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Dillwyn Holds Public Hearings

DILLWYN – During its July 10 meeting, Dillwyn Town Council conducted three public hearings.

The first hearing focused on a proposed revision to the town's cable television franchise ordinance, which needs updating before the town renews its franchise agreement with Comcast. No public comments were offered.

However, after the hearing, J. Robert Snoddy, III, in his role as town attorney, reviewed a letter from Comcast that included suggestions about deleting and revising some of the provisions of the proposed ordinance.

Although Snoddy said he concurred with some of the suggestions, he told council he did not agree with removing standards of operation, which Comcast stated could be included in the agreement rather than the ordinance.

The attorney explained that if the ordinance did not include standards and guidelines, each time the town renewed an operating agreement it would have to renegotiate them. He added that would not be necessary if the standards of operation are included in the ordinance.

Reminding council that the town's ordinance mirrors the county's ordinance, Snoddy advised that he would be meeting with the county attorney in the next few days to discuss the changes proposed by Comcast.

“I think we need to work with the county to dovetail this to make it work together,” offered Snoddy, encouraging council to delay acting on the ordinance until its August meeting.

Ellis Acres

The second hearing dealt with a proposed lease between the Town of Dillwyn and Ellis Acres Memorial Park, Incorporated.

As arranged during the inception of the park, the town retained ownership of the 9.3 acres but agreed to lease the site to EAMP for an extended period-of-time for the minimal sum of one dollar.

During a discussion on the lease, Wilbert Dean, representing EAMP, questioned several sections of the proposed lease.

He said he felt the town, as landlord, should be responsible for the insurance.

Noting that if EAMP was unable to continue operation of the park, all of the improvements would revert to the town, Dean said EAMP hoped the town would assist in the cost of the insurance in light of that provision.

He stressed that EAMP would be responsible for its liability insurance and would require those using the facility to have liability insurance.

Diane Holman-James, who along with Dean is a member of the EAMP executive board, asked what would happen to the personal property if the town, which has the ultimate say about the renewal, did not agree to renew the lease.

Snoddy said the improvements to the property, including structures and their fixtures would come back to the town but any personal property belongs and would continue to belong to EAMP.

Dean explained that as improvements continue to be made to the property, the insurance premiums have increased. He added that reimbursing the town for the insurance, as proposed, would place a huge burden on EAMP.

Looking at the financial side of the issue, Councilor Bill Lewis Moss explained that if the town agreed to pay for the insurance and the improvements to the property continue, the premiums could rise to a point where the town would get in a bind. “So we have got to think about that, too” he shared.

Dean responded, “On the positive side, I would think by us improving the property we would attract more businesses and more taxes into Buckingham as well as the town that would generate enough to help offset that.”

Continuing, Dean offered, “That is our whole objective-to improve the quality of life of all citizens in Buckingham.” He added that the park is something that should attract people to the town as well as more businesses, commerce, activities, and attention.

Referencing the request for the town to pay the insurance, Vice Mayor Linda Paige, who chairs the town's finance/budget committee, stated, “I think we need to look at it as a budget item.”

As the discussion continued, the attorney suggested the town could include a cap on the amount of insurance it would pay.

When Dean asked if they could “come back to the table” and discuss the insurance issue, Snoddy offered, “You don't have to decide on this tonight.”

Sharing another concern in the proposed lease regarding its renewal, Dean asked about adding language to protect EAMP if it met all the conditions for renewal but the town wanted the property for another use.

The attorney explained that a lease is a document written primarily to protect the landlord and usually includes the worst-case scenarios in order to ensure that protection.

Offering that he understood what Dean was saying, Snoddy suggested adding language that would protect EAMP in such a scenario. He added that they could also deal with that concern by lengthening the terms on the renewal.

“The maximum any town can go on a lease is 40 years,” explained Snoddy, adding that instead of renewing every ten years they could go with two 20-year terms or variations thereof rather than the four ten-year terms.

“That would take a lot of stress off and put us in a better position as far as seeking grants and getting loans,” responded Dean.

Snoddy added that another 40-year lease could be enacted at any time.

As the discussion ebbed, Mayor Ervin Toney asked if there were any other comments. He added, “We will certainly give this some serious thought.”

Dean offered, “We appreciate your cooperation and working with us thus far.”

At that point, the mayor declared the public hearing on the lease agreement closed.

FY13 Budget

Moving on to the third hearing, Toney called for comments on Dillwyn's $1,539,706.30 budget proposal for fiscal year 2012-13, ending August 31, 2013.

The general fund portion of the budget indicates a balanced budget with $99,196.70 in total revenue and expenses.

Additionally, the capital improvement portion of the budget totals $1,440,509.60. That figure includes Dillwyn's continuing streetscape project funded with Transportation Enhancement Grants through the Department of Transportation of $145,724.80 for Phase 4; and $861,250 for Phase 4 Extended and Phase 5.

Moreover, the capital improvement budget includes $433,534.80, for the Business District Revitalization Project funded through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

For Dillwyn residents, the good news is the budget proposal does not call for a tax increase. Tax rates for town residents, based on every $100 valuation, will remain at $0.04 for real estate; $0.28 for personal property and tools/machinery; and $0.04 public service corporations.

During the hearing, Councilor Bill Lewis Moss said he would like to see the budget amended to include a salary increase for Peggy Johnson, the town clerk and treasurer. He added that the clerk has not received an increase in four years.

When no other comments were offered, Mayor Toney closed the hearing.

Afterwards, Paige reiterated that she would like council to consider adding $1,800 to the budget to cover the property insurance on Ellis Acres.

Transportation Enhancement Grant

Todd Fortune, planner with the Commonwealth Regional Council, explained that the engineering plans for Phase 4 of the Transportation Enhancement project were submitted to VDOT. He said the delay involved a question about whether existing entrances would need to be improved.

“VDOT said we could proceed with the entrances as is,” stated Fortune.

Phase 4 of the streetscape project includes sidewalks, landscaping, and lighting from Conner Street to Rosney Road.

Fortune explained that although the town initially applied for a $1.3 million grant for an extension of Phase 4 and to proceed with Phase 5, VDOT came back and asked that the request be scaled back to $1 million and then, in another request, to $689,000.

He added that there was also talk about cutting that figure in half but when the Commonwealth Transportation Board made its awards, Dillwyn did receive notification of its receipt of the $689,000 grant.

Although Phase 5 initially called for completing the streetscape project from one end of town to the other, with the cut in funding the proposed plans will have to be revised.

Revitalization Project

Fortune advised council that bids were received on the facade improvement phase of the Downtown Revitalization Project.

Subsequently, he said that assuming the town accepts the recommendation of the architect, Triple L Construction has agreed to do seven of the buildings; and they would negotiate with Keith Barber Construction for the other eight.

Johnson added that any buildings that Barber did not want to handle would have to be included in a subsequent bid process.

Paige moved that council accept the recommendation as presented. The motion drew council's unanimous support.

Moving on to the Blight Removal aspect of the revitalization project, Fortune reminded that there were 28 buildings included in the application for construction funds.

He explained that according to the conditions of the grant, the town must remove all blight within the project area.

Clerk Johnson said of the 13 remaining buildings, three of the owners are planning on submitting applications and another is considering doing so. She added that some of those buildings only need minimal work, such as a coat of paint, which the grant would cover but the work is required to go out for bids.

Tourism Committee

Councilor Sandra Moss announced that Cowboy Day would be held in conjunction with the grand opening of Lionheart Resort on July 27, 28, and 29.

She also reported that on August 25, Ellis Acres would host Senior Citizen Day. Moss stated that the Chamber of Commerce has decided that the winners of the annual Best Grandma and Best Grandpa Contest would be announced during that event.

Councilor Tora LaTonya Jones shared that she would like to see the town be more proactive in bringing festivals and events to Dillwyn. She explained that by doing so, more people would be in town to generate business for local merchants.

S. Moss suggested planning activities on a regular basis, such as a first Friday-type event; and/or coming up with unusual events that may generate interest.

Karen Sue Moss said a Family Day might be an idea. She also suggested planning activities to coincide with the train rides.

Cemetery

Council authorized K. S. Moss to work with Benji Shumaker regarding the purchase and planting of a type of evergreen to use as a border for the town's cemetery. Plans include planting smaller shrubs with the evergreens

Mayor Toney and several council members shared that they received several complaints about the appearance of the cemetery.

Council agreed to reiterate to the lawn maintenance contractor the importance of making sure the cemetery is trimmed and cut for holidays including Easter and Memorial Day as well as Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Laptops/Tablets

K. S. Moss brought up the topic of purchasing laptops or tablets for council members. She said that doing so would save the clerk time in disseminating information to council and would save ink and paper.

“It would make it easier all the way around for communication,” she said, adding that when a council member left council they would either give the device back to the town or purchase it.

July 16 Meeting

During the discussion about laptops, Paige reiterated the need for council to review and possibly amend the FY 13 budget proposal in conjunction with the three items discussed during the meeting-insurance for Ellis Acres, a salary increase for the clerk, and the possibility of purchasing laptops/tablets for council members.

In turn, council agreed to meet to discuss the budget following the July 16 revitalization committee meeting.

At that meeting, council amended the budget proposal to include the clerk's salary increase and the insurance for Ellis Acres.

Additionally, council agreed to purchase two laptops, for the clerk and the mayor, along with the equipment to provide wireless service in the Town Hall.

According to Clerk Johnson, with the changes, the general fund portion of the proposed budget will increase by $4,000.

Council is scheduled to take action on the town's FY13 budget during its August 14 meeting.

During the July 16 meeting, council also agreed to amend the proposed lease with Ellis Acres.

With the amendments, the town would provide up to $2,000 annually for insurance. Additionally, council, concurring with a request from EAMP, agreed to amend the lease to reflect one 20 year-term and two ten-year terms. Action on the proposed lease is slated for the August 14 meeting.