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The year in review: Breaking it down
SoVaNow.com / January 02, 2013It was a year of tumult and change, twists and turns, upticks and downturns, “fiscal cliffs,” “You didn’t build that,” “Gangnam Style,” Honey Boo Boo and so much more. How much of 2012 have you already relegated to your rear view mirror?
Lest anyone forget, 2012 was an active year on the homefront, too. Here are some of the most memorable stories in Mecklenburg County from the Year That Was.
Boydton worries about jobs and budgets, but gets new Healthcare provider
When Mecklenburg Correctional Center closed its doors in March, the community was concerned about the loss of jobs with the demise of its fifth largest employer. However, for the Town of Boydton, the toll was measurable in budgetary dollars and cents. Boydton, once known as “The Town That Refused To Die,” was facing its own fiscal cliff.
Nearly a quarter of the town’s budget was wiped out when the prison closed and no longer paid for treatment of wastewater.
To make up for the lost revenue, Town Council members made some hard choices — including nearly doubling the rate paid by remaining sewer customers, and eliminating the police department. Council also terminated Town Hall cleaning services and left open vacant staff positions at the sewer plant and in the maintenance department.
By the end of the year, the town was still alive and reviewing its current financial position, hoping to restore lost services.
As Town Hall struggled with financial problems, Boydton’s downtown medical provider, the low-cost Healthcare on the Square clinic, finally succumbed to its own fiscal morass. After 26 years, the facility closed its doors on May 31.The clinic, which had struggled financially for several years, lost its primary funding in early 2012. Without a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the clinic could not continue to operate.
But not all was lost — just as the doors closed on Healthcare on the Square, a new low-cost health care provider announced it would enter the Boydton market. PATHS (Piedmont Access to Health Services, Inc.) officially opened its doors in late July after hiring popular local family physician Susan Hundley, who had been let go earlier in the year in a controversial move by Community Memorial Healthcenter.
The clinic initially opened on Madison Street in the building that once housed the medical practice of Hundley’s brother, Willoughby. By the end of the year, PATHS CEO Kay Crane announced that the success of the clinic had led it to outgrow that site and the clinic would move into the building previously occupied by Healthcare on the Square.
Crane also announced that, by the first of the year, it would reopen a fitness center in Boydton, and by mid-year return David Eason and his dental practice to the area.
Chase City and its wind and water
The Town of Chase City learned in May that it was in line to receive a $2.6 million loan and grant package to upgrade its aging sewer system. Chase City last upgraded its sewage plant about 20 years ago, according to Town Manager Ricky Reese, and many of the lines are even older — 50 years or more. Rehabilitation work is expected to start in early 2013.
In early July, a powerful series of thunderstorms, fueled in part by a historic heat wave, wreaked havoc on Chase City. The system, known as a derecho, began as a cluster of thunderstorms in the Chicago area late Friday morning, June 29. By Tuesday, the disturbance moved east, striking Chase City with a vengeance. High winds damaged the canopy that covered two lanes of gas pumps at Uppy’s convenience store and downed trees throughout the area. One huge fallen tree blocked traffic on Main Street. Surveying the scene, Mayor Eddie Bratton said, “It looked like a bomb had gone off.”
In less than a day, town crews, working with volunteer fire fighters and utility companies, had most of the area cleared of debris, and the streets reopened. It took another day before all of the power was restored to local businesses and homes.
Competing with the wind for the town’s attention was water. With the turn of a nozzle, Chase City began receiving its drinking water from the Roanoke River Services Authority this past August — more than two years after work had commenced to connect the town to the regional system. With the pipeline complete, Chase City was able to decommission its town wells and convert to the RRSA’s municipal surface water supply.
Chase City Town Council opted to join the RRSA for two primary reasons: the rising cost of satisfying water quality standards with its well-based system, and the perception that the town needed a larger municipal water source to grow. In 2009, when the project began, Town officials said they were influenced by a 2008 DEQ study that showed high levels of copper seeping into Chase City’s water source.
Millionaires and interim management in Clarksville
2012 got off to a great start for Clarksville Food Lion store manager Tim Bane and his family. Bane, a Nathalie resident, was one of three million dollar winners in the Virginia Lottery’s New Year’s Millionaire Raffle. Bane, who is married and the father of four, vowed to continue working and use the money to support his family.
Clarksville saw Melinda Moran, its long-time town manager, leave to become administrator of Mathews County in eastern Virginia. Her resignation was effective March 22.
When Moran first came to Clarksville, Kathleen Walker was mayor, Highway 58 was a two-lane road, there was one highway bridge over the lake, and Burlington Industries and Russell Stover were the two largest employers in town.
With Moran’s departure, Clarksville turned to a retired university president, Dr. Charles Lee, to take over as interim town manager. (Before coming to Clarksville, Dr. Lee was president of Mississippi State University). During his brief tenure, the town reached a long-sought agreement with Mecklenburg County on its boundary adjustment, established a new home for the Clarksville police department, upgraded many of the water lines running through town, and installed, for the first time, curbs and sidewalks on Market Street.
Town Council hired Lee’s replacement as town manager, former Warrenton, N.C. town manager Jeff Parrott, but backed away from the offer when questions arose about Parrott’s past work history.
Just outside of town, the vacated Burlington Industries property — an industrial landmark that had fallen into sad disrepair — was purchased by a company specializing in the remediation of industrial sites. M & R Acquisitions, LLC of Birmingham, Alabama paid $1.5 million to prepare the site for a future developer. By the end of December, much of the plant had been razed and its asbestos removed. Erwin Raughley, a principal in the purchaser company, said he expected the site would be ready for resale by the end of 2013.
After years of doing business in town, Benchmark Bank granted a request by Mike Rowe and Ann Bower for a more permanent building to house the Clarksville branch. A new bank building was erected next to the site of the former “trailer.” But the old structure did not go to waste: the former teller counter was removed and installed at Town Hall, and the shell building was moved to a site abutting the Clarksville Area Public Library. After alterations are completed, the modular structure will become the new home of the Clarksville Police Station.
Coming up roses in South Hill
In October, the Town of South Hill lost a popular restaurant when Bonesuckerz on South Danville Street burned down.
But South Hill witnessed more up than downs in 2012: the town farmer’s market moved into its new home under Market Square pavilions, and across the street a farmers’ bakers market opened in the old Bob Martin building, nestled in the shadow of the majestic Colonial Center. After South Hill Cinemas — Mecklenburg County’s only movie theater — closed, a new owner stepped in to refurbish the theater and had it reopened before the end of the year.
In a repeat of their 2011 success, the South Hill All-Star Belles again won the Dixie Softball World Series in Powhatan.
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