By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council dealt with a hodgepodge of topics at a lengthy meeting on December 3.
Police Chief Tom Foster introduced a new member of the police department, Officer Justin Baker. He comes to Vinton from the North Myrtle Beach Police Department. Foster said that in addition to his exceptional experience as a police officer, Baker is a Defensive Tactics, Mental Health Aide, Narcan, Radar, and Taser instructor.
Baker is a native of Kannapolis, N.C. He attended North Carolina State University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Justice Theory. His hobbies include watching his favorite sports teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes. He enjoys being outside and exploring the beautiful trails and greenways that surround the area and says he is “thankful to be in Vinton.” He and his wife Mandie live in the town.
Foster described his new officer as “a fantastic hire.”
Deputy Chief Fabricio Drumond presented a Certificate of Recognition Award to Sgt. Michael Caldwell for his efforts in facilitating the National Night Out event on August 4. The certificate reads for “Professional Achievement in the Superior Performance of your duties while assigned as a Community Services Officer.”
Finance Director/Treasurer Anne Cantrell and the Finance Department have received their fourth annual GFOA Certificate of Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2019. To receive the award a budget document must satisfy criteria to operate as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide, and a communication device. Budget documents must rate “proficient” in all four categories and in 14 mandatory criteria within those categories as well to receive the award.
Debbie Custer from the Hemp Mill on Pollard Street in Vinton gave a presentation on the uses and benefits of hemp and how it differs from marijuana. She announced an upcoming Innovation Mill Forum at the Vinton War Memorial on December 11.
Council opened franchise bids for a small cell wireless franchise that had been discussed and advertised extensively. The lone bid came from Cox Communications.
At the meeting on November 5, council authorized advertisement of a Request for Proposals for a non-exclusive, long-term franchise (maximum 25 years) to use and occupy the streets and public rights-of-way in the Town of Vinton for the purpose of constructing, installing, and maintaining wireless communications facilities and infrastructure.
Council then directed Town Manager Barry Thompson and the town attorney to enter into negotiations with Cox Communications and to report back at the December 17 meeting.
Principal Planner Nathan McClung briefed council members on the need for the town to develop regulations concerning “dockless mobility operations” with a looming deadline from the state set for January 1, 2020.
Town staff has developed a draft of ordinance revisions and an administrative policy that governs specific rules and permitting procedures. The policy covers all the parameters that companies will have to follow ranging from the equipment requirements to insurance and liability requirements. There was some discussion of the recent proliferation of e-scooters in Roanoke City. The revised policy will also cover the operation and use of mopeds. Councilwoman Janet Scheid expressed her concerns about parked scooters negatively impacting pedestrian use of sidewalks.
Chief Foster briefed council on a proposed ordinance to amend a section of Town Code dealing with situations “whereby a person is attacked or bitten by an animal in a manner that does not meet the definition of a dangerous or vicious dog or whereby property is damaged as a result of the animal owner not taking reasonable care or precaution.”
Former Vinton Vice Mayor Matt Hare shared a story of members of his family and his neighbors being attacked by another neighbor’s dogs in recent months. Because of the wording or lack of clarification in existing Town Code, the police, despite their best efforts, were unable to take sufficient action to prevent further attacks.
The amended ordinance would “make it the duty of every owner, as defined in Section 10-2, of an animal to exercise reasonable care and take all necessary steps and precautions to protect other persons, property and animals from injuries or damage which may result from his or her animal’s behavior. If the owner or custodian of an animal is a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor shall be responsible to ensure compliance with this section. The punishment for a violation of this section shall be deemed a Class 4 Misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $250.”
Hare also suggested that the definition of “trespass” should be made clear in the amended ordinance.
Council, Chief Foster, and Sgt. Caldwell, who carries out animal control duties, emphasized the importance of this ordinance in a densely populated area such as Vinton.
Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan briefed council on constraints with the construction of the Glade Creek Greenway Phase 2 as bids have come in much higher than anticipated. Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters said this has been the case with construction projects across the Valley in recent months.
McMillan and Town Attorney Mike Lockaby briefed council on the complicated issue of repealing and adopting a revised Wireless Communication Facilities and Infrastructure Ordinance that is under consideration.
McClung then briefed council on a request by Bank of Botetourt for a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a drive-up/drive-thru facility in conjunction with its proposed bank building at 410 South Pollard Street.
The drive-thru window would enable non-exclusive use of an existing alley south of the property parallel to Cleveland Avenue. The town has requested that the bank upgrade the alleyway to support heavy traffic use and loading/unloading functions of commercial vehicles. SUPs are required for drive-thru facilities in the Central Business District.
Pete Peters asked council to adopt resolutions authorizing the town manager to execute a cooperative agreement to accept a $300,000 Community-wide Brownfields Assessment Grant from the EPA and to execute a contract with Draper Aden and Associates for environmental consulting to assist with the administration of the grant.
Council had previously been briefed on the grant program, which will get underway in January 2020. The purpose of the grant is to evaluate underutilized commercial properties and/or perceived brownfields sites throughout the community in need of revitalization by performing Phase I and Phase II environmental assessments at identified locations. The hope is that the program will result in engaging potential developers to consider taking on redevelopment projects.
The program will also qualify the town for additional grant funds to assist with mitigating environmental conditions that could be identified through soil and water assessments.
Peters presented a report from the recent Economic Development Committee meeting with news on the Gish’s Mill and Vinyard Station properties. The town has received a proposal for redevelopment of the historic mill site, which would most likely require state and national historic designation to qualify for grant funding needed to take on the project.
The Vinyard Station project is progressing apace with a new roof to be installed in the next few weeks.
Public Works Director Joey Hiner reported on the Public Works Committee meeting and presented a list of streets on the priority list for paving next year. The top four on the list being sections of Poplar Street, Highland Road, Wayne Street, and Timberidge Road.
Council then convened in closed session to discuss property and litigation.