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Concerns over state of buildings loom over Chase City Council meeting

SoVaNow.com / May 15, 2019
Chase City Town Council voted Monday night to allow body shops within the B3 business zones and to amend the town’s employee grievances policy to conform to suggestions from the Virginia Municipal League. The meeting was overshadowed, however, by a pair of impassioned appeals to Council members by father and daughter James Borowski and Kim Holtz.

Borowski, who owns the downtown building at 307 North Main Street, came to seek compensation from the town for an issue related to a sewage backup in his building. Borowski had hired a contractor to dig a new line and was refunded $680 by the town as part of their 40 percent reimbursement policy for the work. He came asking the town to also waive a $90 charge they had levied against him.

Town Manager Angela Lawrence explained that in cases of clogged sewage systems, the town asks citizens for a $90 deposit before clearing the pipes. If the blockage is found on town property, then the citizen will get the money back. In Borowski’s case, there was a dispute.

“Do you acknowledge, and does your public works department acknowledge, that [sewerline] is the main sewer line that is your responsibility to keep clean?” Borowski asked Council.

Lawrence recommended that the issue be taken into a committee meeting, and while Borowski agreed, he also said that he wanted to make a point to Council.

“I just want us to come to an understanding of what is mine, what I need to keep under control,” he explained.

One of the central issues underlying the discussion, which consumed nearly 20 minutes of the meeting, was the town’s lack of documentation on which party is responsible for the sewer line. Both Lawrence and Borowski lamented the town’s missing records.

“Without records, the word that comes down is that it is on you,” Borowski said.

Lawrence said, “He’s right. We don’t have a record, but we don’t have records in many places.”

Kim Holtz, whose business Shear Design occupies her father’s building, also brought up the sewage complaint, but expressed another concern: the condition of dilapidated buildings on either side of her 307 North Main Street business.

Holtz, who said she had already been dealing with three cases of flooding due to poor maintenance in the neighboring buildings, said, “My fear is that its going to fall … I don’t think I can repair that.”

Resident Clara Sands was another citizen who voiced concerns over dilapidated buildings. She asked Council to demolish an abandoned and poorly maintained house that neighbors hers because rats are coming from the property. Lawrence said that the town is going through the procedures to contact each of the property owners, but expressed frustration that the owners were difficult to reach and said that the town was looking into other methods of solving the problem.

In other action at Monday night’s meeting, Janice Bennett-Johnson presented a donation to the town on behalf of Bethlehem Baptist Church to increase the hours of part-time police officer Ricky Lee, who preaches at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Lawrence questioned it would be legal to fund the officer’s position through outside donations.

Council member Marshall Whittaker said, “Just use it whatever way is legal.”

Bennett-Johnson agreed to reword the donation so that the town could it use to purchase Lee a body camera to use while on patrol. B.J. Mull said having a camera was important for any police officer, even if the officer was only part-time.

Council quickly moved through other business. Members voted unanimously to allow body shops within the B3 business zones, but noted that there was confusion in the definitions of automobile services and automobile body shop and asked that this language be clarified in the future.

Body shop businesses would need to apply for a conditional use permit to operate within the B3 business zone.

Lawrence, in her report to Council, asked to reallocate money within the transportation department to purchase new equipment with leftover funds from road projects. The overall budget would not increase, and Lawrence noted that the primary reason for explaining the reallocation on record was for auditing purposes.

Finally, Vice-Mayor Lisa Gillespie announced upcoming events in Chase City including an American Legion Ceremony, the May 17-18 “Red White and Blue” Music Festival, a May 25 “Fly-in” at the Chase City Airport, a June 1 grand opening for the Premium Car show, and Friday night Bingo every week.

Gillespie expressed enthusiasm about the various events, saying, “We need new blood to get excited about our town. Even though we got our problems, we come together.”

Council member Charles Willis was not in attendance.

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