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Vinton Town Council considers GPS routing problem, supports Historic Tax Credits

At the November 21 meeting, Vinton Town Council voted to adopt a resolution in support of the federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) program that may be eliminated in federal government tax reforms now being debated in Congress. Town Manager Barry Thompson told members that the HTC program has been “a powerful tool” nationally and in Virginia in redevelopment projects. In Vinton that includes the Roland E. Cook Lofts, which were a $3 million project receiving $950,000 in tax credits, and the former William Byrd High School now being renovated, a $12 million project slated to receive $2,253,000 in tax credits.

The resolution states that the federal HTC projects have a 99 percent success rate, leveraging four private dollars for every dollar of federal support. The projects tend to be catalytic, leading to follow-on projects “for blocks around.”

Council member Janet Scheid said that the HTC credits have been important to the Town of Vinton, the region, and the entire state, returning historic structures to productive re-use.

The HTC program, which was enacted during the Reagan administration, has led to the creation of 2.4 million jobs, rehabilitated 42,000 buildings, and leveraged $131.8 billion in private investment.

In other business, Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster briefed council on recent activities in the police department. In comparing statistics and data for October 2017 with October 2016, Foster said that traffic stops have increased by 86 percent, from 253 in 2016 to 471 in 2018. Calls for service increased by just 3 percent from 1221 to 1253. Traffic summonses grew by 41 percent from 148 to 208. Drug cases increased by 53 percent from 15 to 23, and overall criminal arrests increased by 18 percent from 55 to 65 over October of the prior year.

DUI arrests so far in 2017 have totaled 74, while in 2016 there were 40 arrests, an increase of 85 percent.

Foster said that these statistics do not indicate an increase in crime, but increased diligence by the Vinton police officers who are working hard to protect citizens, especially in highway safety.

Foster introduced Officer Danny Cox as the Officer of the Month for October. The Officer of the Month is selected by fellow officers, not by the leadership.

Assistant Chief Chris Sayre presented the report on the First Aid Crew for October. The volunteer truck was manned for 480 hours out of a possible 480 hours (100 percent of the volunteer time). Two units were in service for 70 hours.

There were 117 calls for the career staff who work from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 122 volunteer hour calls between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Monday through Friday and on weekends for a total of 239 calls in October.

The medic truck equipped for Advanced Life Support (ALS) was marked up 95 percent of the time and the Basic Life Support (BLS) unit 5 percent. The Fractile Response Time was 9.11 minutes, when the standard is 12 minutes. The Volunteer First Aid Crew served the community for 1870 man-hours in October. There were 135 transports— 81 by the career staff and 54 by the volunteers.

Sayre reported that the First Aid Crew currently has 49 members– 24 EMTs, one advanced EMT, 13 medics, 10 in training, and one driver only.

Vinton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Richard Oakes reported total man-hours for the fire department volunteers were 172 for October, with one call dispatched. The volunteers, town council, and the Roanoke County Fire and EMS are developing a recruitment program for the Volunteer Fire Department, which will include banners for the station and gateway signage, and public service announcements on RVTV, which were very successful for the First Aid Crew in past years.

Town Manager Barry Thompson, representing Mick Michelsen and Kenneth Fuller, recognized Chief Foster and Mayor Brad Grose for their support of and assistance with the Vinton Cruise In of classic cars held in downtown Vinton on the fourth Saturday of each month at the former Vinton Motors.

During the Citizen Comments portion of the meeting, a resident of Vinton who lives near the intersection of North Blair Street, Ruddell Road, and Berkley Road asked council members to help resolve a problem situation in her neighborhood. Tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles are being routed by GPS instructions down the narrow road where there is a treacherous intersection, resulting in hazardous situations for the neighborhood residents and the drivers themselves.

Council was asked to consider steps such as signage warning truckers that GPS instructions should be disregarded on Ruddell Road or adding more stop signs to the intersection rather than the one that is there now.

 

Other suggestions from Chief Foster, Public Works, and council members were that GPS manufacturers could be contacted and asked to update the route instructions; “No Thru Trucks” signs could be added; along with documenting the problem at www.GPS.gov.

Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan briefed council on the planning process for amending the Town Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances, which date back to the 1990s. The ordinances need to be aligned with the Comprehensive Plan documents, regional and gateway transportation plans, Urban Development Areas (UDAs), and the land uses of adjoining localities. This briefing was the first step in the amendment process.

Several controversial issues have arisen concerning the existing ordinances such as accessory structures (sizes and lots, heights, setbacks, and PODS temporary storage containers) and dwellings (such as “mother-in-law apartments” currently not allowed in Vinton), garages larger than homes, sign regulations, off-street parking requirements, street width requirements, car dealerships, tow lots, solar and wind power regulations, telecommunications tower regulations, outdoor storage and display, and more. Many of these controversies are due to the relatively small size of Vinton and the density of the population.

Councilman Keith Liles said that that amending the zoning and subdivision ordinances is long overdue and a motivating factor in his run for a seat on Town Council.

Scheid also brought up her concern for the need for sidewalks in subdivisions and how to encourage developers to include them, especially in areas near the greenways.

Town Council voted to adopt a resolution appropriating $119,340 from a DMV grant, $79,560 in federal funds, and the town’s required in-kind match of $39,780 for participation in the DUI Task Force Grant program. The town’s match is already in the budget in the Fuel and Maintenance Repair section.

This funding will be used to fund one officer in the DUI Task Force, paying 100 percent of the costs of salary and benefits, uniform equipment, vehicle and vehicle equipment for up to five years. Chief Foster said that this program has been very successful, saturating patrol efforts in a multi-jurisdictional area.

Council also approved the appropriation of a $24,750 DMV grant, $24,750 in federal funds, and a town in-kind match of $8,250 (also from the Fuel and Maintenance Repair budget), for Overtime Selective Enforcement, training, and equipment. The town will be able to hire its own police officers at no cost to the town during peak enforcement hours. Chief Foster described this as a “force multiplier” for public safety. The result has been an increase in DUI arrests.

Council members voted to postpone plans to eliminate the Valley Metro bus stops on Washington Avenue until they have more time to evaluate information recently obtained from the transportation service on alternative routes and other issues.

 

 

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