Harris Praised By Dillwyn's Council

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DILLWYN – In a solemn move at the beginning of its September meeting, Council accepted the resignation of Councilor Ossie J. Harris, Jr.

Harris submitted his resignation earlier in the day. He has served on the Dillwyn Town Council for 19 years.

In his letter, Harris shared, “I have made this decision based on my health.”

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Mayor Ervin Toney offered, “This is really a great loss to the Council. Ossie has really been a servant not only to the Town Council but also to the County of Buckingham.”

Harris is a retired educator from Buckingham County Public Schools, where he served as a teacher, principal and ad-ministrator.

Making the motion to accept the resignation, Councilor Karen Sue Moss stressed that Council did so with “heavy hearts.”

During the vote, the Mayor asked if there was any opposition. He responded to his question with a resounding “Yes,” and added, “I really hate this but Ossie is having some health issues and he has decided to step down.”

Yard Sale Ordinance Stalled

After a public hearing on a proposed Yard Sale Ordinance, Council agreed to “revisit” the ordinance after sending it back to the ordinance committee for more study.

The decision was prompted by concerns expressed to council members prior to the meeting as well as those shared during the hearing.

The proposed ordinance limits the number of yard sales town residents may have to four times a year. Additionally, each yard sale would be restricted to no more than two days.

With the proposal, businesses allowing yard sales on their property must provide written permission to each vendor or individual selling items on said property. Moreover, the vendor/individual would be required to purchase a business per-mit from the Town at an annual fee of $50.

During the hearing, one speaker talked about the social interaction she sees at yard sales. “It is like a community-thing-people visiting with people,” she shared. She added that she felt the $50 fee was steep, noting that some of those having yard sales are on fixed incomes and are selling items to help supplement their limited incomes.

She reminded, “We are all into Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and yard sales are the ultimate recycling project.” The speaker added, “It brings people into the Town and while they are here they may buy something at the local stores or buy gas.”

Mayor Toney explained that the $50 fee was not intended for residents holding yard sales on their own property.

Vice Mayor Linda Paige said she received several calls expressing similar concerns about the $50 fee and those resi-dents who are selling items to help supplement limited incomes.

Toney shared that his concern focused on vendors who come into town selling new merchandise and are competing with local merchants.

Agreeing, Council as well as the lone speaker concurred that such vendors are more like peddlers. Likewise, they agreed that a resident who has a continual yard sale is maintaining a business rather than a yard sale.

Another issue, noted Councilor Sandra Moss, is enforceability.

After the Mayor closed the hearing, Councilor Karen Sue Moss suggested the ordinance committee should look at resi-dential yard sales separately from vendors selling items within the Town in flea market-type situations.

Possible Grant for Storm Water Drainage

Robbie Coates, with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, met with Council to provide information on Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants that are available to localities with FEMA approved hazard mitigation plans.

He began by explaining that the Town is eligible to apply for funding to address storm-water runoff in the Town.

During heavy rains, the Town Hall and adjacent businesses have repeatedly experienced damage due to the drainage problems.

Coates said the Town would need to compile documentation of those damages.

He said Todd Fortune, planner with the Commonwealth Regional Council, provided him with the preliminary engineer-ing study the Town undertook several years ago in an effort to begin addressing the problem.

Noting the engineering study includes options to solve the drainage issues, Coates offered that the project should be an eligible activity for one of the grant programs.

He explained the federal government requires that for every dollar FEMA contributes to a project, it wants to see a dol-lar returned in long-term benefits.

“So we have to prove the case that by actually doing a storm water project here in the Town of Dillwyn the long term benefits outweigh the upfront costs,” explained Coates. He added that FEMA has a tool called the benefit cost analysis tool that it uses for that purpose.

Reviewing the various grant programs available, Coates recommended the Town apply for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, HMGP, which he described as a post-disaster program. He said the cost share for the program calls for 75 per-cent in federal funds and 25 percent non-federal. However, he explained that in some cases the state has picked-up 20 percent of the non-federal match.

Coates added that the state should be receiving approximately $6 million in funds through the HMGP for the February snowstorms.

According to Coates, another advantage of the HMGP is FEMA will communicate with the Virginia Department of Emer-gency Management if there are any questions or missing information on the application. He added that the other available options are annual programs and are nationally competitive.

Coates said the initial paperwork for the HMGP application must be filed by October 15 and the supporting data by De-cember 3. Noting that he was project coordinator for the region, Coates offered his assistance in the application process.

He added, “Keep in mind…If it's denied, we'll work with you to see if we can get it into another funding stream.”

The pre-application form describes the proposed project as an infrastructure retrofit for storm water drainage behind businesses fronting Main Street between Conner and Hancock streets. It adds that the storm water runoff results in flood-ing of businesses and the flow of water needs to be redirected away from the buildings.

Total estimated project cost is $243,909, with a 25 percent non-federal share of $60,977.

In conjunction with the HMGP application, Council approved an amendment that it is proposing to be included in the Piedmont Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan, initially adopted in 2005.

The amendment offers an objective calling for implementation of structural and non-structural mitigation activities to reduce exposure to natural and manmade hazards. Additionally, it includes storm water management improvements as an eligible project.

Transportation Enhancement Project

Town Clerk Peggy Johnson advised that she submitted the first request to VDOT for reimbursement of grant funds for the transportation enhancement project.

Johnson also reported that VDOT approved the last two change orders. She said those changes involved a rail at the side of Dillwyn Pharmacy and moving one of the ornamental streetlights.

During a discussion on the new sidewalks, Paige shared that one resident asked why Council didn't do something with the buildings. She said she explained that the buildings were privately owned.

Several councilors said they have received negative comments about the sidewalks but overall the comments about the project have been complimentary.

Councilor K. S. Moss noted that one area of the sidewalk had not been sealed but once it was it would blend with the other sections.

Revitalization Grant Application Reviewed

Council discussed comments provided by the Department of Housing and Community Development on the town's re-cent grant application for revitalization of the business district. Although the application was not successful, it did garner 611 points out of the required 629.

Paige pointed-out that one of the weaknesses in the application was the lack of letters from businesses indicating the financial commitment they were willing to make to improve their properties.

Johnson added that another weakness is the Town does not have a “downtown organization” to handle a revitalization effort.

Later in the meeting when debating whether to send a representative to a Main Street Workshop in Abingdon, Council continued its discussion on the need to establish a downtown organization.

“We need to establish a downtown organization,” stated Johnson, drawing agreement from Councilor Karen Sue Moss, and Vice Mayor Paige.

Councilor Sandra Moss said she and Margaret Stout, with the Chamber of Commerce, would be willing to work with the Town in that effort. Moss shared she was hopeful that the committee working on the town's 100th anniversary celebra-tion would also spark interest in forming a downtown organization.

Newsletter for Dillwyn

Councilor Sandra Moss provided a sample copy of a quarterly newsletter she would like to distribute within the Town and to property owners living out-of-town. She explained the newsletter would highlight the clean-up efforts and commu-nity events.

Moss said she would cover the expenses for the first year and if the newsletter is successful, Council may want to con-tinue it.

In turn, Council expressed its appreciation to Moss and gave the newsletter its stamp of approval.

Public Hearing Set for Straight Street Coffee House

In response to a request presented last month by Straight Street to conduct a coffee house one night a month for area youth at a local restaurant, Council set a public hearing to coincide with its October 12 meeting, at 7 p.m., at the Town Hall.

According to information provided by Straight Street, the coffee house would operate from 8 to 10 p.m., on the second Saturday of each month.

Admittance to the coffeehouse would be restricted to youth ages 15 to 19 and require a high school student ID card, DMV identification, or driver's license.

Entertainment would include activities such as Christian fellowship programs, motivational speakers, youth presenta-tions, Christian music videos and DVDs, Christian movies, programs on issues such as bullying and Internet safety; Wii games and activities, board games, and skits.

The hearing is required because Council determined Straight Street must apply for a special use permit to conduct the coffee house under the terms of an ordinance regulating public amusement.

Along with the hearing on the SUP for the coffee house, Council will also conduct a public hearing on a zoning request to rezone a property from R-1 to R-2 to accommodate an apartment at the residence.

In Other Town News

Vice Mayor Paige announced the Dillwyn Christmas Parade is scheduled for Saturday, December 18, at 10 a.m. She said the committee would be meeting in the near future to formulate plans.

Mayor Toney advised that a representative from JAUNT, a regional transportation system based in Charlottesville, would be at council's October meeting to share information about a possible stop in Dillwyn.

Proposed legislation to do away with business licenses (BPOL) and the machinery and tools tax prompted Council to authorize the Clerk to send a letter to VML emphasizing the negative impact such action would have on the Town.

Several council members expressed concern about drivers speeding in Town and cutting through the residential area of Main Street from its intersection at Route 20 at high rates of speed.

In response, Council tasked the Clerk with contacting the Sheriff's Department and the Virginia State Police to advise them of the problem.

Clerk Johnson announced that Council is invited to the open house of Central Virginia Christian School on October 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. The school relocated to the Industrial Park after purchasing and remodeling the shell building.