By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council met via Zoom on December 15, with the mayor, the gentlemen on council, the town manager, and the town attorney looking debonair in their annual holiday bow ties.
Council honored retiring Town Manager Barry Thompson for his years of service to the town as Finance Director/Treasurer and then Town Manager as his retirement becomes official at the end of December.
The most impressive news of the evening involved the town’s finances. Travis Gilmer from Brown Edwards & Company, LLP, presented the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) to council on the town’s audited financial statements.
The town, once again, received a “clean unmodified opinion”, which sounds modest, but it isn’t. It represents the highest opinion that can be received.
In the opinion of the auditors from Brown Edwards, the Town of Vinton’s “general purpose financial statements present fairly in all material respects, the financial position of the Town as of June 30, 2020, and the results of its operations and cash flows of propriety fund types for the year ended in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.”
The data that brought forth praise from council for Finance Director/Treasurer Anne Cantrell and her staff was that the town has built up a “Rainy Day” fund of $3.7 million, which means that the town has set aside six months’ worth of money to cover operating expenses in case of emergency, when the national average is just two months. This represents a 25 percent increase from the prior year.
Currently the town has a total of $6.9 million in cash and investments.
Council adopted a resolution approving and adopting the financial report. Councilman Mike Stovall commended the Finance Department for being “good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Council took action to approve proposed rate changes for the Vinton War Memorial effective January 1, 2021. After a public hearing, adjustments were made to the current rate schedule to add rental rates for the parking lot, and also the kitchen area at the War Memorial.
The parking lot area may be rented for special events at the rate of $80 per day. The full commercial kitchen may be rented for four hours for $20 or eight hours for $40. An administrative fee of $40 is also being added for processing refunds when events are cancelled.
Attorney Jeremy Carroll briefed council on a proposal to sell and grant a franchise for an electric power transmission and distribution system throughout the Town of Vinton to AEP Appalachian Power and/or others. AEP has requested a new and renewable 20-year franchise with the town. A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for the January 5, 2021, council meeting. An Invitation to Bid has been advertised.
Council adopted an ordinance allowing the Town Manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Certification for Receipt of Coronavirus Relief Fund Payments for the COVID-19 Utility Relief Program. They also adopted an ordinance accepting and authorizing funds in the amount of $68,764 from the Commonwealth of Virginia COVID-19 Utility Relief Program distributed as a component of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
The town received notification on December 7 that it had received federal CARES Act funds to assist with municipal utility customer relief as related to the pandemic. Roanoke County will act as the town’s fiscal agent to facilitate the $68,764 in assistance.
Council commended Cantrell and Town Executive Assistant Susan Johnson for their intense efforts in quickly facilitating the application process and publicizing the available funding, as applications were due on December 15.
“They jumped all over this,” Mayor Grose noted. Thirty-eight applications for assistance have been received totally approximately $22,000.
During the Citizens’ Comments segment of the meeting, Vinton resident Meghan Noga, who moved to the area recently from Columbus, Ohio, addressed council concerning refuse cart procedures. Having forgotten to take out her trash one week, she placed her full refuse cart on the street the following week with extra garbage bags on the ground around it, not knowing that was violating town code. She talked with the town, and the issue was quickly resolved. Councilman Keith Liles, who serves on the Public Works Committee, explained that the refuse carts which are provided to each residence and business were introduced only recently and procedures are still being tweaked. Noga expressed her appreciation for the quick response and noted that she “loves Vinton.”
Chasity Barbour, Vinton’s Director of Community Programs and Facilities, and Angie Chewning, Executive Director of the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce, received heartfelt thanks from council for their efforts in “thinking outside the box” by replacing the COVID-cancelled Vintage Vinton Christmas Parade with the first annual “Santa Claus Crawl.” The Chamber, Vinton Town Council, town staff, Vinton Public Works, and the Vinton Police, along with the Vinton Moose Lodge, partnered for the event which sent Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and their elves into the neighborhoods of Vinton on December 8 distributing goodies and good cheer. The plan is to make this an annual event.
Barbour announced that the annual—and treasured–Vinton Town Calendar which contains a wealth of information for citizens, will be mailed this year to residents during the last week of December. Sherri Winkler designed this year’s calendar with the theme “Vintage Vinton” with black and white photographs of Vinton in days gone by.