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South Hill goes back to bidding for gas franchise / February 14, 2018

The Town of South Hill had planned to open bids on providing natural gas service within the town at Monday night’s meeting of Town Council, but no bidders were present.

Town Manager Kim Callis said he was told that representatives from Columbia Gas of Virginia were coming to the meeting. Since no bidders came forward, the town will again advertise for bids.

South Hill is offering to one or more natural gas franchises the right to use the streets for the purpose of laying, constructing, operating and maintaining a natural gas transmission line. The franchise, once awarded, will last for 25 years.

Council members did move forward with plans to abandon a 40-foot unnamed right of way connecting to Westover Avenue. The alley runs between property owned by John and Lind Crowe, Ernest and Irma Reese and Herbert Newman. The first step will be to appoint a three-person committee to view the alley and report on potential issues arising if the right of way is vacated. No one was named to the committee at the meeting.

Code and Compliance Officer David Hash identified nine dilapidated properties in town. Hash said the owners have been asked to provide a plan of action for improving their properties and give a deadline for compliance.

South Hill Police Chief Stuart Bowen said Lt. Shane Johnson has been accepted into the FBI National Academy Program. The program offers 10 weeks of advanced investigative, management and fitness training for selected officers having proven records as professionals within their agencies. Bowen previously graduated from the program.

He said Johnson will be attending the program from October-December.

Shep Moss, head of the town’s Shops of South Hill merchant group, asked Town Council to be a partner in making downtown South Hill more attractive to business. He said the group lacks adequate marketing funds, and dilapidated properties in the downtown district deter new businesses moving in.

“We are a hub, but not a destination,” said Moss.

Even without town support, Moss said the Shops of South Hill has been able to sponsor a successful Christmas event and a Cupid’s Questions promotion, culminating in a well-attended event this Friday at Brian’s Steakhouse. Their goal is to offer three or four coordinated retail promotions each year.

Callis said he’s been to a couple of meetings and events organized by the Shops of South Hill and “they have good ideas.” However, he made no recommendation to Council members regarding Moss’ request for a joint committee to work on downtown revitalization issues.

Councilwoman Lisa Jordan has been working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for the past several months in hopes of earning historic designation status for Whittle’s Mill park. Callis said the efforts are paying off: “On Feb. 1, Marc Wagner of DHR notified us that he presented the Whittle’s Mill Preliminary Information Form to DHR evaluation committee and it was recommended eligible for the registers.”

Final approval of the historic designation is expected to take place at the March 15 meeting of the DHR board.

“Historic designation for this property is important for many reasons,” said Callis. “It will allow us more opportunities to preserve and promote the rich history of our region, enhance tourism efforts, and help us in dealing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nationwide initiatives to dismantle old hydroelectric dams.”

South Hill Fire Chief Rosser Wells, in his annual report to Town Council, said his department responded to 597 incidents in 2017. These included 92 fires, responses to gas leaks, assisting EMS crews, and 56 false calls, such as bomb scares, unintentional false calls and system malfunctions.

The firefighters put in 7,285 hours responding to these incidents. “This does not include training hours, meetings and fund raisers,” Wells said.

For the 27th time in 33 years, South Hill took home the overall trophy in the Southside Virginia Volunteer Firefighters Association tournament.

Wells said it was ironic that the first call for which the department deployed its new 100-foot aerial platform truck was responding to a fire alarm activation at the old CMH hospital building at Buena Vista Circle. VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital helped fund the purchase of the new truck.

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