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Speakers seek South Boston’s help with Westside park, new ambulance / July 30, 2020
South Boston Town Council fielded requests for help at the Westside mobile home park and a call to add a new South Boston Fire Department rescue ambulance as members of the governing body sat down for a work session on Monday.

Tammy Dunn spoke to Council members about her struggles as president of Westside Mobile Park to keep up conditions at the low-income Sinai neighborhood. The mobile home park’s problems grow worse every time a home there is abandoned, she said. “It is a never ending battle with trespassers and litter at the park.”

Once the mobile home is abandoned, it is stripped of all the metal and left with exposed insulation, creating an eyesore. There are three garbage dumpsters onsite, all flooded with discarded furniture, mattresses and household trash. Dunn said her group has removed eight abandoned homes and cleared the sites since 2018. In coming before Council on Monday, she said she hoped to gain assistance with those who trespass, loiter and litter on the property.

“I would like more police patrol through the park,” said Dunn.

“I’ve asked the chief of police to step up the patrols, but I will ask again,” said Town Manager Tom Raab.

South Boston Fire Chief Steve Phillips addressed Council with a request to add an ambulance to the fleet of rescue vehicles housed at the expanded South Boston fire station. The new SBFD addition, which is on target to be completed at the end of August, has enough room to house an ambulance and a back-up.

This is the first time the idea of adding an ambulance to the SBFD fleet has been officially brought before Council.

“Due to multiple emergency calls at one time, a firefighter could be sitting with a person in need of an ambulance for at least 30 minutes,” said Phillips.

There is an ongoing need for more ambulances in Halifax due to the expanse of the county and the need to runs calls to Midway, Virgilina, Clover and other areas out of close reach of the county’s three rescue stations in South Boston, Nathalie and Turbeville. The Halifax County Rescue Squad houses three ambulances, and the North Halifax and Turberville fire departments each house one ambulance.

Phillips noted it can be difficult to find ambulance drivers in North Halifax and Turbeville due to the reliance on volunteer staff at the two sites.

A new ambulance would cost roughly $350,000, said Phillips, and if approved by Council, the fire department would move to seek financial assistance through the Rescue Squad Assistance Grant. This is an 80/20 grant awarded by the state, with localities required to provide a 20 percent grant match. Phillips said there is potential to recoup funds through third-party billing for ambulance services, but cautioned that local funding will be needed to support the purchase.

This is a service provided to the citizens, “it is not a money making business,” said Phillips.

“It may not ever make money, but when you need it, it’s priceless,” said Bob Hughes, chair of Council’s Current Issues Committee.

In other action:

Finance Director Mickey Wilkerson presented the year-to-date General Fund budget numbers showing a current negative balance of $71,106. The shortfall, she said, was the result of VDOT cost-share funds arriving late to Town Hall.

“If they only came ten days sooner,” said Wilkerson, adding the combined VDOT revenues of $95,791.02 would have left a positive balance of $24,684.94 in the General Fund.

Going through the revenue numbers, Wilkerson observed that local sales tax and meals tax collections have exceeded annual projections, by 112 percent and 105 percent, respectively.

“It’s amazing the meals tax was over budget with so many restaurants closed for several months,” said Councilman Winston Harrell.

“We were ahead before COVID-19 hit,” said Wilkerson.

In other business:

» Gregory Scott, JROTC Instructor at the high school, said there are 13 solid candidates for a local government youth advisory committee. 25 teens applied for the mentoring and advisory panel, he said.

» South Boston has received approval from the Halifax County building inspector to demolish 10 burned-out homes around town. One of the homes is on Sugg Avenue, where the fire surged through the front of the structure.

» Town Council will hold a community meeting Wednesday night at Washington Coleman Community Center to discuss the use of Community Development Block Grant funds for a project in the North Main Street community.

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