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Chase City budget in limbo after Council casts tie vote

SoVaNow.com / June 13, 2018
Chase City Town Council deadlocked on a vote Monday night to enact a new town budget, leaving the matter in limbo with a deadline fast approaching for Chase City to have its budget in place.

The vote was 3-3 with Lisa Gillispie, Winthy Hatcher and Brenda Hatcher in favor of the $3.37 million general budget. James Bohannon, Marshall Whitaker and Charles Willis voted no. Mayor Eddie Bratton, instead of breaking of the tie, asked Council members to table the matter until a later date. They agreed.

Under state law, Virginia localities must have their budgets in place by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. The 2018-19 fiscal year runs through June 30, 2019.

Town Manager Angela Lawrence said she could only speculate as to why the three members were opposed to the draft budget, suggesting their resistance was tied to the idea of using general operating funds for maintenance of Woodland Cemetery.

Two years ago, the Town of Chase City was bequeathed more than $2 million for the beautification and upkeep at the cemetery. In the past, Council members have suggested the town forgo using general operating funds for cemetery-related expenses since an alternate funding source exists.

Lawrence said she planned to meet with the six Council members prior to a special called meeting on Friday, in hopes of resolving any concerns members may have ahead of another planned vote. Chase City announced it would hold a special called meeting on Friday, June 15 at 4 p.m. in Town Hall.

As presented, the draft budget calls for no increase in taxes or water, sewer or garbage fees. However, contractor permits, licenses for financial, real estate, and professional services and retail business would increase between $0.01 and $0.02 per $100.

Employees are set to receive a three-percent salary increase, but health insurance costs are going up by six percent.

Several departments saw their budget requests jump from the current budget year. The fire department is looking at an additional $20,00 for roof replacement, the highways/streets/bridges fund will get an additional $17,064 for a new vehicle, and the police department budget is up over $67,000. The majority of that is for a new roof on the police station building and for the first installment payment for the county’s new records management system.

In other business, Town Council agreed to spend up to $85,000 to install a four-foot ornamental commercial steel fence around Woodland Cemetery. The money to cover the cost of the fence will come from the cemetery bequest fund.

Councilman-elect B.J. Mull expressed his opposition to the fence, saying it cuts off easy access to parts of the cemetery for people with limited mobility.

Town Council agreed to invest the $2 million of the bequeathed cemetery funds, currently held in a money market account earning 0.4 percent annually, with VACO/VML investments. Their long-term fund is currently earning 2.45 percent — a significant increase over the return the town is now seeing. Bratton called VACO/VML investments “a secure and reliable source to provide [the town] with a realistic annual return on the money.”

VACO stands for Virginia Association of Counties, and VML is the Virginia Municipal League, which represents the interests of Virginia cities and towns.

Council is the process of review and revising the penalties for parking violations. The current proposal is to increase the fines, which currently range for $3 up to $10, to a range of $15 to $250 depending on the infraction. The penalty for parking in a handicap space would increase to $100 per violation to be consistent with the state code.

Mayor Bratton, in his remarks to the citizenry, expressed concern over drivers who ignore highway signs for closed roads. He said storm damage from last week’s rains forced the closure of streets due to erosion.

“This is particularly true on West Sycamore Street. That old faithful bridge at the corporate limit was inundated for hours with fast moving, high waters. A significant section of the street was washed away and the pavement on the bridge decking was loosened forcing the closure of the street,” said Bratton.

“I have found it amazing that so many people do not understand the phrase ‘closed to thru traffic’ and have just driven around the signage as if it was okay since they were not affected by the notion of ‘thru’ only to have to turn around and find another path. Even 18-wheeler drivers have made this same presumption only to have to back-up nearly a quarter of a mile to find a place to turn around.

“The only people who legitimately can pass the closure sign are the residents of the last block of houses on West Sycamore Street,” Bratton continued. “Ignoring the closure sign will not fix the damaged bridge and taking a chance on a damaged bridge that is over 70 years old is just plain foolish.”

He implored drivers to pay heed to the signs for their own safety.



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