By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council honored long-time Public Works employee Kevin Orange, accepted a
$500,000 EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant, and received a “clean audit” for the 2022 annual
Comprehensive Financial Report at the December 5 council meeting.
Public Works Director Bo Herndon presented Orange (better known as KO), who is retiring,
with a Certificate of Appreciation for his 18 years of “extraordinary service to the Town of
KO started at Public Works on July 11, 2005, and for the next 18 years, he was a dedicated
town employee,” Herndon said. “KO always went above and beyond what his job required. He
would always step up and do what was asked, never saying ‘No. He covered many extra on-call
weekends and holidays. He was truly our go-to person any time we needed him.
“He was well-liked and respected within the department and by the town citizens, too. It always
made us chuckle when KO called out on the radio—he would say his ETA was seven minutes,
no matter where he was—in town limits or across town in Roanoke. Thank you, KO, and best
wishes on your retirement.”
Orange said that it had always “been good to be part of the team in Vinton.”
Next up on the agenda was an update by Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Nathan
McClung on the EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant program.
In May 2023, the Town of Vinton was awarded $500,000 from the United States Environment
Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the fiscal year 2023-2024 Brownfields Program. The EPA
Brownfields Program is a federal grant administered to help local governments redevelop
properties, typically with prior manufacturing or hazardous materials uses, and to position them
for economic and community development projects, with the hope of engaging potential
developers. No match is required by the town for the funds.
(A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be
complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or
The town will utilize this grant award over the next four years to strategically redevelop targeted
vacant and underutilized properties within the community.
The Town of Vinton selected TRC Companies Inc. through a Request for Proposal process in
September 2023 to manage the grant on behalf of the town—assisting with grant administration,
preparing conceptual site plans, establishing of marketing materials, and coordinating the
TRC (then known as Draper Aden) worked with the town on the previous EPA Brownfields
grant for $300,000 awarded in 2019. That grant award was leveraged to ease the path to
construction for developers of projects such as Gish Mill, the Cleveland Mart redevelopment
project, and the anticipated Vinton hotel.
“The EPA Brownfields Program has been instrumental in creating new economic development
opportunities from underutilized properties in Vinton,” said Vinton Mayor Brad Grose. “We are
extremely appreciative to receive another Brownfields grant from the EPA, and we’re excited to
show the community what we’re able to do with these additional funds.”
The due diligence phase of brownfields site development may include land surveys, physical site
assessments, engineering studies, and conceptual planning to ensure safe and feasible
development upon a previously developed or underperforming parcel of land or building. This
grant allows the town to accelerate the path to development and incentivize private investment in
Sri Nathella of TRC presented an update on the previous Brownfields grant project to council.
(Look for details in the December 14 Vinton Messenger).
Citizen Daniel McCulloch of Vinton spoke during the public comment section of the hearing to
express his concerns about using grant funds for development of a hotel site which might attract
During the council discussion which followed, Councilman Keith Liles explained that while the
grant money could be used to clean up a site, it could not be used for construction of a specific
redevelopment project—that is up to the developer. He added that “private companies could not
get these grants,” and many economic development projects would fall by the wayside without
Mayor Grose expressed his gratitude for grants such as these which make sites more attractive to
potential developers. He mentioned the numerous grants the town has received from various
sources through the years which have greatly benefited the town and its citizens. He thanked
staff in all departments for their hard work in securing grants.
“The Town of Vinton has developed a reputation for using grant funding to get the job done,”
Town Manager Pete Peters commented that past grants have led the town to be able to maximize
its resources and leverage other funding resources. He noted that without the initial EPA
Brownfields grant the Gish Mill Redevelopment Project, now in the works, might not have been
realized. He also commended the EPA for its solid professionalism which make it “easy to work
Council members approved a resolution accepting the grant and authorizing the town manager to
execute a Cooperative Agreement to move it forward.
Travis Gilmer, CPA with Brown Edwards & Company, next presented the Annual
Comprehensive Financial Report for the Town of Vinton as of June 30, 2022. The town received
a “clean audit,” in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.
He noted that the audit process is long and tedious, this year taking over 500 hours of staff time,
resulting in a 100-page report to produce the “clean unmodified opinion.”
Gilmer commented in particular on the town’s “unassigned fund balance” of $5.6 million which
leaves the Town of Vinton, unlike many others, with funds to cover 9.7 months of operations if
no revenues were coming into town coffers. This figure has increased from last year’s $2.1
million. The national average is two months.
Finance Director/Treasurer Andrew Keen thanked his staff for their hard work, both daily and on
the audit. They include Tiffany Stewart, Kimberly Hunter, Carrie Kessler, Neil Divers, and
Peters updated council on the always-popular town calendar which will once again be delivered
by mail to town residents around Christmas time.
He also noted that contractors have begun staging the 81-space Walnut Avenue parking lot
project with work beginning this week and continuing through early April.
The Town Council meeting scheduled for December 19 has been cancelled.