayor reiterated their support of the purchase of the historic Gish’s Mill property and initiated plans to schedule public meetings to engage the community in exploring possible uses for the site.
Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty asked Thompson for an update on the skatepark project and was told that the town is awaiting word from FEMA on whether the project can go forward at the location near the greenway and the Walnut Avenue Bridge.
Councilwoman Scheid asked whether the town had received an extension on the downtown revitalization CDBG grant. Thompson said that he had received reassurances that the extension would be granted until September 30 but had not received official word as of yet.
The meeting concluded with appointments of Thompson, McCarty, and Woodson to the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority.