Vinton Town Council adopted a resolution at its meeting on October 16 accepting Assignment of Rights and authorizing the mayor and town manager to execute documents to purchase five contiguous parcels of property within the intersection of South Pollard Street, Cedar Avenue, and 1st Street— a well-traveled corridor and highly visible gateway into downtown Vinton.
According to Assistant Town Manager/Economic Development Director Pete Peters, the property is the targeted catalyst of Town Council for an economic redevelopment project which will benefit the town by providing jobs and increasing the town’s tax base. The purchase of the properties is advantageous because of close proximity to anchor businesses, public services, and ancillary services such as restaurants. The properties include the current locations of Country Corner, Super Auto Sales, a vacant lot, and an abandoned house. Tenants have been notified of the action by their landlords.
The town will communicate directly with them after closing. The Wilkinson Group entered into a Commercial Purchase Agreement in April 2018 with Kenneth and Elizabeth Garnett to purchase two of the parcels and with F. Mark Goodwin to purchase the other three.
According to Peters, the Wilkinson Group original ly negotiated the purchase price with the owners and signed two separate purchase agreements to buy the five parcels as investment property and to potentially eventually redevelop the site as a single parcel. In late August, the town initiated discussions with the Wilkinson Group to secure the property for an economic development project with a different developer. In early September, the Wilkinson Group offered to “assign” their right to purchase the property to the town and negotiated an extension on the two purchase contracts on the town’s behalf. The town agreed to reimburse the Wilkinson Group the expenses incurred to date to acquire the property. The Wilkinson Group will have no anticipated additional involvement after closing.
“The town intends to close on the five parcels next week and the town will continue to own the property, until such time as the financial details of the proposed redevelopment project are finalized and secured through a Performance Agreement,” Peters said. Council approved the purchase price of $320,000 for the five parcels, which is $9,000 below market rate. They approved additional funds of $55,000 as a general estimate for “due diligence” incidentals associated with closing of the property, such as an environmental review, property survey, title search, insurance, and legal fees.
The closing date on the property is tentatively set for October 22 pending the results of an environmental study. The money for the purchase and incidentals will come from the town’s Reserve Fund, which currently has a balance of about $2.7 million between a CD and money market funds. This is basically the town’s “rainy day” fund, similar in theory to a personal savings account. In other actions, council approved appropriating funds for the purchase of patrol rifles and ammunition for the Police Department and for costs of health screenings for employees at the Employee Wellness Fair held in July. Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster recognized the Officer of the Quarter, Officer Samuel Mitchell, selected by his peers for the honor.
In introducing Mitchell and detailing his accomplishments, Foster quoted John D. Rockefeller, in saying that “the secret to success is to do common tasks uncommonly well.” Deputy Police Chief Captain Fabricio Drumond presented the quarterly report for the department. From July through September, the Vinton Police received 3,727 calls for service, and made 1,341 traffic stops. There were 87 traffic accidents in that period, and 502 traffic summonses issued. They handled 115 drug cases. Animal Control answered 134 calls for service. Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew Chief Wayne Guffey presented the quarterly report for his organization. Volunteer truck hours from July through September were 1,431 out of 1,432 possible (92 percent). Of the 675 calls received during that period, the career staff responded to 286 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; volunteers responded to 389 on nights and weekends.
Volunteers contributed 6,298 man-hours of service during the third quarter. Their average reaction time was .47 seconds; fractile reaction time was 9.01 minutes to arrival after a call was received. There were 399 total transports for the quarter. The First Aid Crew now has 52 members with 14 applications pending. Guffey told council that their primary rescue unit has been out of service since August and needs an engine replacement at a cost of about $16,000. Council held a public hearing and then adopted a resolution granting a lease to the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce (VACC) at the Charles R. Hill Senior Center beginning in January 2019. The lease is for $1/ year with the town eliminating its annual $9,000 grant payment to the VACC which assists with operating expenses. The Chamber will pay its own phone and Internet expenses and approximately 10 percent of the utility costs. Existing Senior Recreation programs will continue at the event hall, supervised by town staff— with the exception of the ceramics program, available at the Brambleton Center. The town will continue to operate the center as a rental facility for evening and weekend events. Several minor improvements will be made to the Senior Center to accommodate the Chamber. Vinton Principal Planner Nathan McClung briefed council on applications for grant funding from the Highway Safety Improvements Program (HSIP) and the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Program (PSAP) for the implementation of pedestrian safety countermeasures at two major intersections in the town: Vinyard Road and Hardy Road near McDonalds, Bojangles’ and Lake Drive Plaza and also at Washington Avenue and Pollard Street. McClung explained that town staff has met with VDOT officials for what was an in-depth site study on the “best means and practices” of targeting these intersections. Possible countermeasures to promote pedestrian safety and walkability in the community include installation of pedestrian signals, crosswalk painting, improved signage, bollard posts, and other devices. McClung noted that the town will be applying for four grants from two separate pools of money— a HSIP grant and a PSAP grant for each of the two intersections in hopes of obtaining funding. There is no local match required for either grant and the projects are administered by VDOT if approved. Council members discussed the need for more sidewalks throughout the town to ensure pedestrian safety as well.
In response to a question from Mayor Brad Grose, McClung said that in its site review, VDOT was impressed with the amount of conduit already in place and available for use at the Vinyard/Hardy Road intersection. Town Manager Barry Thompson commended Public Works Director Joey Hiner and the department for the recent installation of new signal lights at that same intersection, which now include green arrows to make the new traffic pattern at the intersection more apparent. Council adopted a resolution endorsing proposed changes to Valley Bus Routes 35 and 36 in the Town of Vinton after briefings and a community meeting in September and a public hearing in early October. Changes take effect on January 1, 2019. Town Finance Director Anne Cantrell presented reports on the June and August 2018 financials which indicate revenues and expenditures are in line with budget expectations. The Finance Committee will be recommending an increase in the Police Department’s contractual services rate for special events in the Town of Vinton to align with Roanoke County rates.