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Business owner issues appeal to South Hill Council

SoVaNow.com / July 14, 2021
A South Hill business owner pleaded with South Hill Town Council to intervene in a case of ongoing harassment that police and other town officials have ignored.

Alfonso Jiggetts, owner of a car washing business on Danville Street, said that on more than one occasion people have parked across the street from his business and watched him. When he confronts them, he said the people drive off but return — a pattern of harassment, he said.

While Jiggetts said he brought his concerns and complaints to the attention of Town Hall and town police several times, he has not received any assistance.

Jiggetts said in addition to being watched, people trespass on his property. He also said he has been threatened with a knife, and that people flash obscene hand signals at him.

Jiggetts told Council that he’s called both 911 and the South Hill Police Department to report the incidents. Since his business is located within South Hill town limits, he said he has been directed to bring his concerns to the attention of the South Hill Police Department. Instead of sending an officer to investigate, Jiggetts said the SHPD has asked him to find out who is spying on and harassing him.

“They don’t address the issue,” he told Council.

In response to questions by Council members Gavin Honeycutt and Delores Luster, Town Manager Kim Callis said, “the chief [South Hill Police Chief Stuiart Bowen] and I have discussed this, and I think it would be appropriate for us to talk again.”

Jiggetts said he’s been told he has to apply for a permit at a cost of $100 before the police will investigate further complaints from him.

“I can assure you, Mr. Jiggetts, and I think I speak on behalf of this entire council, we want our citizens to know that we are going to provide the best fire, rescue and police protection available,” said Callis. “I want to assure you that this council will do everything possible to follow up with your complaint immediately and try to come to a resolution for you.”

In other business, South Hill Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shannon Lambert said the Fourth of July weekend Picnic at the Park and Hometown Heroes charity softball game were successes despite a last-minute change of venue brought about by rainy conditions.

She praised the volunteers who prepped the fields at Park View High School in advance of the charity baseball game, pitting members of the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department against their counterparts with the Southside Rescue Squad. These same volunteers, she said, spent the day after the event cleaning up debris at the high school.

“Our intent was for the community to come together and that happened,” Lambert said.

She also used her appearance to announce that softball sensation Odicci Alexander will serve as Grand Marshal of the 2021 Hometown Christmas Parade in South Hill, and that next year’s Battle of the Hometown Heroes charity ballgame would also take place at Park View High School.

» Town Finance Director Sheila Cuttrell asked Council to amend town ordinances to allow for the hiring an outside vendor to provide tax collection services. If the change is approved, Cuttrell said the company she said she was considering was Taxing Authority Consulting Services, PC.

“Local governments often use professional service firms to collect delinquent amounts. Our town code only allows for an attorney to perform such duties. So that we have the flexibility to use a professional service firm such as Taxing Authority Consulting Services, PC, we recommend adopting an ordinance to amend our town code,” she said.

She asked Council to adopt a second ordinance “to allow for the imposition of administrative costs and collection agency or attorney’s fees to be added to delinquent bills.”

State law allows a government entity to “impose administrative fees to cover the costs of collection” along with collection agency or attorney’s fees up to 20 percent.

“These fees would cover the costs of collection in the event the account is assigned to a collection agency or attorney,” Cuttrell said.

Honeycutt asked why such services were needed. Cuttrell said there is currently $129,000 in personal property taxes and $95,000 in real estate taxes that are unpaid. The current collection tools are not effective, she said.

In response to a question from Shep Moss, Cuttrell explained she does not have sufficient staff available to pursue collection actions. “When we lost the decals, we lost a strong enforcement tool.” It was a reference to a requirement, since dropped, that drivers pay for a yearly decal that was placed on their car windshields.

Residents could not obtain a decal if they had unpaid taxes. Drivers could be ticketed for failing to have an up-to-date sticker on their windshield.

Under current law, towns can employ DMV stops (a stop that prevents a person from renewing or reinstating their driver’s license) and debt set-offs to collect past due taxes. They can also publish the names of delinquent taxpayers in the newspaper. None of these tools have been effective in clearing the past due amounts.

Vice Mayor Mike Moody said he wanted Cuttrell to look into other companies that provide similar services. He said his research turned up too many questionable and negative concerns with Taxing Authority Consulting Services, PC.

“They have a 1 out of 5 rating and are not accredited with the Better Business Bureau, and there are four others in the Richmond area that provide similar services,” Moody said.

Council agreed to hold a public hearing at the Aug. 9 meeting to consider amendments to the town ordinances, but did not authorize Cuttrell to enter into any discussion with Taxing Authority Consulting Services.

Joseph Taylor abstained from the vote, citing his past involvement in tax related litigation as a private attorney.

Callis announced that Danville-based American National Bank is willing to underwrite the Town’s 2021/2022 General Obligation Bond at a ten-year fixed interest rate of 1.45 percent. The bond amount is $10,000,937.

This amount will not only cover the cost of infrastructure projects planned for the coming year but also allow the town to roll an existing bond into the new lower-interest bond. By refinancing an earlier bond, Callis said the town will save over $150,000 over the life of the loan and reduce the annual debt service by $17,000.

A public hearing to approve the new bond issuance will take place at the Aug. 9 meeting.

Council member Ben Taylor praised Callis for arranging the town’s low interest rate: “This is a huge deal and I hope our citizens understand this.” He attributed the current financial stability of South Hill to the efforts of Callis from as far back as when he served as finance director.

Taylor suggested that the town growth, which involves “some people looking at increasing access to buildings and apartments,” is also due to Callis’ efforts.

» Moss asked Callis to look into the cost of paying for fitness memberships for the police. He estimated it would cost about $8,400 per year.

» Council agreed with a recommendation by the policy committee to limit public comments at meetings to three minutes per person, or five minutes if the person is speaking for a group.

» A protracted discussion involving how the Town of South should handle new laws relating to marijuana use ended without any action being taken. Legislation enacted by the General Assembly is unclear as to what extent marijuana usage can be curtailed in public places by town governments, according to Council members.

Honeycutt asked to table any further discussion on the topic until Council receives clearer direction either from the Virginia Municipal League (VML) or the General Assembly. The motion, seconded by Feggins-Boone, passed without opposition.

» In late June, the Town received a request from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for additional information on Whittle’s Mill dam.

Last year FERC announced it was decommissioning the power station at Whittle’s Mill and suggesting that as part of the decommissioning process that the dam be disassembled.

The Town objected for historic and environmental reasons.

Callis said “FERC has not provided a timeline for making its final decision on the Town’s application for surrender of its exemption. Should the application be approved the Whittle’s Mill Dam would fall under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.”

» Director of Municipal Services C.J. Dean submitted a written report to Council advising that easements will be cleared in preparation for work on the Northeast sewer project. It will begin in July and continue through September 2022.

Municipal crews continue to repair waterlines in the system and the Town is working with Dominion Power engineers on several projects one involving the relocation of service to sewer pumps stations and extending services to two new sewer pump stations.

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