Vinton Vice Mayor Matt Hare announced that he will not be seeking re-election to Vinton Town Council in 2018. His announcement was made at the December 5 Vinton Town Council meeting.
His term expires in June 2018, with the election scheduled for May. Hare told council that a recent promotion at work has resulted in increased responsibilities and travel. After much prayer and discussion with his family, which includes his wife and three children, he made the difficult decision to leave Town Council where he has served since 2009.
Hare was appointed to council to fill the seat of the esteemed Billy Obenchain, who passed away. Hare was well known to council at that time from representing Vinton on the Greenway Commission. He was then elected on his own in 2010 and 2014.
The council meeting opened with what is becoming a tradition— a quote from Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster, who shared some words from the philosopher Cicero: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” The chief told council that we are all blessed to live in the United States, and especially in Vinton.
Foster introduced a new officer, Joshua Chandler, to council. He also introduced Chandler’s daughters, who led those assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Finance Director/Treasurer Anne Cantrell and Travis Gilmore from Brown, Edwards & Company, certified public accountants, presented the 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) to council.
Council approved and accepted the report which once again awarded the Town of Vinton an unmodified clear opinion, which states that the financial statements by the town “present fairly, in all material respects the financial position of the town, and the results of the town’s operations and cash flows of proprietary fund types for the year ending on June 30, 2017, and is in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.”
The entirety of the report will be presented at the next Finance Committee meeting. Gilmore shared some highlights from the CAFR, explaining that the town has a very healthy level of unassigned funds that would allow it to function for 3.6 months if no more dollars came in to the treasurer. The average for this statistic for most municipalities is 2-3 months. He described this as a “main metric” when evaluating the financial health of a government.
Gilmore pointed out that three customers— Aramark, PFG, and Cardinal Glass— account for 12 percent of the water and sewer usage in the town. The largest employer in town is Roanoke County Schools, which makes up 2.5 percent of the workforce.
He noted that the basic shape of the town budget has changed in the past year, with separating a Stormwater Fund from the General and Utility Funds.
Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan briefed council on the petition of Brigitte Howard for a Special Use Permit to operate a “family home day care” on South Pacific Drive, now zoned R-1 Residential. She currently has a “home occupation” permit that allows her to care for five or fewer children. She would like to be able to provide child care services for up to 12 children, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This would require a Special Use Permit. McMillan reported that no comments have been received from adjoining property owners.
The Vinton Planning Commission will consider her request, which will then return to Town Council for a decision. Council may add conditions it deems necessary, such as signage.
Assistant Town Manager/Economic Development Director Pete Peters briefed council on the town receiving a $3,000 CDBG Planning Grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). This grant will assist the town in assessing the potential for developing a Housing Rehabilitation Program for neighborhoods adjacent to the Downtown Business District. Peters said the focus at this time will be primarily on the Jefferson Avenue, Cleveland Avenue, and Midway neighborhoods.
Town staff recently applied for the grant to conduct the initial public input and physical assessment necessary to determine if the program would be feasible and worthwhile. Under the grant, they have until January 15 to receive public and stakeholder input, conduct the physical assessment, and submit a summary to DHCD.
Peters said the initial assessment will be very limited, mostly completed with a “windshield” inventory, staff knowledge, and input gained from public meetings. Much data already exists in the 2004 Comprehensive Plan.
No match is required for the grant, but the town must meet the January 15 deadline.
Peters said that participation in this grant program will “open up a pool of resources.” By demonstrating that it is serious about the program with this initial grant, the town may become eligible for larger funding with the ultimate goal of acquiring resources to tackle housing issues in the community. Should the initial assessment be accepted by DHCD, the town could receive up to $30,000 to further develop a strategic plan for housing rehabilitation. That could lead to another CDBG grant (similar to the previous Downtown Revitalization Grant project completed in 2016) to help pay for the implementation.
The public input meeting is scheduled for December 19 during the next Town Council meeting, with stakeholder management team meetings on December 21 and January 5. Council approved the financial reports for September and October with finances deemed to be on target. The committee suggested that it would be beneficial to the town to “carve out” a separate grant fund to simplify the budget since various departments have been extremely successful in obtaining grant funding.
Council revisited the refuse truck issue, first presented on June 6, as a decision must be made soon on deciding which truck to purchase to meet budget deadlines. Several options were discussed including purchase of a semi-automated truck and possibly the 96-gallon trash containers for each household. The decision must also be made on whether to use cash from the reserve fund for the purchase or to take on debt.
Staff will develop more information and recommendations for council to consider to be presented at the next council meeting.