Minutes of a meeting of the Town Council of the Town of Marion, Virginia held in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building on October 22, 2009, continued on October 26, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
PRESENT: Mayor David Helms; Dr. James Gates, Mrs. Suzanne Jennings, Mrs. Jane Hale, Messrs Mel Leaman, Bill Weaver, and Mr. Eugene Hendrick, Council Members; Town Manager John E. B. Clark, Jr.; Town Attorney Mark Fenyk; Assistant Town Manager /Town Engineer Cecil Hicks; Police Chief Michael Roberts; Police Lt. Rex Anders; Community and Economic Development Director Ken Heath; Purchasing Agent B. J. Hamm; and Town Clerk/Director of Finance Dixie Sheets. Also present were members of the Marion Planning Commission: Chairman Cameron Wolfe, Alice Freeman, Shirley Spencer, Jim Barker, and Larry Carter.
INVOCATION/PLEDGE TO THE FLAG: Mrs. Jennings gave a remembrance of Councilman Mark Warren, who passed away October 19. Mrs. Jennings rendered the invocation. Mayor Helms led the Pledge to the Flag.
VISITORS: C. B. Gwyn, Ralph Price, Dr. Douglas Armbrister, Jeff Spickard, Sandip Patel, Bill Huber, Joe Naff, Mike Morelo, Bruce Milsap.
MINUTES: Upon motion of Mrs. Jennings, seconded by Mr. Weaver and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, the minutes of the meeting conducted on October 5, 2009 were approved as written and distributed. Dr. Gates, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Hale, Messrs Leaman, Hendrick and Weaver voted affirmatively.
PUBLIC HEARING – CONSIDERATION OF PERMANENT CLOSURE OF NORTH IRON STREET: North Iron Street is located off East Main Street between the Historic Lincoln Theatre and the former Parks Belk Building. The street renovation has been included in the Downtown Streetscape Project. It is proposed to carry the “theme” from Iron Street Mall across to North Iron Street and provide a pedestrian walkway. Mr. Huber also stated that it could provide space for a loading dock for the Lincoln Theatre. Mike Morelo was present to address the lost parking spaces. He is a resident in the apartments above the Lincoln Theatre. He stated that parking is already an issue. The project would eliminate 6 parking spaces. C. B. Gwyn, part owner of the former Parks Belk building, stated that he is concerned about the possible loading dock. If the former Parks Belk building is rented the loading dock could pose a problem for the renter in accessing the building. He further noted that he was concerned that the project would construct a loading dock for one business and not another. He was not against the closure. He just had several concerns. Mr. Gwyn asked to be included in the design phase. Mr. Heath stated that this meeting is to close North Iron Street. After the proposed design is completed, a meeting will be scheduled to discuss the plans and then plans will be submitted to Town Council for approval. The design phase is expected to be completed in Spring 2010. Mr. Heath stated that the Streetscape monies come from T-21 funds used as a match to the Schoolhouse Project funds. Dr. Gates moved to close North Iron Street as requested and that the final design be presented to Town Council for approval. Mr. Weaver seconded the motion. Council approved the same by a vote of 5 AYES and 1 NOE (Leaman).
Mr. Huber stated that the street will not be physically closed until design is completed and approved by Town Council. Mr. Hendrick stated that he was unaware of consideration of a loading dock. Mr. Fenyk noted that although North Iron Street is closed, the Town will maintain ownership of the area.
JOINT PUBLIC HEARING – CONSIDER A REQUEST TO REZONE A PARCEL OF PROPERTY LOCATED AT 1103 CULBERT DRIVE FROM R2 TO MEDICAL ARTS: Ralph & Diana Price have requested to rezone a parcel of property located at 1103 Culbert Drive from R2 to Medical Arts to accommodate potential buyers. While the area is predominately residential, it is adjacent to Medical Arts. Chairman Wolfe initiated the Public Hearing. Mr. Price stated that he purchased the property to develop it into a medical facility. Mr. Bruce Milsap, owner of the property to the rear of 1103 Culbert Drive, stated that he does not object to Mr. Price’s proposal to rezone. His only concerns are in reference to the large hemlock trees on Mr. Price’s property. He would like to see these trees removed. Mr. Milsap also had no problem with parking around the property. Mr. Wolfe asked Mr. Milsap if he would consider rezoning his property in the future. Mr. Milsap responded that it is a possibility. All adjoining property owners were notified of the meeting by registered mail and by telephone about the change in the date of the meeting. A sign advertising the rezoning request was not posted on site.
Mrs. Freeman expressed several concerns: 1) A Methadone Clinic could be housed in the facility. Mr. Leaman advised that in the revised Zoning Ordinance, a Special Use Permit must be secured from Town Council for a Methadone Clinic. 2) She felt this would be speculative zoning; 3) Concern about lighting flooding over into the residences; 4) She would prefer parking in the rear of the building; 5) She expressed concern about the housing shortage in Smyth County.
Mr. Price nor the Town staff have received any opposition to the rezoning. Dr. Gates stated that the Matrix lists several uses for the property. He would prefer to know who the prospective buyer is and a specific use for the property. He was not in favor of rezoning because of the various uses allowed by the revised Zoning Ordinance.
JOINT PUBLIC HEARING – REQUEST FOR SPECIAL USE PERMIT TO ADD RESIDENTIAL UNIT ONTO PROPERTY IN THE COMMERCIAL GENERAL DISTRICT AT 1420 NORTH MAIN STREET- SANDIP PATEL: Mr. Hicks advised that Town Council had requested that Marion Planning Commission make a recommendation concerning this request. Mr. Patel’s request is to construct a residential structure onto his business to be used by his family while running his business. The addition will be approximately 30’ X 30’. Normally, Special Use is permitted in an existing structure and expires when a current owner (requester) no longer lives there. This structure would be attached to a hotel. Therefore, a new owner would be required to re-apply for Special Use, if it is approved. Mr. Hicks added that there is adequate parking with the addition.
Marion Planning Commission relocated into another room to deliberate and prepare their recommendations.
TOWN COUNCIL ACTION ON PUBLIC HEARING-CONSIDERATION OF A REQUEST TO REZONE A PARCEL OF PROPERTY LOCATED AT 1103 CULBERT DRIVE FROM R1 TO MEDICAL ARTS: Upon return to Open Session, Chairman Wolfe stated that it was the consensus of Planning Commission to recommend approval of rezoning the property at 1103 Culbert Drive from R2 to Medical Arts, with the stipulation that if not developed in 12 months, zoning would revert to R2.
Upon motion of Mr. Hendrick, seconded by Mrs. Jennings, and vote of 4 AYES and 2 NOES (Leaman, Gates), the request to re-zone was approved with the stipulation that if not developed within 12 months, the zoning would revert to R2. Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Hale, Messrs Hendrick, and Weaver voted affirmatively. Dr. Gates and Mr. Leaman voted against the motion to rezone.
TOWN COUNCIL ACTION ON PUBLIC HEARING- CONSIDERATION OF A REQUEST FOR A SPECIAL USE PERMIT TO ADD RESIDENTIAL UNIT ONTO PROPERTY IN THE COMMERCIAL GENERAL DISTRICT ON NORTH MAIN STREET: Chairman Wolfe stated that it is consensus of the Planning Commission to recommend approval of a Special Use Permit allowed under “Duplex” in the Zoning Ordinance for the request to construct a residence onto the Econo Lodge and that the Special Use only continue as long a Mr. Sandip Patel resides there. Upon motion of Mr. Leaman, seconded by Mrs. Jennings, and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, the request for a Special Use Permit to construct a residential unit onto the Econo Lodge was approved for Sandip Patel. If a new owner takes possession, they would be required to re-apply for a Special Use Permit. Dr. Gates, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Jennings, Messrs Leaman, Weaver and Hendrick voted affirmatively.
ACCEPTANCE OF DEED OF 1908 SCHOOLHOUSE TO THE TOWN OF MARION: At a continued meeting of the Smyth County Board of Supervisors on September 24, 2009 the Board voted to accept the sale of the 1908 School House for $250,000 to the Town of Marion. The deed will be prepared by John H. Tate, County Attorney. Mr. Clark noted that the Town of Marion has been awarded a $1,000,000 Community Development Block Grant Recovery (CDBG-R) in support of the Marion Downtown Project, which includes the 1908 School House purchase. However, during the title search, Mr. Fenyk discovered that the School Board did not convey a parcel of property to Smyth County. Apparently the surveyor assumed that the street was 40 feet in width, when in reality, there was a small strip of land in addition to that transferred to Smyth County by the Smyth County School Board. Mr. Fenyk advised that he, Mr. Tate and Mr. Hammer will work together on this matter. Mr. Heath advised that there is a deadline to complete the demolition or the Town may be in jeopardy of losing the grant funding.
TIME TABLE ON BIDDING PRATER LANE RAILROAD CROSSING CLOSURE PROJECT: Mr. Hicks reported that the Old Prater Lane Project is ready to bid. A pre-bid conference will be held on November 5 and bids will be opened on November 12. There is approximately $213,000 allocated by Norfolk Southern (NS) and the Virginia Department of Transportation for this project. Both agencies have been advised that the Town will put no more money into the project.
SOUTH MAIN STREET WATER PROJECT: Mr. Clark advised that an additional $15,239 has been awarded by the Virginia Department of Health for the South Main Street Water Project. Previously, the Town had been awarded an additional $56,665 for the same project. Mr. Clark reported that the inspector situation has been scheduled between Town staff and Lane Engineering. Mr. Hicks advised that the contractor is mobilized and ready to proceed.
POLICE VEHICLE BIDS: Chief Roberts reported that the Town had received a 55% / 45% grant from a stimulus package to purchase police vehicles. There was a stipulation that these must be “American Made” products. This was perplexing, as all police package patrol cars are manufactured in Canada. Mr. Clark received information that the “American Made” clause has been waived. The Town had requested bids for two (2) Tahoes for the Police Department, due 10/28/09. Chief Roberts requested that the Town approve the purchase of one police vehicle, State Contract Crown Vic ($22,906), and one Tahoe for the investigator. Dr. Gates moved that the Town purchase one Crown Vic through the State Contract and one Tahoe at the most competitive price. Mr. Leaman seconded the motion. Council approved the same by a vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES. Dr. Gates, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Hale, Messrs Hendrick, Weaver and Leaman voted affirmatively.
ACCOUNTS: Upon motion of Mrs. Jennings, seconded by Mr. Weaver and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, the Accounts were approved for payment in the amount of $471,892.72. Dr. Gates, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Jennings, Messrs Leaman, Weaver and Hendrick voted affirmatively.
INVESTMENTS: Upon motion, duly seconded and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, the Investment report was approved as written and distributed. Dr. Gates, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Jennings, Messrs Leaman, Weaver and Hendrick voted affirmatively.
2009 LEAF SCHEDULE: The annual leaf schedule will begin the week of October 26 and will conclude at the end of December. The schedule has again divided the Town into three (3) sections. Mr. Leaman asked that if the leaf crew gets ahead, please return to those areas where leaves are most abundant.
SANITATION COMMITTEE- SEWER TREATMENT PLANT UPGRADE: It was reported that the Preliminary Engineering Report was conducted by Lane Engineering and reviewed by the Sanitation Committee. Smyth County has $100,000 in left over grant funds to contribute to the project. However, it must be invoiced by November 30. The Committee recommended that the Town begin implementation of Phase 1 of the Lane Study, plus the addition of one biotower and piping at the digester. Also included in Phase 1 are improvements to the UV disinfection system, two (2) influent pumps and lab roof replacement. Mr. Spickard addressed Town Council concerning Phase 1. The Estimated Construction Costs are $591,315. It appears that a grant is not likely. Interim financing may be the best way to begin this project. Smyth County has funds to use for the Influent Pump Replacement (3) in the amount of an estimated $127,575. Total cost for Phase 1 is $765,633. The Town had hoped to receive financing from Rural Development. Mr. Clark stated that he met with DEQ concerning Notices of Violation with regard to the STP. Mr. Leaman asked if the Town has applied for Stimulus funds. Mr. Clark answered affirmatively. Dr. Gates suggested addressing the pumps and UV system first. Mr. Spickard stated that proceeding with the Project on a “piece-meal” is not a good idea. Mr. Fenyk warned that the Town may be fined if the DEQ Violations are not addressed or if the Town is not showing efforts to move forward with correcting the violation. Mr. Spickard stated that the Preliminary Engineering Report and the Environmental assessment be submitted to Rural Development for review and then apply for Rural Development Funding. Upon motion of Dr. Gates, seconded by Mrs. Jennings , and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, Town Council voted to proceed with Phase 1 of the Sewer Treatment Plant Upgrade and Environmental Report. Dr. Gates, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Hale, Messrs Leaman, Weaver, and Hendrick voted affirmatively.
SCHOOLHOUSE: Bill Huber thanked the Town for their efforts in saving the 1908 Schoolhouse.
NEW COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING: Bill Huber stated that Smyth County will receive bids on the new County Office Building in November. These buildings will take Court and Constitutional Offices out of downtown. He was not in favor of this and encouraged the Town to do whatever possible to keep the Constitutional offices downtown. He stated that several older buildings in downtown could be renovated much cheaper than constructing a new facility.
TRAIN WHISTLES: Bill Huber requested that the Town contact Norfolk Southern in regard to blowing whistles in Town. Mr. Fenyk informed him that Federal law controls the railroad and there is nothing that the Town can do. This situation was address several years ago and the cost to the Town was $300,000-$400,000 for each crossing. This is cost prohibitive to the Town.
ORDINANCE COMMITTEE- TATTOO PARLOR: Mr. Fenyk presented a proposed Ordinance Amendment for the Council to review. The amendment addresses Tattoo Parlors. Proposed sections to be amended are 22-10,Adult Uses, (10) Tatoo Parlor; (11) Body-piercing salon and (12) Establishments for rtunetellers, palm readers, and mystics. Also proposed amendment to Sec. 22-15, Definitions, Body-piercing Salon, Fortuneteller, and Tattoo Parlor will be considered. Upon motion of Mrs. Jennings, seconded by Mr. Weaver and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, Council scheduled a Public Hearing on November 16, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. to consider these changes to the Town of Marion Code of Ordinances.
FIRE COMMITTEE-BIDS ON BREATHING UNITS (SCBA): Bids on the SCBA apparatuses were opened on October 9, 2009. Four (4) firms bid on the apparatuses. Based upon 27 SCBA’s bids ranged from $146,000 to the $161,000 range. The Town received a grant from Rural Development in the amount of $30,290. The Town match is $24,780. The total funded package is $55,070. This amount would fund nine or 10 apparatuses. The Town has applied for a FEMA grant for 27 SCBA units, however, no response to the application has been received. A lengthy discussion ensued concerning how many units are needed and how to fund the purchase of these apparatuses. Dr. Gates moved to purchase 20 SCBA units, 1 extra bottle of air each, plus 15 additional masks and 2 RET Kits to be purchased from CW Williams. Mr. Weaver seconded the motion. Council approved the same by a vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES. Dr. Gates, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Hale, Messrs Weaver, Hendrick and Leaman voted affirmatively. Dr. Gates further requested that when ordering the apparatus to require training and delivery prior to December 31 and to attempt to lock in a price for 7 additional units. Cost will be approximately $125,000. The Town had budgeted $14,700 to be amortized over 10 years.
STALEY STREET WATER LEAK: Mrs. Hale informed Council that she had received a report of a water or sewer leak on Staley Street. Mr. Clark advised that he is aware of the situation and has talked with the homeowner concerning a sewer clean-out problem.
DRAPER-ADEN REPORT: Mr. Hendrick stated that Town information is not listed in the Draper-Aden Report this year.
SPECIAL ELECTION: Mr. Leaman asked that the Town Council consider a Special Election to select a person to assume Councilman Warren’s seat on Town Council and that the Town Manager find out the cost of this procedure.
BLEAK ECONOMICAL FORCAST: Mayor Helms stated that economists, speaking at the Annual VML Meeting, painted a “bleak financial picture” for localities for the next several years. He added that neither of the candidates for Governor attended the meeting.
MARION YOUTH CENTER: The Open House at Marion Youth Center was cancelled due to illness.
BLUE RIDGE JOB CORPS: Mayor Helms reported that he, Mr. Heath and Michael Pennington attended the Open House at the Blue Ridge Job Corps Center on October 22. The BRJC has been named # 1 in the Nation and has a budget of $6.9 million with over $4 million in salaries. It was a very nice affair.
LEGISLATIVE DAY 2010: Legislative Day will be held in Richmond on February 11, 2010.
FIRE DEPARTMENT MEMBERS COMMENDED: The Department of the Virginia State Police sent a letter to Mayor Helms commending Tracy Sledd, Brett Miller and Bo Surber for their assistance in the recent Bomb In-Service training held at Hungry Mother State Park.
CORRECTIONS WARDEN RETIRES: Mayor Helms informed Town Council that Ken Osborne has retired as Warden at the Department of Corrections. Mr. Osborne and his family have been an asset to the Community. Town Council wishes him well in his retirement.
VML: Mr. Weaver and Mr. Fenyk thanked Town Council for the opportunity to attend the Annual VML Meeting in Roanoke. Both found the experience valuable. Mr. Fenyk noted that VDOT is anticipating significant cuts and several hundred more cuts in employees. Also, funding to localities will be down.
HALLOWEEN: Mr. Heath reminded Council that there will be music Downtown from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday, October 30 and Trick or Treat Downtown from 10 am until Noon on Saturday.
STRIPPING: Mr. Hicks stated that he talked with the contractor concerning the stripping on Town streets. The deadline to complete the stripping has been extended from October 31 to November 20. He has also spoken to him about the quality of the job.
CLOSED SESSION-DISCUSSION OF POLICE PERSONNEL AND APPOINTMENT OF POLICE PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER – JUSTIFICATION: CODE OF VIRGINIA, 1950, AS AMENDED, SECTION 2.2-3711 (A): Due to the late hour and that immediate action is not required, this matter was deferred to the Council Meeting of November 2, 2009.
Upon motion, duly seconded and vote of 6 AYES and 0 NOES, the meeting was adjourned.