By Debbie Adams
The Vinton Town Council meeting on August 17 was fully focused on business and finance.
The meeting opened with the introduction of the town’s newest employee, Tiffany Stewart, by Finance Director/Treasurer Anne Cantrell.
Stewart will be working in the Finance Department as senior financial analyst. She was born, raised, and currently resides in Roanoke City but has roots in Vinton. Her grandfather, John A. Brown, a fallen Vietnam veteran, was born and raised in Vinton and lived most of his life in the area surrounding M.A. Banks Park.
Stewart graduated from American National University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in Accounting. She then received her Master’s of Accounting at Liberty University in 2014. In between degrees, she married her husband Chris Stewart, who is a probation and parole officer for Virginia. They have been married for nine years and have four childre– three boys and a girl.
Stewart has been working in finance for over eight years. During 2020, she took time away from work to support her children while they attended school virtually during the pandemic. She is excited to be starting a new career, new experiences, and gaining more knowledge on governmental accounting. When she is not at work, she is studying for the CPA exam, but finds time to relax with her family, to shop, and to play Sims.
Cantrell announced that for the 26th consecutive year, the Town of Vinton has qualified for the GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting—this one for the fiscal year which ended June 30, 2020.
This is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. It indicates a “spirit of full disclosure” by the town. Cantrell thanked Lydia Verdillo of the Finance Department in particular for her efforts on the financial report.
Next up was a public opening of bids for the granting of two easements to construct, install, operate, repair, replace, and maintain a gas pipeline over, under, through and across 2121 and 2131 Cardinal Park Drive in the Vinton Business Park.
The purpose of the easements is to expand gas service to the Montgomery Village subdivision located in the Vinton Magisterial District of Roanoke County.
Town Clerk Susan Johnson opened the lone bid received—from Roanoke Gas. There were no comments from the public during the hearing. Town Council voted to approve the ordinance granting the easement, previously approved by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors.
Council was briefed on the updated and state-mandated Emergency Operations Plan for the Town of Vinton by Public Works Director Bo Herndon and Human Resources Director Donna Collins. Herndon said that since the last update, a new generator has been installed at the Vinton War Memorial, making it the primary shelter in the town, where citizens could be housed during an emergency situation. He informed council of other generators which have been installed at the town’s water tanks and pump stations, and mobile generators as well.
Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan briefed council on the purchase of portions of three properties located along Walnut Avenue for the Walnut Avenue Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations Project from 5th Street to the town’s west limits.
The project will improve pedestrian access and safety along Walnut Avenue, provide safer bike accommodations, and complete a connection for the town’s Glade Creek Greenway and Roanoke City’s Tinker Creek Greenway. The project is being funded by VDOT’s Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) funds.
Additional right-of-way and temporary construction easements are needed that involve the properties owned by Viking Fence Company (Bob’s Restaurant and the Viking Fence office building), and the Nilam Corporation (Alvaro’s Market). The properties needed run for several hundred linear feet and about 10 feet in width.
Cantrell returned to the microphone to brief council on proposed new grant policies and procedures for the purpose of ensuring proper oversight of all funds appropriated to the town, of minimizing the town’s risk of non-compliance with grant requirements, and of ensuring proper administration and accounting of all grants. With American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) grants being appropriated, Town Manager Pete Peters said the town wants to get “ahead of the curve.” Town Attorney Jeremy Carroll said the plan developed is “a good policy providing clear guidance.”
Council took action to adopt a resolution authorizing the town manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the town and Roanoke County for financial support from the county for the Vinton/East County Hotel Project. The town and the Roanoke County Economic Development Authority have proposed to enter a performance agreement with McDevitt Company to redevelop several parcels for the “Vinton Hotel” to be located at the intersection of South Pollard Street, 1st Street, and Cedar Avenue.
The Board of Supervisors approved the MOU at its meeting on July 27, agreeing to reimburse the town for a portion of the Incentive Grant for the hotel project in an amount not to exceed $450,000 in total, and paid in installments not to exceed $150,000 annually over a three-year period. The MOU will also reimburse up to $30,000 of building permit fees paid to the county.
According to the town manager, the hotel project would not be financially feasible without the financial support from the county.
After a presentation by Assistant Town Manager Cody Sexton, council adopted a resolution creating three new positions (Capital Projects manager and utility clerk in the Public Works Department, and a customer service representative in the Finance Department), approving changes to the FY2022 Classification Plan, and approving the restoration of an additional Police Officer I position. That position was lost due to budget adjustments made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council previously held two public hearings on July 20, 2021, to amend the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 (FY2022) budget and appropriated funding from the General Fund, Utility Fund, Capital Fund, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) grant to fund three positions in the Town.
Due to moving the utility billing function from the Finance Department to the Public Works Department and other staff reorganizations, town staff determined there is a need in the Finance Department for the reclassification of an existing position to create the customer service representative position. This will allow for a realignment of responsibilities of existing administrative staff in the department to provide a higher level of service to the public and to other town departments. The funding for this position is already in the FY2022 budget.
The approval of the new positions does not bind town staff to immediately fill these positions.
Council began meeting again in person in chambers in July; the set-up was a little different for the August 17 meeting with more social distancing than the July meetings due to an uptick in COVID cases in the area. Meetings remain accessible on the Vinton Facebook page and on the website at https://www.vintonva.gov/.