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Firefighter calls, dilapidated buildings reviewed by South Hill council

SoVaNow.com / February 12, 2020
South Hill Fire Chief Rosser Wells invited members of Town Council to stop by the fire station to see the town’s new pumper tanker truck that arrived Monday after delivering the year-in-review report at Monday night’s regular Council meeting.

In 2019, the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department responded to 76 fewer calls than 2018, but firefighters were still summoned to 575 incidents and it is becoming tougher to find manpower to respond to daytime calls, Wells said.

“Some of the decrease in call volume last year was the fact that we did not receive a significant snowstorm like the one we had on Dec. 9, [when] we responded to 31 incidents in a 24-hour period,” Wells said.

In response to a question from Council member Lisa Jordan, Wells noted the department also saw a reduction in the number of “false alarms” after the town adopted an ordinance that would allow the department to bill locations where there were repeated false calls. The SHVFD answered 303 in-town alarms, 306 out-of-town alarms and 42 calls out of the district, among other requests for help.

Wells praised the “dedicated group of volunteer firefighters” who make up the department. In 2019 they battled 43 structure fires, 16 vehicle fires, 23 brush fires, and one dumpster fire. Town firefighters responded to 398 calls involving hazardous conditions and performed seven elevator rescues.

In other business at the Town Council meeting on Monday night, local resident Paul Duffer chastised member Millie Bracey for comments she made to him regarding his dilapidated properties at a meeting in the late summer or early fall of 2019. Duffer said the comments were not shared with the public at large, and he admitted that he “owns some dilapidated property in town,” but felt her remarks were out of line.

He claimed she summoned him to where she was sitting on the Council dais at the end of a meeting to ask him when he was going to “clean up [his] mess” — a reference to the number of dilapidated properties he owned that were on the monthly list of such properties provided to Council. Duffer said Bracey told him he needed “to sell some of it.”

Duffer said her comments were “not proper.”

Bracey did not appear to recall the conversation, but after hearing from Duffer, she praised him publicly for the “good job [he’s done] getting some of it [the dilapidated properties] straight over the last year.”

Duffer is one of the few property owners whose full name is shown on the list of 23 dilapidated structures included with the Feb. 10 reports to Town Council.

Council members approved a request from the Finance Committee to invest $15 million into a one-three year bond fund administered by VML/VACO (Virginia Municipal League/Virginia Association of County Officials). Town Finance Director Sheila Cutrell said the fund offered a bond yield rate of 2.28 percent, which is well above the interest rates offered by Carter Bank, Benchmark Bank and First Citizens Bank.

In addition to the higher interest rate, the town can withdraw money from the fund up two times per month with no penalty.

Ben Taylor, who chairs the Finance Committee, estimated this investment could conservatively earn the town several hundred thousand dollars in extra cash over the life of the investment.

Council adopted a resolution to indicate that Mecklenburg Manor Apartments is located in a designated Revitalization Area. Town Manager Kim Callis said this designation would help Gateway Development Services, the owner of the apartments, receive tax credit funding from the Virginia Housing Development Authority. Officials with Gateway Development Services say the tax credit funding will assist them with rehabilitating 51 low- to moderate- income apartments located at the east end of Ferrell Street.

Callis said Barker Construction has completed work installing a new RCUT traffic flow pattern at the intersection of Atlantic Street and Maple Lane. Callis said the road striping work should be finished “in the next several days.”

The town is also working with B&B Consultants, Dominion Energy, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to decommission the power station at Whittles Mill and remove three transformers at the powerhouse located at the mill.

Engineers with Dewberry & Davis are working to reverse a Department of Environmental Quality ruling calling for the town to implement pre-treatment requirements. Callis said the request was an overreach by DEQ because the town had only three industrial customers and there has never been an issue with the town’s water quality tied to these industrial customers.

According to Human Resources Manager Carol Hutchinson, most of the town employees have received and been trained on the provisions in the new town Employee Handbook.

Council approved a new sewer ordinance for the Town Code and an ordinance that makes it unlawful for a vehicle to be parked with the left side to the curb so that the vehicle is facing toward the direction of ongoing traffic, except when parked on one-way streets.

Pearce Oil, the owner of property located at 201 Maple Lane, was given the right to store oil tanks on the property on the condition that the property is surrounded by an eight-foot fence that hides the tanks from public view and the company complies with all DEQ mandates

Justin Smith was granted a special exception permit to sell automobiles from the property located at 618 E. Atlantic Street. According to Council member Mike Moody, the property has been used for a similar purpose in the past.

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