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Clarksville lifts budget freeze, sets spending on streets, police

SoVaNow.com / November 24, 2020
Clarksville Town Council has lifted a freeze on some $300,000 in budgeted funds for paving projects, two police cruisers, salary for a full-time tourism and economic development staff person, and building maintenance — spending items that were put on hold earlier this year due to the pandemic.

Town Manager Jeff Jones said several budget expenditures were put on hold until he had a clearer picture of the revenue numbers for the town. At the time the budget was prepared in April and May, it was “difficult to forecast revenue streams,” said Jones.

He has since made adjustments — lowering anticipated meals tax revenue by 7 percent and proceeds from Clarksville Ruritan bingo by 15 percent.

“Covid has impacted town revenues,” Jones said, “but so far the impact [to the general fund budget] has been limited and budget adjustments helped.” Aside from the general budget, town water and sewer funds have taken a hit due to declines in commercial consumption.

The numbers as of the end of October show revenue from the town lodging tax at the same level as last year, a slight improvement in sales tax receipts, but a 5.5 percent decline in meals tax receipts and a 100 percent loss of bingo proceeds. Jones said it is too early to tell if revenues from business licenses will decrease. Those numbers won’t be available until March.

Tax bills are going out at the end of November for real estate and personal property taxes. Jones said he expects revenue from real estate tax assessments to meet his budget projections and personal property assessments will be 15 percent over budgeted amounts.

At last week’s meeting of Town Council, Jones asked council member to “unfreeze the general budget line items” previously put on hold with the exception of salary increases and money to replace financial software. A decision regarding raises will be postponed to Jan. 1. “If the budget will allow, then the raises will be implemented [as of January], if not then the raises will be postponed or eliminated,” Jones said.

Financial software upgrades will be pushed off to the third quarter of the fiscal year in the spring.

Budget items that will be unfrozen as of the second quarter include money to pave Second and West Streets, $72,642 to replace two aging police cars, monies to repair and paint the interior and exterior of Town Hall and Council Chambers, and funds to hire a full-time person responsible for tourism and economic development for the town.

In other business, Council members approved a resolution to apply for a $3 million grant from the USDA Rural Development fund. If received, the money will be usedfor improvements to the water treatment plant, installation of an integrated fixed film activated sludge system at the wastewater plant and elimination of the Kinderton Pump Station.

Jones said the Southside Planning District Commission office in South Hill is currently working on the application for the project that will be submitted to USDA Rural Development. He is hoping the town will qualify for a 50 or 60 percent grant.

Clarksville is still in consideration to receive Smart Scale money from the Virginia Department of Transportation to install a roundabout on the east side of the Business 58 bridge at the intersection of Highway 58 Bypass and Highway 15 North. Jones said he hopes to hear from VDOT in January.

The Clarksville Police Department recently sold three older vehicles on GOVdeals.com, including a 1999 Crown Vic, a 2009 Crown Vic and a 2004 Ford Expedition.

Police Chief Ricky Wilkinson said the police department is trying to find a better solution for addressing body camera issues with its officers. The current cameras are old and it is difficult and expensive to get support to fix them. They current cameras were handed down from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office.

Since body cameras are a critical item, Wilkinson asked and received approval to lease six body cameras through AXON. In addition to the cameras, the yearly lease payment of $12,378 comes with an 8-bay docking station and tasers as well as related support equipment and training.

Jones said “the great thing about the lease is that you keep your equipment up to date and repaired. The equipment is replaced periodically [at no cost] and any equipment problems are addressed through the lease agreement.”

Wilkinson said the software tied to the body camera is synced with each officer’s weapon and taser. The cameras activate automatically if the officer pulls his weapon or taser.

When asked why the police were in need of tasers, Wilkinson said they “are a less lethal way of controlling people who try to get away.”

Wilkinson said town officers would be taking actions against truck owners with loud “pipes” (exhaust systems) on their vehicles. He said Virginia law allows the officers to pull the plates and registration of drivers stopped for noise violations.

He said vehicles with loud pipes are deemed unsafe under Virginia law “if it permits the escape of noise in excess of that permitted by the standard factory equipment exhaust system of private passenger motor vehicles or trucks of standard make.”

Jones reminded Council members that Clarksville’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, previously scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 25 has been cancelled due to the pandemic. The grand illumination of the town Christmas Tree will be a limited event, if it goes forward, and the Dec. 4 Christmas parade has been canceled.

The Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce is trying to arrange a “Parade of Lights Tour” around Clarksville. Members of the Clarksville Volunteer Fire Department are hoping to tour Santa Claus through the neighborhoods on a fire truck. The parade of lights tour will run from Dec. 12-24 but Jones said no date is set for the fire department event.

Town operations departments have completed five rounds of leaf pickup and will continue to collect leaf and brush on an intermittent basis. Workers also completed sewer line repairs on Rose Hill.

Jim Moody, president and CEO of Veterans Enterprise Technology Solutions, Inc. (VETS), was named to the Clarksville Economic Development Authority (EDA). He replaces Charles Lee whose term expired at the beginning of June but asked to not be reappointed.

Moody’s term will run for four years from June 4, 2020 to June 3, 2024. Moody has over 35 years of experience in the field of information technology and is a founding board member of the National Veterans Small Business Coalition and a former member of the Leadership Council for the National Small Business Association.

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