Vinton Town Council welcomed in the new year with a relatively low-key meeting on January 3. Members began by recognizing W.E. Cundiff Elementary teacher Lindsay Seiler Murray who recently received the prestigious Milken Educator Award. Mayor Brad Grose said that he was excited for Murray but also for the community because the award indicates the high quality of education that is found here.
The Milken Educator Award includes a cash prize of $25,000. Murray was the only recipient this year in the state of Virginia.
She was accompanied by her father, Mark Seiler, and her principal Sherry Bryant. Bryant shared the news that an anonymous “good neighbor” of W.E. Cundiff had generously donated $515.19 to cover all the unpaid children’s lunches for the year so far at the school.
Council was briefed by Billy Driver, Director of Roanoke County Real Estate Valuation, on the newly released 2017 real estate reassessments in the county and Vinton. Residents should be receiving their new assessments in the mail this week.
He told council that the new report indicates progress and growth in the local real estate market with an overall increase of 1.27 percent in the town (1.09 percent in residential property and 1.96 percent in commercial property).
Statistics show that economic development efforts in Vinton have attracted new residents to the town; Driver expects an upswing in new commercial construction in the coming year.
The median sales price of residential property in the Roanoke County was $196,000 as of mid- November. About 1,009 qualified properties had been sold in the county by that date, 77 of those in Vinton, which Driver described as a “good level of activity.” Sales performance helps to determine real estate assessments– up or down– each year.
Driver noted that residents can appeal their new assessments informally from January 17-25, which includes Saturday and Monday night dates, by calling for an appointment with the Real Estate Valuation Office at 777-2035. Formal appeals may be made to the Board of Equalization, made up of five representatives, one from each of the county magisterial districts on selected dates in 2017.
Driver also described the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption available for those whose disability is 100 percent service-related and the Tax Freeze Program for the Elderly and Disabled who are over age 65, with a combined income of less than $56,556 and net assets not exceeding $200,000. Information on both programs is available from the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office at 776-7116.
Town Manager Barry Thompson invited Lynchburg Radio Group owner M.R. Murray to brief council on his request to lease town property— water tanks on either Third Street or Virginia Avenue— to mount a low power translator antenna to re-broadcast AM radio station frequency 101.9. The broadcast would be available in the Vinton and Roanoke area within 15 to 20 miles.
He and Radio Frequency (RF) engineer Jeff Parker explained their need to get the antenna in place and the station up and running by January 25 to meet FCC requirements or lose the license. AM radio stations are on the decline nationally and this is part of an effort to revitalize AM radio markets, as well as bring some revenue to the town. The men said that the antenna itself is relatively unobtrusive, only 15 feet in height.
After much discussion of the possible locations, council agreed to schedule a public hearing on the proposal for the next meeting on January 17 to allow public input.
In other business, Public Works Director Joey Hiner asked council to adopt a resolution appropriating town funds in the amount of $20,000 and transferring $20,000 received from the Roland E. Cook property developers for the installation of a waterline and fire hydrant needed for the development.
The Roanoke County fire marshal required the extension of an eight-inch waterline along Poplar Street from Jefferson Avenue to a new fire hydrant located at the alley on the east side of Poplar Street. The town and the developers—Old School Partners, LLC— each agreed to pay half of the total costs of $40,000 for the project. The town’s half of the funding came from the Capital Outlay-Wastewater System Maintenance account.
Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster asked council to adopt a resolution appropriating funds from the ATF Asset Forfeiture Revenue account in the amount of $55,200 to cover the cost of re-equipping two Dodge Chargers and the purchase of two replacement vehicles for the police department. Now that the department is fully staffed, additional vehicles are needed so that each officer can be assigned a vehicle.
The Dodge Chargers are currently assigned to the Detective Division and will be moved to patrol operations. In-car camera systems and prisoner partitions will be purchased and installed. The Dodge Chargers will be replaced with two used vehicles, Jeep Cherokee Latitudes with low mileage and in excellent condition, which will be assigned to the investigators. Council approved the action, agreeing that the action would save considerable costs instead of purchasing new vehicles.
Vice Mayor Matt Hare presented the financial report for November 2016. He stated in his summary that revenue is up for business licenses, the meals tax, cigarette taxes, sales tax, and from the Vinton War Memorial operations. He considers these to all be positive indicators on the health of the town’s economy. He also said that all town departments are “watching their budgets well and most are under-spent.”
Bob Patterson was reappointed to the Highway Safety Commission for a term ending on December 31, 2019.
Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty asked for an update on the renovations at the Macado’s restaurant on Washington Avenue, at the former library site.
Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters stated that “things are moving” and work by architects and engineers on the site plan is underway. He expects an application for building permits to be submitted within the next two weeks with construction getting underway by late winter or early spring.