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Divided South Hill Council votes down censure motion against mayor

SoVaNow.com / September 11, 2019
The right of the mayor to interact with town employees on personnel matters stirred a dispute that spilled over into open session of South Hill Town Council on Monday night.

As members gathered in Council chambers for a protracted closed session, loud voices became plainly audible to listeners outside in the hallway. When Council members came back into open session, Ben Taylor moved to censure Mayor Dean Marion. According to a statement read by Taylor, the Town has received three separate legal opinions advising Marion against holding ongoing discussions with town employees regarding personnel matters.

Taylor’s censure motion failed on a 5-3 vote. Voting in favor of the motion were council members Taylor, Glenn Allen and Millie Bracey. A majority of Council consisting of Leroy Sasser, Lisa Jordan, Delores Luster, Mike Moody and Lillie Feggins-Boone quashed the censure attempt.

Marion made no comment either before or after the motion was read, and he maintained his silence following the vote. A call to him seeking comment after the meeting was not returned.

Town Manager Kim Callis also declined to comment on the matter.

In other Council business, Quentin R. Johnson was introduced to members as the new president of Southside Virginia Community College. Johnson was introduced to Council members by Jordan.

Council members agreed to hire Adams Construction Company in Danville to perform asphalt milling, overlay and traffic markings on several streets in town, including Northington Street, Lombardy Street, Sunset Lane, Field Drive, and Goodes Ferry Road as well as on various parking lots.

Adams will be paid $441,160 for the work which is slated to begin in the spring. It is due for completion before June 1.

Also, maintenance work continues at historic Whittle’s Mill and Max Bagley Crowder Memorial Park off of Route 47, on the Meherrin River. Fencing around the powerhouse is being repaired, improvements are being made to the parking area and new signs have been ordered.

Town staff continues to work with Marc Wagner of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to obtain registration for the mill as a national historic site, according to Callis. The mill is already included in the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Waterlines around South Hill Avenue and Goodes Ferry Road have been deteriorating for some time, Callis said. Despite efforts to date, the town has not received grant funding for an area-wide improvement project because surrounding property owners either do not meet the low- to moderate-income eligibility requirements or have not shared financial information required to pursue grants.

As an interim fix, while the town continues to seek out grant funding, public works crews have used spare pipe to replace approximately 375 feet of water line to alleviate the rusty and dirty water problems residents are experiencing.

Business Development Manager Brent Morris said he and representatives from the South Hill Chamber of Commerce, Revitalization and Market Square Committees are already planning for the town’s upcoming Spooktober and Hometown Christmas celebrations. Morris also announced that design work on the town’s new interactive roadmap to opening a business in South Hill is complete and will soon be incorporated into the town’s website.

James Jones was reappointed to a five-year term on the town board of Building Code Appeals. His term runs from Sept. 14, to Sept. 13, 2024.

Callis, in a post-meeting discussion, said the town has begun the process of hiring a new director of finance and administration following the departure of former finance director Katherine Bigelow.

The position has been advertised and Callis said their goal is to hire a person who “best fits the needs of the town.”

With engineering studies nearly completed, Callis said work to improve traffic flow and parking on Danville Street near Mecklenburg Avenue will soon begin. Now that Boyd Jeep Chrysler Dodge has relocated from their showroom on Danville Street to a new facility off Highway 58 near Walmart, the town has begun steps to install a new tenant in the Danville Street property, along with the Boyd family.

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