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South Boston council signals support of Owens

SoVaNow.com / February 28, 2013
Members of South Boston Council indicated Monday night they will appoint Vice Mayor Ed Owens to serve as the town’s interim mayor until an election can be held in November to replace late Mayor Carroll Thackston, who died Feb. 16.

Under the Town charter, Council members have 45 days in which to appoint a fellow council member or a qualified voter to fill the vacancy. That means the next mayor would have to be named no later than April 3.

“Why should we wait,” Councilman Coleman Speece asked Monday night, “when we have someone here who is highly qualified to fill the position if he is willing to do so,” nodding toward Owens.

Members of Council indicated their willingness to follow Speece’s suggestion; an appointment is expected to be finalized at Council’s March 11 regular monthly meeting.

In another personnel matter on which no official action was taken, Council members indicated they will recommend Bill McCaleb for a vacancy on the Board of Zoning Appeals created with the expiration of Dewey Compton’s term on the board. The appointment will be made by a local Circuit Court judge with the town’s input.

Following a lengthy discussion, it was agreed that Town Finance Director Erle Scott should send out second notices of delinquent 2012 real estate tax bills to residents who, for the first time, have not paid their annual taxes. There are 350 such bills that had not yet been paid, amounting to $38,469.57 — or 48 percent of the total unpaid sum of $80,291.38 in outstanding real estate bills. There are 919 delinquent real estate tax bills overall.

Scott advised that the cost of resending the bills would be approximately $164.50, including the cost of postage and materials to run out the bills.

The Finance Director reported that as of the end of January, his office had collected $821,394 in real estate taxes and another $475,910 in personal property taxes.

Town Manager Ted Daniel told finance panel members that he expects to have a budget ready for first reading at Council’s May 13 meeting. A second reading will take place at the June 10 meeting, with final adoption scheduled for the June 24 meeting.

The three-member finance panel — headed by Speece and rounded out by Ed Owens and Bill Snead — will begin its budget deliberations on March 14.

Daniel further advised members of the Current Issues Committee that the Town will apply for up to $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for the Washington-Coleman Housing Rehabilitation Project.

The grant application is due on March 27 and will be used to improve housing conditions for low- and moderate-income persons.

Daniel cited an evaluation done by Southside Outreach that shows the affected area includes a total of 27 structures, two of which should be demolished. Of the remaining 25 structures, seven are vacant and do not qualify for rehabilitation.

Daniel said an announcement of the grant award should be forthcoming sometime in July of this year. If the town is successful in getting the grant, he estimated work on the project would take some two years to complete.

South Boston, he continued, has been very successful in securing CDBG grants, including funds for the purchase of equipment for the Advanced Technology Manufacturing portion of the American Tobacco Warehouse Project. The town also obtained a federal block grant for the Halifax Primary Care clinic, which offers affordable health care to indigent, uninsured and underinsured residents.

CDBG funds also have been used to rehabilitate homes in the Church Hill community. Finally, South Boston received a block grant to add the Halifax Dental Clinic to the primary care facility.

Daniel reminded Council that a public hearing has been scheduled for the March 11 meeting to solicit comment on the closing of portions of Grove and Prospect Streets, which intersect the Washington Coleman school property. (Neither of the street portions is open.) Permanent closure of the streets would ensure the wholeness of the property, Daniel pointed out.

Daniel also updated Council on work underway at the Poplar Creek Subdivision, where a site has been cleared for two energy-efficient housing modules. The homes were built in a cooperative venture of the University of Virginia, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, Cardinal Homes of Wyliesburg, SIPS of Virginia, the town and the Southside Outreach Group. Two eco-Mod four-bedroom, two-bath homes are expected to arrive at the site next week and will be completed March 11-15.

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