VINTON–Vinton Town Council devoted their meeting on February 5 to business and financial matters. They held the second of two required public hearings to seek input from citizens on the $700,000 Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) for Downtown Revitalization.
Ryan Spitzer, assistant to the Town Manager and administrator of the grant, explained that the preliminary steps for the approval of the contract with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)) are almost complete, awaiting approval of the environmental review.
Council will most likely be able to sign the contract with the DHCD in early March after which funds will be released and the project will get underway. Spitzer will hold a meeting with downtown business owners on February 7 to brief them on the grant and to ask for their input on the project.
On February 12, the Project Management Team for the block grant will hold their regular monthly meeting to discuss the Façade Program, the Management Team Plan, and the Revolving Loan Program.
Prior to the regular meeting, Town Council held a work session to discuss a proposed rezoning for Clearview Manor Apartments from general business to residential, requested by the new owners of the property.
Preston Lloyd, attorney for the new owners, explained that this is basically a housekeeping procedure, prompted by the Lender, to bring the property into legal conformance, which will ensure that the project could be rebuilt, as is, in case of fire.
The Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the matter on February 7, followed by a public hearing at Town Council on February 19. Mayor Brad Grose requested more details on a proposed water tank to be constructed at the site.
Vinton resident Ray Sandifer who owns a home adjacent to the apartments, submitted written comments concerning the impact of the change in zoning especially in regards to lighting and trees that line the property.
Barry Thompson, Vinton’s Treasurer and Director of Finance asked Council to adopt three resolutions: an increase in the fee charged for returned checks from $35 to $50 due to increases in bank charges, and the removal of outstanding Personal Property delinquent taxes and also delinquent water and sewer bills that are over five years old from the active records to a permanent file.
Thompson and Gary Woodson, Vinton’s Director of Public Works then briefed Council on water and sewer bond issue options and infrastructure projects. This discussion was precipitated by the need for Vinton to borrow funds and take on debt to pay their required part of the Western Virginia Water Authority’s $17,000,000 Peak Flow Enhancement Project at the Roanoke Regional Water Control Plant (WPC Plant). Vinton’s share of the project is 5.5%, which amounts to $986,774 including a contingency allotment.
The WPC Plant project includes facility upgrades to improve plant compliance with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) requirements, which should result in reduced sewage overflows during wet weather, while providing greater capacity for the citizens served by the WVWA in Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Vinton, Salem, and Botetourt County.
Currently the facility discharges treated water by gravity into the Roanoke River. When the river exceeds four feet, the facility begins to experience a reduction in treatment capacity due to the inability to discharge to the river. The project will allow the facility to maintain full treatment capacity during high water levels and flooding events.
Due to the project getting underway sooner than expected, payments must begin in July of this year. The Town is considering long-term financing which will combine the necessary loan for the WVWA project with the existing bridge loan for the Glade-Tinker Creek Wastewater Interceptor Replacement Phase 2 Project now being completed on Walnut Avenue.
Thompson and Town Manager Chris Lawrence described for Council the loan options available from either the Virginia Municipal League and Virginia Association of Counties (VML/VACo) or the Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) for the $1.5 million needed to pay for the two projects. Council discussed whether to increase the loan to $2 million in order to complete other projects necessary to replace antiquated infrastructure within the Town.
Lawrence stated that the deadline for loan applications for the VRA is February 8 while the VML/VACo has no deadline.
Woodson described in detail various projects which would replace, repair, and/or upgrade different parts of the existing infrastructure. Those include replacing water and sewer lines which are frequently in need of repair, manholes, and fire hydrants throughout the Town; stormwater improvements which will soon be mandated (but not funded) by the state and federal government; maintenance on the Garthright Memorial Bridge; a total revamping of the Third Street Wastewater Lift Station; improvements to the corridors; and roadway work on Mountain View Road, Virginia Avenue, and other streets, which will involve not just resurfacing, but work on the sub-base.
Several Council members spoke against rushing deliberations in order to meet the VRA deadline, as the required loans are going to inevitably result in an increase in wastewater rates, even in borrowing the $1.5 million. A $2 million bond issue for 20 years at an estimated 2.50 to 2.51% rate would require an increase of 9.88% in wastewater rates to generate the $144,292 needed each year to finance the loan.
Council members concluded that a great deal more review and public input would be needed to make a decision on the bond package and on prioritizing projects, although the need for wastewater rate increases is almost a certainty whichever amount is decided upon.
Councilman Matt Hare presented a report from the Finance Committee for their December 2012 meeting, which indicates that the Town is in good shape financially at this time with a healthy cash flow. Revenues have exceeded expectations while expenditures have been less than expected, largely due to reductions in staff and unfilled positions.