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Schools

All area achools are reported closed on Monday, December 10

Government

City of Emporia - Closed Monday

Greensville/Emporia Courts - Closed Monday

Brunswick County - Closed Monday

State Prisons - Code Yellow Monday

If your destination is not listed here, please call ahead and ensure that they are open.

This list updated from WRIC, WWBT and WTVR at 22:36

 

Career Opportunity

Guidance Counselor

Brunswick Academy is seeking an experienced Guidance Counselor certified in Guidance beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. Brunswick Academy is a PreK-12 independent school located in Lawrenceville, VA.

Requirements: Possession of a Master’s Degree in School Counseling, Guidance Counseling, or School Guidance and Counseling from an accredited college or university; possession of or eligible for a Virginia Department of Education professional teaching certificate with a guidance endorsement and preferred 3 years experience in guidance or related field.

Job duties include but not limited to the following:

  • Provides academic, personal/social, and career counseling • Coordinates comprehensive school counseling program • Communicates with parents and agency representatives • Coordinates teacher and parent conferences as needed • Interprets test data and student records for parents and teachers •  Scheduling of classes • Engaged and on task • Performs other duties as required • Must have a thorough knowledge of the curriculum, instruction and counseling/guidance theory and practice • Communication skills, both oral and written, must be highly developed to meet the diverse needs of the clientele, professional staff and other community agencies • Must be able to organize and carry out student activity programs; or any equivalent combination of experience and training which would provide the required knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Health insurance and 403(b) retirement program available.

Brunswick Academy is an equal opportunity employer and a drug free work place.  Brunswick Academy does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, national origin, race, religion, or sex in employment or education.  Applicants considered for employment must successfully complete the following background investigations/tests: • State Police Criminal History Investigation • Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation • Tuberculosis Screening/Test.  This position is open until filled.

Please e-mail cover letter and resume to:

Brunswick Academy
Attn:  Kristine Thompson
Guidance Counselor
E-mail:  thompsonk@brunswickacademy.com

What would you do with $222,050? ***UPDATED***

Editor's Note: According to the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Emporia is the most fiscally stressed locality in the Commonwealth. There is no city or county in the Commonwealth with a higher fiscal stress rating.

A former menmber of the Civic Center Foundation just informed EmporiaNews.com that that group raised the money and paid to remove the asbestos from the Auditorium. The fact that the asbestos has already been abated, at great expense to the Civic Center Foundation, is yet one more reasons to leave the building standing.

There have been several e-mails sent to the editor echoing the sentiments of this article.

THERE IS NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON FOR THE EMPORIA CITY COUNCIL TO WASTE THE AMOUNT OF MONEY BUGETED ($210,000), PLUS AN ADDITIONAL $12,050 TO "SAVE" PARTS OF THE BUILDING THAT HAVE BEEN DEEMED IMPORTANT BY THE VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF HISTORIC RESOURCES.

Once again, the Emporia City council has decided to waste your money tearing down a perfectly good building.

Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not a spectacular building it has no major architectural character, but it’s ours.  It’s a symbol of a time when our country could come together can put everyone to work.

The building in question is the auditorium on Main Street.  All that remains of the former school complex.  This particular building was built as a Works Progress Administration project in the midst of the great depression if.  The Auditorium is one of three WPA project within the city of Emporia, the others are in close proximity - the Post Office and the Armory.

I say again, it is not a spectacular building, but it is important history.  More importantly, it’s not eating anything nor is it drinking anything.  The city is expanding minimal funds in maintenance, and the building is not connected to any utilities except water and sewer; and those are most likely not being used.

One can imagine countless school assemblies, Christmas programs, concerts and the like being held in this auditorium.  In its more recent history it was the first home of the Meherrin River arts council.  Just like the Victorian school buildings that once stood beside it, this building is part of our history.

It was suggested to a member of City council that the school buildings and auditorium would make an excellent City Hall.  This was several years ago before the schools were torn down.  There was enough space in those buildings to house all of the offices of our city government, and have banquet halls that would rival those of golden leaf commons.  The police department could move into the existing City Hall, or it could have been used as a new library. 

That suggestion fell on deaf ears and two perfectly useful buildings were demolished.

We can listen the City Council share concerns about asbestos, but I saw no asbestos abatement when the schools were torn down.  We can listen to city council when they talk about how it’s a drain on our resources, but as mentioned above the building is connected to no utilities and receives only very minimal maintenance.

One can listen to the City Council until one is blue in the face and one will probably never know the real reason why that August body is so determined to demolish this building.

City council is budgeted more than $220,000 for the task of removing a perfectly useful building, which according to their own architectural review is in good condition and is costing us nothing. 

Just two weeks before the meeting at which City Council decided to waste this money, they entered into a lease/purchase agreement for three vehicles.  That agreement was for $154,000.  By not demolishing the auditorium, the interest payments on at least purchase arrangement could be saved and the city could pay cash outright for those three vehicles.

Much-needed police vehicles aside, $222,050 could pay for much needed expansion and upgrades at the library or even just pay for more computers and additional hours.

$222,050 would more than cover the $172,000 needed to replace our 911 call handling equipment.  The balance could be used to cover the 2% COLA raises for city employees, which total $10,955 according to the most current budget.

In the time that I’ve lived here water bills have more than tripled and sanitation fees have nearly quadrupled.  $222,050 would surely put a dent in the debt service that caused those bills to soar out of control, or the very least pay off whenever debt remains on that new garbage truck. $222,050 would go a very long way toward replacing the water meters in the City, a task that is in dire need of undertaking.

Just looking at the budget, one can see many opportunities to constructively spend $222,050.

Without even leaving the school property, $222,050 would go a long towards making the auditorium and the cafeteria viable for event rental.  In light of the doubling the fees at golden leaf commons, organizations such the family violence and domestic assault unit could continue to use a low-cost facility for their fundraising (or no cost, as this program is administered as a city department).

Knowing that you, the average citizen of the city of Emporia, could pay down your debt, complete existing projects, or avoid incurring new debt, how would you spend $222,050?

The city of Emporia is currently one of the most fiscally stressed localities in the commonwealth of Virginia.  We cannot afford to allow our City Council to squander our money.  The fiscally conservative option is to spare this building demolition and find a useful purpose for it.  No matter what anyone else, especially if they claim to be fiscally conservative, the demolition of the WPA Auditorium on Main Street is not fiscally conservative.

Further, anyone who claims to be fiscally conservative and voted for the demolition of the structure, which is clearly a waste of taxpayer revenue, is not fiscally conservative.

City Council Passes Budget with no Water/Sewer Increases After All

A public hearing for a Zoning Amendment Request to permit an Adult Day Support Facility on South Main Street occurred just before the regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

The request was submitted by Tony Vincent, who plans on turning the building into an Adult Day Care center where clients can come for 6 hours a day for activities, with no overnight care provided. According to the application, clients will receive one hot meal and two snacks each day.

The Planning Commission and Staff both recommended approval of the Zoning Amendment to add “Adult Day Support Facility” to the permitted uses in the City’s C-1 zones.

No citizens spoke during the public hearing.

After the close of the Public Hearing, City Council entered into the regular meeting.

The first order of business after the approval of the agenda, minutes, reports and bills was the presentation of a plaque to outgoing City Manager Brian Thrower. Mr. Thrower is leaving to take a job in Smithfield and this was his last City Council meeting; his last day with the City is June 29th.

After a closed session at the end of the meeting, Assistant City Manager Dr. Edwin Daley was appointed as the Interim City Manager and a search for a replacement will begin.

Old business on the agenda was the passage of the FY2019 budget. The 2.75% rate increases reported on EmporiaNews.com after the June 5 meeting have been removed, and there are now no rate, fee or tax increases in the budget.

The FY2019 budget includes increases to make Emergency Services a full time position, three new cruisers for the Emporia Police Department, a new cruiser and part-time deputy for the Emporia Sheriff’s Department. Also included in the budget was a 2% COLA increase for city employees.

With this budget the City Council has scrapped the idea of a new City Hall and/or Police Station, saving over $7 million.

With the budgets passed, Council moved on to the new business, approving the Zoning Amendment from the earlier public hearing, appropriated some additional sales tax money to Greensville County for GCPS and passed a resolution for the Independence Day fireworks. City Council also heard from the Auditor, and that information will appear as a stand-alone story on EmporiaNews.com at a later date.

During the public comments section, Becky Walker, Director of the Meherrin Regional Library System stood to thank council for their continued support of the Library, both through financing and facilities. Ms. Walker added that there were exciting things happening at the library. The Summer Reading Program started on June 1st and will continue through the summer. During July, the Richardson Memorial Library will participate in the summer feeding program, serving lunch one day a week and snacks two others.

In addition to the Summer Reading Program, the Library has added new online resources, including Ancestry for Libraries, the A-Z Database – a job hunting resource, and Universal Class – online classes that offer continuing education credits in over 500 topics.

Debra Brown, President of the local NAACP and a national board member spoke about polling place issues on Primary Election Day. The polls for Districts 5 and 7 did not open on time. The key that the poll workers had would not open the door and the Fire Chief could not be reached. The polling place was only opened because two fire-fighters showed up at 6:30. After the poll workers, including an member of the Electoral Board finally gained entry to the building, they discovered that the lock was not functioning because it had been taped.

When the General Registrar was able to reach the Fire Chief, it was at his place of business. The response to the concerns of the Director of Elections was “we don’t want y’all” here anyway.

Mrs. Brown addressed the Council directly, “I want to know who are the ‘we’ and who are the ‘y’all’?” She also added that concerns were raised when the polling place for District 5 was moved to that location, stating that the City Council was told then that there would be problems, and the problems have started.

Mrs. Brown reminded Council that while they no longer administered the Volunteer Fire Department, they did continue to fund the operation, adding that the building was a designated polling place and should remain available.

Mrs. Brown also shared a complaint made to her about the practices for renting the fire hall. An African-American family had used the facility for a graduation party, and another African-American family was planning using the facility the next weekend for a birthday party. The second family was apparently told, by the Fire Chief, that they [African-Americans] could not rent the facility on consecutive weekends. Mrs. Brown asked that there be a designated person to handle the bookings for the facility, as is the practice at Veteran’s Memorial Park, Greensville County High School, Golden Leaf Commons and the Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Mrs. Brown also had another concern, and asked the Secretary of the NAACP to read a letter to City Council. The text of that letter is here:

This letter is written with great consternation over comments made by Councilman F. Woodrow Harris to Dr. Angela B. Wilson, Division Superintendent of Public Schools in Greensville County, Virginia.

It is reported that during Dr. Wilson’s presentation to City Council, Councilman Harris referred to Dr. Wilson in his pontificating and stated “… what you don’t understand little girl…” As President of the Local Unit of the NAACP and a member of its National Board of Directors, I, along with our membership here in Greensville Emporia, the Commonwealth of Virginia and across this Nation, are appalled at the lack of respect shown to Dr. Wilson.

Mr. Harris’ poor lack of judgement and professionalism reflects volumes on the decorum of City Council and its members. Councilman Harris’ degrading remarks harken back to the days of “Jim Crow” when some Caucasians found it acceptable to refer to grown adult African-American ladies and gentlemen as boy, girl, missy, aunt, uncle or other racially degrading misnomers. The decorum of the whole of City Council is brought into question due to the absence of any member of Council for not admonishing Councilman Harris for his words and lack of respect right then and there when he uttered such drivel for the entire City to hear. Thusly, an outside observer would feel it was the consensus due to the deafening silence from any member of City Council. We can only hope that this is not the case.

We realize that some words are spoken with intent and reflect one’s absolute ignorance and intolerance for others that are unlike them – be it another’s race, color, size, religion, ethnicity or educational attainment however, so much more is expected from the members of this City Council in Emporia, Virginia. In a municipality which currently contains a more than 60% African American population as its citizenry it is Expected, with NO exemption, that all are treated with respect and dignity whatever their station in our community and society.

We are here this evening to request an apology from Councilman Harris to Dr. Wilson. Not just a spoken one, although that is a good start, but an apology that is published in the local newspaper and other media from Councilman Harris as well as an apology from City Council so that its meaning is crystal clear – not all of City Council condones such derogatory and classless comments. It is also recommended that a Code of Conduct be added by to the City’s Ordinances to address any future lack of judgement by any sitting Council member. If you should require assistance in developing said code I will be happy to put you in contact with our knowledgeable and professional legal team serving the NAACP in the Commonwealth of Virginia and our National organization.

It is our sincerest hope that this misstep in addressing a professional employee and citizen of the Greensville Emporia community in such a belittling way can and will be corrected in a satisfactory manner. We look forward to working with the City of Emporia to move our city beyond this regression and join together for a brighter prosperous and respectable future for all its citizens.

After the letter had been read, Mayor Person addressed the concerns about the polling place, stating that they were aware of the issue and were working to resolve it. The Mayor then gave Councilman Woody Harris to respond.

“If I could, I would like to respond, since my name was mentioned, under a point of personal privilege, and I promise to limit myself to three minutes.”

“I find it interesting and fascinating that such comments would be made by anyone about anything that was said in a discussion between Dr. Wilson and me over a school budget. At a time, folks, when our school system is down over 200 kids, when over two dozen teachers have fled to other school systems, when SOL scores for our students are down, when local spending drastically up with nothing to show for it and when most of our schools are not accredited.

I find it astonishing that you would be more concerned about what a fat old councilman says in exchanging repartee with the school superintendent who I’ve known for years.”

“No, there will be no apology, nor is one warranted or needed; and I understand your agenda. I know what you’re trying to do and I think it is laughable to focus on that instead of the serious, legitimate problems that exist with our school system.”

“Thank you, Madame Mayor.”

Mrs. Brown responded, “No, it is not ridiculous. When someone comes before you, you should treat them with respect.” Mrs. Brown went on to add that the major problems with the school system stem from lack of funding and budget cuts, with Councilman Jim Saunders adding that funding for education had increased.

Rev. John Kinsey stepped to the podium to invite the entire Council to a special service to honor city officials at Faith Baptist Church on July 8 at 10:30 am.

After the meeting, Debra Brown stated that the NAACP concerns were “not about the quality of or the funding level (which is woefully inadequate) of the school system. This is about respect for a person who is doing a job that is more difficult than sitting on City Council, a person that is at the very least his [Councilman Harris’] equal.”

No Cigarette Tax, but Water and Sewer to Increase Yet Again

With many people in attendance for the Public Hearing on the proposed Cigarette Tax, the Emporia City Council decided not to move forward. Despite the pending withdrawal of the motion, two citizens stood to offer public comment.

Herman Sadler, a resident of Greensville County and owner of Sadler Brother’s Oil Company in the City thanked the City Council for not proceeding and stated that “cigarette taxes kill towns,” offering the City of Petersburg as an example of what their Cigarette Tax did to his business.

Another resident of Greensville County, urged the Council to lower taxes in other areas. Mayor Mary Person clarified to him that they were not moving forward, but encouraged him to finish his comment.

The proposed fifty cents per pack tax, which has been proposed and killed before, was expected to raise $250,000-$350,000 each year, and it was anticipated that the bulk of the tax burden would have been borne by travelers on Interstate 95.

Emporia is one of only nine cities in Virginia that does not charge a cigarette tax. The City of Franklin charges a $0.60 per pack tax and has raised nearly $317,000 in revenue.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, cities only have so many opportunities to generate revenue, and in the case of our city, which is ranked as the most fiscally stressed city in Virginia. Given our current fiscal situation, without the cigarette tax, the only other sources of revenue include increased real property taxes. Our current rate of 90¢ per $100 of assessed value is lower than the median rate in Virginia, which is $1.07 per $100 of assessed value, and an increase in that rate is one of the allowable sources of revenue for cities.

The City of Emporia already has the highest Transient Tax in the Commonwealth at 11%. Our Meals Tax is currently 7.5%. Of these two taxes, the Transient Tax in nearly entirely borne by out-of-towners and the Meals Tax is geared toward travelers as well.

The City Council also failed to pass a budget this meeting, and added an additional budget work session to iron out the last of the details. As it stands now, the new budget will not include any increases in the Real Property Tax rate, but water and sewer rates will increase by another 2%, supposedly only adding an additional $1.13 per month to the average bill.

Members of City Council were concerned about saving taxpayer money.  Greensville County hit the City with a major cost overrun for the newly inaugurated transportation system.

The share that the City was expecting to pay was $3000. Instead of that expected amount, the city was asked to pay $26,000. When the City balked at that nearly ten-fold increase, additional funding was found in the Social Services budget.

There was concern on City Council that if the cost increased this drastically that the overruns would be greater when the grant funding ran out.

From October, 2017 to April, 2018 the service averaged $427 per month in revenue and had average ridership of 422 people per month. Given that only about 100 people per week rode on a two-bus system, some members of the City Council did not think that it was feasible to continue this joint venture with the County. The contract required a one year notice to pull out of the system, and City Council voted on Tuesday Evening that Greensville County should be notified of the City’s intent to separate from the service, effective July 1, 2020.

Council Member Woody Harris, who made the motion, felt that service was a “bad idea” when it was initiated and that they now had the documentation to prove that.  Harris also stated that the service was “having a negative impact on businesses based in the City,” and noted that it was discouraging to see how few people actually used the service.

The motion was seconded by Council Member Jim Saunders who said that if this were a private sector business he did not see how it would not be bankrupt with such a low revenue stream. With “the lack of ridership and lack of income, I do not believe that it is financially feasible.”

In other business, a change order for street paving was discussed and a public hearing was set for discussion of vacating the public right of way behind the Hotel Virginia on Halifax Street.

Before the Council retired to a Closed Session, they voted to cancel the July 3, 2018 meeting.

2018 Black History Month Proclimation

Mr. George E. Morrison III, Secretary of the Greensville Emporia NAACP and Emporia's first Appointed Black City Manager, and Deacon Cornell Hines of the Executive Board accept the 2018 Black History Month Proclimation from Emporia's first Black Mayor, Mary L. Person

Proclamation

Black History Month

February 1-28, 2018

Whereas,February is recognized nationally as Black History Month and Dr. Carter B. Woodson, a distinguished African American author, editor, publisher and historian, is acclaimed “Father of Black History Month”.  Dr. Woodson believed that African Americans should know their past in order to participate in the affairs of the country; and

Whereas,Black History Month acknowledges both past and present African and African-American icons whose courage, sacrifices, and relentless efforts have sought to improve the quality of life for all in the name of justice, honor and freedom; and

Whereas,such noted African-American icons as Ida B. Wells, the renowned writer, teacher, women’s suffragist and anti-lynching crusader; and Rosa Parks, whose famous decision to remain in her seat symbolized the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, have made imperative contributions to our society; and notable local African Americans as Joseph C. Bond, a mortician, was the first African American to serve on Emporia City Council and a founder of the local NAACP branch; Dr. Willie Joyner, a physician and entrepreneur, owned a medical building, a movie theatre, and rental properties; Dr. Joseph Macklin, a pharmacist, was the first African American druggist to manage his own business; Charles Harris, a mechanic, was the first African American to own and operate a service station; Edward Westwood Wyatt, an advocate for improved school conditions for African Americans and a zealous educator, legacy lives on as the first African American High School (E.W. Wyatt High School) was named in his honor; Charlie Stephen Thomas, a businessman and a founder of the local NAACP branch, operated a grocery store across from Greensville County Training School to provide snacks for the students, since there were no cafeterias at that time; Etta Reavis, a homemaker, provided hot meals and shelter for local teachers at R.R. Moton Elementary School; Elizabeth R. Allison, Reverend and Mrs. Willie Curley, Sr., Annie Green, and Helen Kindred provided shelter and meals for the teachers on the North side of town; George C. Williams, a local farmer, purchased a bus to transport students and teachers to school that resided in the county; and

Whereas,the Honorable Mary L. Person was elected as the first African American female to serve on Emporia City Council, made history again when she was elected on  November 6, 2012, as the first African American and first female to serve as Mayor for the City of Emporia; and

Whereas,it is essential to learn from the many lessons of history from world renowned leaders as well as the contributions of local African Americans to continue the pursuit of our Founding Fathers’ vision of liberty, justice and equality for all; and

Now, Therefore, I, Mary L. Person, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the City of Emporia, Virginia do hereby proclaim February 1-28, 2018 as Black History Month in the City of Emporia.

Done this 6th day of February in the year 2018.

City Council Hears Citizen Concerns About Water Quality

On Tuesday, August 23, the Emporia City Council held a special meeting to address area resident’s concerns about discolored water in their homes. Information provided to the Members of City Council for the meeting may be viewed here.

The meeting began with an explanation of how the water became discolored and what was being done to correct the issue.

Linwood Pope shared that the primary issue was the iron and manganese coming out of suspension, and that the treated water is crystal clear when it leaves the plant before adding that the issue was likely a result of the recent high temperatures and compounded by the many recent water main breaks.  Mr. Pope explained that the city had spoken with the State Health Department, explained the situation and what steps had been taken to correct the problem before assuring City Council that the Health Department has concurred with the Utility Department’s conclusion.  Mr. Pope further explained that in addition to the additional chlorine that was being used, flushing of the system should be the focus of the efforts to clarify the water.

This is not the first time that the City of Emporia has had this issue with the water, several years ago there was the same problem and it was caused by extreme heat.

Mr. Pope was joined by Tom Delbridge to explain the problem at the home of James Givens. The water in Mr. Givens’ home is extremely discolored.  Mr. Delbridge explained that samples had been taken from the fire hydrant on the street, at the water meter and inside the house.  The samples from the hydrant and water meter were clear, but the sample from inside the house was discolored.

A representative from the State Health Department, John Warwick, reinforced the comments offered by Pope and Delbridge, adding that running warm water through a cold pipe often causes certain minerals to come out of suspension.

While the water has been declared safe to drink, none of the members of the Utility Department present were willing to do so. As Mr. Warwick said later in the meeting, it is safe, but no one wants to drink water that is not clear.  Mr. Warwick also said that the Health Department believes that the City “has done what needs to be done to solve the problem.”

Samples of the water from Mr. Givens’ home were sent to the State Lab for testing, but the results will not be back until September.

After hearing that the lab results would not be back until September 5, Council Member Jay Ewing asked what was to be done now. Mr. Pope and Mr. Delbridge restated that the flushing of the system via fire hydrants would continue and cooler weather would help. The Utility Department has ordered automatic flushing devices for fire hydrants that can be programmed to automatically flush the system.

Several citizens were on hand for public comments.  James Givens spoke about the quality of the water in his home, adding that he must now buy bottled water in addition to paying a water bill. He took exception to some of the information laid out during the presentation, stating that utility crews flushed the hydrant at the end of Edgewood Street for over an hour and that the water still was brown. Mr. Givens further stated that the crews were at the water for 30 minutes before the water ran clear. At this time Mr. Givens also asked that those present drink the water, but no one would. Mr. Givens continued, “I heard the statement a few minutes ago that the water was safe to drink.  Here is my water from this morning; I would like to see you take a sip.” Neither Mr. Pope nor Mr. Delbridge would do so.

Mr. Givens told Council that he has heard differing reports and that Mr. Warwick had previously stated that the issue was bacteria in the pipes and that the Utility Department was saying something different. Mr. Warwick denies making that statement. Mr. Givens added that there was a problem somewhere in the system, but that he knew that it was not the pipes under his house.

Mr. Givens also stated that there were bound to be problems in a system this old, and that he “didn’t know that in 1910 that they even made metal pipes,” adding that he thought it would have been concrete, “and if it is concrete, what about asbestos?”

Mr. Givens concluded, “I just want my water clear. As it stands, I am spending $125 a month on my water bill” and an additional $35-40 to buy water to cook with and to drink; spending that additional money on water, he said, was not fair to him or his fellow citizens. Citing his health issues “The only thing I use this water for is to bathe, and that’s it.”

Mr. Givens also asked City Manager Brian Thrower “at your office, Mr. Thrower, how often to you drink this water?” As he asked this, it was difficult not to notice that Mr. Thrower, the City Attorney and all Members of City Council had bottled water in front of them.

After his comments, Mr. Givens was questioned by Mayor Mary Person about the need to purchase water, to which he answered that it was not fair to be forced to pay for something (City water) that cannot be used.

Peggy Branch also addressed City Council, asking if the City water is safe, “why does it carry an odor? Like a bathroom, not a chlorine odor. It’s not just the color, it’s the odor.” Ms. Branch referenced another citizen present, and he added his comments about the odor.

Chris Thompson told City Council about how the water leaves an odor on his dishes after being washed, either by hand or in the dishwasher.  He stated that the problem could not be galvanized pipe leading to his house as he had replaced the line from the meter to the house and had installed a new dishwasher. He added that it was embarrassing to have house guests and need to smell the plate to see if it could be eaten off of, describing the smell as wet dog fir.

Mr. Thompson added that these issues have been ongoing since before the new water treatment plant was built, and that once the new plant was done, the problems would go away. “My water bill is five times what it was” when he moved here. He stated that when he tried to get an abatement on his water bill that a City employee, and he named City Manager Brian Thrower as the employee, tell him that all he wanted “like everyone else is free water.” Mr. Thompson added that what he really wanted was clean, healthy water. He wondered why we did not call Virginia Tech, stating that they went to Flint, Michigan and adding that Mr. Warwick said that was not a scientist and we should get scientists to find and resolve the problem with our water.

Ms. Branch also shared the concern about the high water bills and asked if there would be some king of credit, adding that “we’re hearing about the flushing and flushing,” it’s costing us more to do that. She added that “we don’t want free water, we want what is right. We want the situation fixed, if it can be fixed.”

Theresa Johnson, of Chesterfield County, stated to Council that she was present to support family in the area, and that while she and her husband had considered retiring to Emporia, the water quality was an issue. She also wondered if the water was safe for her elderly, bedridden mother-in law. Mrs. Johnson told council that her daughter lived here and had complained about the smell of the water and asked if it was in the budget for the City to supply bottled water until the issue is fixed.

Both Jim Saunders and Kristin Vaughan shared that the water at the newly constructed YMCA was also discolored, and that it could not be the pipes in the building that were the problem as it is fairly new. The water at the drinking fountains and in the water closets at the YMCA is discolored. Mr. Saunders added that they were buying bottled water for the kids. Water is provided for two snacks daily, 160 bottles of water a day were being used. Mr. Saunders estimated that they may have purchased thousands of bottles of water, but they are not doing that now and that they were installing water filtration at the facility at a cost upwards of $1000.

Mr. Saunders applauded City Council for their efforts in replacing the water treatment plant, stating that the cost was $14 Million. He added that some water mains from the plant were replaces when it was built. “From where we were a few years ago, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” Mr. Saunders told Council.

“It’s not just affecting folks at home, but it is also affecting businesses,” Mr. Saunders continued, adding that the budget and financial questions for local businesses were something that Council would need to take into account when they reached a decision.

Mr. Saunders also reminded City Council that he had recently addressed them about the aging infrastructure within the City. While the water treatment plant is new, the main lines coming out of the plant were laid in 1910 and 1925.  He also added that this was not just a City of Emporia issue, or a State of Virginia problem, but that our “nation has an infrastructure problem, and it’s not sexy because it is underground. We are not the only city with 100 year old pipes.” He further stated that once this issue was fixed that we needed to develop a plan for addressing the infrastructure problems in the City. “It’s only good for us; it’s only good for our residents; it’s only good for our businesses. More importantly, in my mind, it is important for our children and future generations.”

Mrs. Vaughan stated that while she agreed with everything Mr. Saunders had said about the YMCA, she was speaking as a private citizen. She also cited her concerns over the many recent water main breaks in her neighborhood.  While she also agreed that the Utility Department was doing everything they could to correct the issues, she thought that the efforts were “temporary fixes. You can’t just spike our chlorine every time our water turns brown; I don’t think that is a long term solution.” Sharing her concern about the pipes, she said that she didn’t know of anything from 1910 or 1925 that was still functional. Speaking about the water treatment plant an analogy, she said “you can get a heart transplant, but if your arteries are clogged,” your blood is not going to flow through them and you’re going to have issues.  “To me, the pipes are the issue” she stated, while she urged Council to find a long term solution.

Mr. Thompson addressed Council again, applauding the Utility Department for their efforts thus far, adding “but we need to make absolutely sure that we are not poisoning our children. We need to know it.” Citing previous comments about chemical reactions and people from the Health Department were not scientists, he added that he was more afraid of things that he couldn’t see and shared his concern about the long term effects of the current water quality. He reiterated his question about bringing in Virginia Tech and that it would be nice to have some independent testing so that citizens could be reassured that the water was safe.

Mr. Thompson also shared his concern that with a water bill that is $140 a month that plates need to be smelled before they are used to eat off of. He added that during this last episode his children did not even want to bathe in the water as it looked like mud and he could not even see the bottom of the bath tub. He stated that the water sample brought in by Mr. Givens looked “great compared to what my water looks like.”

Addressing City Council about reported plans to build a new Municipal Building, he said that “you’ve got to take care of your water first,” and that before spending taxpayer money, infrastructure should come first.

After the public comments, Council discussed the issue, but the only action taken was to add this water issue to the agenda for the next meeting.

During the entire meeting, City Manager Brian Thrower remained mostly quiet. Several citizens observed his demeanor and commented that he seemed smug, disinterested and even scornful. During her public comment one citizen said, “Mr. Thrower, I know you’re tired and you’re bored, but this is important.”

City Budget Fails, Then Passes

The Emporia City Council met on Tuesday, on the agenda were the General Fund and Utility Budgets for Fiscal Year 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016).  While there were really no major surprises at this point in the budget process, the actual act of voting to approve the budget was interesting.

The General Fund budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year includes a 1% increase in the Lodging Tax, a 1% increase in the Meals Tax and a 3 cent per $100 increase in the Real Property Tax rate.   These tax increases are to pay for, among other things, an increase in funding to the School Board.  Within the Utility Budget is a 5% increase for both Water and Sewer, which is down from the proposal of 15% and 12.5% respectively.  The rate increase will add $1.96 to the average water bill, according to City Manager Brian Thrower in his summary to City Council.

For the last 5 years, while taxes have remained relatively static, water rates have increased dramatically to pay for a new Water Treatment Plant using a USDA loan. 

Fiscal Year

Water Increase

Sewer Increase

2012 (July 1,2011-June 30, 2012)

7.5%

2%

2013 (July 1,2012-June 30, 2013)

7.5%

2%

2014 (July 1,2013-June 30, 2014)

19.6%

 

2015 (July 1,2014-June 30, 2015)

7%

 

2016 (July 1,2015-June 30, 2016)

5%

5%

Council Member James Ewing (District 3) moved to adopt the General Fund and Utility Budgets as presented.    After the motion, Council Member Harris sought and received unanimous consent to allow business owners who could not make it to the Public Hearing to address the Council.  A local hotel owner, who did not give his name or address,  shared his opinion that a 1% increase in the Lodging Tax would make his business in the City suffer, as both Roanoke Rapids (13.75%) and Stony Creek (7.3%) had lower Lodging Tax rates.   He provided the Council with a chart showing lodging rates in the region.

During the discussion Council Member F. Woodrow Harris (District 4) asked that the motion be amended to separate the General Fund and Utility Budgets, so that he could vote for one and against the other.  The only discussion was from Council Member Harris, who first thanked City Staff for their significant effort to reduce the Water and Sewer Rate increases.

Council Member Harris went on to say that he thought we were “killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” and the taxes were already becoming onerous.  Council Member Harris further pointed out that “there are choices that people have within this community, to stay here or go somewhere else and pay less.  We are boxing ourselves in.”

To clarify the Lodging Tax, if a room in the City of Emporia is rented for $100, the Lodging Tax on that transaction, at current rates, is $15.30, for a total of $115.30 per night.  Starting July First, that nightly total would be $116.30.  The average room rate at the Sleep Inn, from an internet search, is $99 per night.

Council Member Harris continued, “I realize that Council’s desire was to provide more money to the school system.  If I thought that would make one bit of difference, I would not be concerned about this action as I am, but the problem in our school system is not going to be solved by throwing more money at it, plain and simple.  Until the attitudes of parents change and the value of education is better appreciated by the citizens that have kids in the public schools, we are fighting a losing battle that no amount of money is going to remedy, plain and simple.  And finally, Madame Mayor, I’d like to vote for the Utility Budget but against the General Fund Budget, so I would move to divide the question and consider those motions separately.

The motion was amended and the vote on passage of the General fund Budget failed, with only Council Member Ewing voting in favor.

Mayor Person stated “I guess we need to go back and look at this again.”

Council Member Harris made a motion to adopt the Utility Fund Budget, with the 5% Water and Sewer rate increase, and that budget passed unanimously. 

Council Member Harris: “Madam Mayor, before we go on can I make a comment to maybe clarify some of what is in the General Fund Budget?  While I appreciate the others who voted with me against that, there is a problem in voting down this General Fund Budget after this council has, on a 4-3 vote, voted to fund the additional money to the school system that led to the necessity for those tax increases, and while I don’t like arguing both sides of an issue, I think it is difficult, at this point, for anyone who voted in favor of the increase in school funding that was driving this budget to this level, to vote against it [the General Fund Budget].  The only alternative we have is to go back on the word that this Council gave, on a 4-3 vote, and reduce that school funding, and I don’t even know if that is legal.  If we have a special meeting and ask staff to go through this, they’ve pulled all of the rabbits out of all the hats to get the Utility Budget down to the point they did; I don’t see how it’s humanly possible, for even Brian, Shiela and Ed, even if we bring Lisa in (laughter)…to find a way to balance this.  While I appreciate the concern that those of you have for what’s going to come next, the only choice to balance this budget without the tax increase, is to go back on the word that Council has given to the school system about what the school funding would be.  On the basis of that, I think there needs to be some direction provided to Administration of what you prefer to have presented to you, because I don’t think there’s another option, frankly.”

Mayor Person asked for clarification about whether both the increase in the Lodging Tax and the Meals Tax were needed.  Sheila Futrell, the City Finance Director replied, “that was the initial discussion, but after we had to adjust the Utility Fund Budget that also affected the General Fund Budget, so new we need all of it.

Mayor Person pointed out that we needed to pass the budget and that the School Board has, “based on what we agreed to do here, completed their budget and have issued contracts based on that completed budget.”

Council Member Harris: “You know I’ve make it plain I don’t agree with that action, I’ll vote against the budget still, but I didn’t vote for the increases to the school system, so I think the problem is, even though I don’t agree with that action, I don’t like to see Council go back on its word, and I think that is what would have to happen to make this fit together.

Council Member Ewing: “And I agree.  I didn’t vote for the increase either, but I know that we have to have a budget; and it was decided by Council, as you have said, that these increases would occur to fund the school system.  That was the direction that Council gave the school system.  I just do not see how we can not approve the budget.  Even though I don’t like it, we’ve got to do it.

After quiet discussion amongst council members, Council Member Doris White (District 5) moved to reconsider the question of the General Fund Budget.  After that motion passed, Council Member Ewing restated his motion to adopt the General Fund Budget as presented and it passed, with only Council Members Harris and Deborah Lynch (District 7)voting against it.  Council Members Harris and Lynch also voted against reconsideration of the question.

The Greensville County Public Schools Budget is $30,180,899.  Of that, $17,600,133 comes from the state, $4,044,767 from the federal government, $1,140,856 from other sources, $4,162,127 from Greensville County and $4,734,732.  These numbers come from the School Division section of the Greensville County Budget, where the City of Emporia amount was expected to be $3,582,996.  The City’s appropriation to the School Board is only 15.69% of their estimated budget, while the Greensville County is funding at a rate of 13.79%.  State funding accounts for 58.32% of the budget.

Aside from funding for Greensville County Public Schools, the budget included $1.4 million dollars to beautify South Main Street, adding new street lamps, plantings and a new traffic signal at the intersection of South Main Street, Brunswick and Hicksford Avenues.  This project is funded by a grant from VDOT and matching funds from the city.  The City’s portion of this is approximately $700,000. The project will begin before the end of summer.  There is also still $100,000 in the budget to demolish the Auditorium on Main Street.  As part of the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, this building may be saved and become part of a City Hall/Civic Center complex.  The information found in the budget materials on the City website describe the Auditorium as being in good condition and structurally sound.  It should be noted that the opposition to these expenditures, if any, was not as vocal, nor as vehement as the additional funding requested by Greensville County Public Schools.  Meeting Minutes, however, are not available on the City’s website for the month of May, 2015.  The only Budget Work Session minutes available on website were for the session on May 5, 2015.

With the General Fund and Utility Fund Budgets passed, City Council moved on with the Agenda.

City Manager Brian Thrower presented City Council with a Capital Improvement Plan.  The plan was presented as a guide to help the City project capital needs for Fiscal Years 2015-2020.  The current Capital Improvement Plan includes the study of improvements to or replacement of the Municipal Building and Police Department, purchase of vehicles for the Police Department, Fire Department and Public Works and the replacement of water meters in the City.

After the motion was made and seconded, Council Member Harris led the discussion.  “Philosophically, I understand the point of planning, but there is a lot of stuff in that Capital Improvement Plan, especially at the very end of it, that is going to be very uncomfortable for any Council at that point in time to adopt and vote on and fund.  I guess what I am looking to emphasize is that this is a plan, not an indication that Council is going to fund everything that’s in it; the public, the Department Heads, the City Employees should not get the idea that money is just going to drop from Richmond, ‘cause we all know that ain’t gonna happen, and that we’ll be able to afford everything that is included in this.  It’s just a working document, correct.”   Mayor person assured him that it was a planning guide only.  Approval of the Capital Improvement Plan passed unanimously.

Next on the Agenda was a Zoning Code Amendment Request for Purdy Road.  FoSho is looking to add a food processing and wholesale distribution facility for their BBQ, which would be allowed by Conditional Use Permit if this amendment was adopted.  The product they currently sell comes from North Carolina, but their supplier is no longer able to sell across state lines. Hermie Sadler explained the reason for the proposed facility during a public hearing just before Tuesday’s City Council Meeting.  The proposed facility would also include improvements to buildings currently on the site.  The Zoning Code Amendment was passed, as recommended by staff and the Planning Commission, and Mr. Sadler was advised that he now needed to complete the process for a Conditional Use Permit before the Planning Commission.

A Conditional Use permit was sought my Alvin Shell for a new manufactured home on Harris Street.  This item was also the topic of a Public Hearing.  Staff and the Planning Commission recommended allowing the permit.  The Motion allowing the permit passed.

The City of Emporia Electoral Board will need to relocate the polling place for District 5.  The Electoral Board has decided to combine it with the polling place for District 7 at the fire station, as they do with Districts 4 and 6 at the High School Band Room.  To do this there needs to be a Public Hearing.  City Council approved the Public Hearing which will precede their July meeting.

City Council also approved hosting the Fireworks Display for Independence Day on behalf of the Emporia-Greensville Chamber of Commerce, passed an Appropriations Ordinance to distribute Four for Life funds to the Greensville County Rescue Squad and passed another Appropriations Ordinance for Sales Tax Revenue received by the City from the State to use for education.  Council approved the ordinance to transfer those funds, in the amount of $43,489.12.  The money was above what the City had budgeted for Sales Tax Revenue.

City Council also passed an Appropriation Ordinance to pay for FY 2012 shared service with Greensville County.  The original amount was $159,102 but was reduced to 70,019. Council Member Harris thought “it would be remiss of City Council not to take another opportunity commend the Finance Director for her outstanding work in this area.  This is not the first year that the Citizens of Emporia have enjoyed a huge and significant savings as the result of her work.  On behalf of all of us, thank you very much for your excellent attention to that very, very important matter, that you get such wonderful results is a tremendous credit to you.  Thank You.”

Council Member Harris raised a Point of Order about the vote on the budget.  His question was whether City Council needed to also adopt an ordinance adopting the tax increases and rate increases for Water and Sewer.  Mr. Thrower informed Council that he had consolidated all of those ordinances into his recommendation to Council as council had usually voted on all of those in one motion.  Council Member Harris continued, "for the record, then, can the Clerk specify my opposition to the increases on the Lodging Tax, Meals Tax, the Real Estate Tax and my approval of the two ordinances on the charges for the Water rate.  That was the whole point of wanting it separate, so that I could vote against the things I didn't like and for the things I did; and if the Clerk will accept that clarification with anyone else that wants to be noted the same way to be consistent with our votes on the other two ordinances, that would be fine." Council Member Lynch interrupted, stating, "me as well."

The meeting was opened to Public Comment.  Cornell Hines sopke for Habitat for Humanity, thanking them for the "many, many blessings" that Council had bestowed on them since the inception of the Emporia-Greensville Chapter.  He also asked Council to consider continuing to waive the fees related to their building permit.

Polly Duffy, Director of the Meherrin Regional Library System thanked the Council for their ongoing support of the library system and support for the upcoming budget year.  She also praised the fact that the Richardson Memorial Library is well maintained.  Ms. reviewed the services offered at the Richardson Memorial Library before asking Council to reconsider some of the funding the library receives, specifically a reduction in the federal e-rate pertaining to the voice telephones.  The amount she wanted reconsidered was $414 for the upcoming year.

Thelma A. Riley President of the Community Youth Center asked Council to consider giving the CYC some of the $10,000 that was designated for demolition at the CYC.  She wished to have the funds to assist with the pool project this summer. She stated that a tour of the building indicated that it could be rehabilitated.  Mayor Person asked Assistant Manager Ed Daley for clarification, and he indicated that the immediate focus should be on the pool and bathhouse area.  Sections of the long building should be demolished if funding for rehabilitation could not be found.  He felt that the long building would take more money to renovate than the community would be willing to raise.

John Kinsey approached the podium and thanked Council for their service, saying that it was "quite interesting tonight.  We can always count on Woody to make things interesting;"  he also invited City Council to Faith Baptist Church's Annual God and Country Service Day, on June 28 at 10:30.

The regular session ended and City Council moved into a Closed Session to discuss legal matters regarding Fire Department funding and the acquisition of real property for a public purpose and disposition of publicly held real property where discussion in open session would adversely effect Council's negotiation strategy.

City Recognizes Building Safety Month

Proclamation

Building Safety Month

May 1-31, 2014

         Whereas,our City’s continuing efforts to address the critical issues of safety, energy efficiency, and resilience in the built environment that affect our citizens, both in everyday life and in times of natural disaster, give us confidence that our structures are safe and sound, and; 

         Whereas,our confidence is achieved through the devotion of vigilant guardians––building safety and fire prevention officials, architects, engineers, builders, tradespeople,laborers and others in the construction industry––who work year-round to ensure the safe construction of buildings, and;

         Whereas,these guardians—dedicated members of the International Code Council—use a governmental consensus process  that brings together local, state and federal officials with expertise in the built environment to create and implement the highest-quality codes to protect Americans in the buildings where we live, learn, work, worship, play, and;

         Whereas,the International Codes, the most widely adopted building safety, energy and fire prevention codes in the nation, are used by most U.S. cities, counties and states; these modern building codes also include safeguards to protect the public from natural disasters such as hurricanes, snowstorms, tornadoes, wildland fires and earthquakes, and;

         Whereas,Building Safety Month is sponsored by the International Code Council, to remind the public about the critical role of our communities’ largely unknown guardiansof public safety––our local code officials––who assure us of safe, efficient and livable buildings, and;

         Whereas,Building Safety: Maximizing Resilience, Minimizing Risks,” the theme for Building Safety Month 2014, encourages all Americans to raise awareness of the importance of building safety; green and resilient building; pool, spa and hot tub safety; backyard safety; and new technologies in the construction industry. Building Safety Month 2014 encourages appropriate steps everyone can take to ensure that the places where we live, learn, work, worship and play are safe and sustainable, and recognizes that countless lives have been saved due to the implementation of safety codes by local and state agencies, and,

         Whereas,each year, in observance of Building Safety Month, Americans are asked to consider projects to improve building safety and sustainability at home and in the community, and to acknowledge the essential service provided to all of us by local and state building departments and federal agencies in protecting lives and property.

         Now, Therefore,I,Mary L. Person, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the City of Emporia, Virginia do hereby proclaim the month of May 2014 as Building Safety Month.

Done this 6th day of May in the year 2014.

Mayor, City Council Remember Larry Epps

At Tuesday's City Council Meeting, Mayor Person presented the family of Larry Epps with a resolution celebrating his life and service to our community.

 

 

A Resolution In Memory of Larry Epps

 

Whereas,Larry Epps departed from this life on Sunday, October 13, 2013; and

Whereas, Larry Epps was employed by the City of Emporia on February 26, 1980; and

Whereas, Larry Epps began working in the Utility Department as a Meter Reader; and

Whereas, on November 3, 1980, Larry Epps was promoted to Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator; and

Whereas, in 1985, Larry Epps was promoted to Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent until he departed this life; and

Whereas, for his skills, punctuality, dedication and easy going personality, Larry Epps quickly earned the respect of his coworkers; and

Whereas, he has faithfully served this community for many years touching the lives of others and providing unconditional love and support to family and friends; and

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved,by the City Council of the City of Emporia, Virginia, meeting in Regular Session this 18th day of March, 2014, that the life of Larry Epps, a community leader whose influence and dedication left an indelible mark on this community that will never be diminished, is hereby recognized, and City Council expresses its gratitude for his many contributions to the betterment of our community.

Done this 18th day of March 2014.

Emporia City Council Meeting

The Emporia City Council met briefly on Tuesday evening.  On the agenda were several appointments and one appropriation ordinance.

There were no nominations to fill a vacancy on the Industrial Development Authority, so the item was tabled until the next meeting.

Two members, Veronica Leach and Edward V. Lankford IV, of the Emporia Redevelopment and Housing Authority, whose terms were expiring, were reappointed

Alton F. Owen Jr. has resigned his position on the Southside Virginia Education Center Board of Directors, but there were no nominations, so the matter was tabled until the next meeting.

Nancy B. Squire has resigned her positions on both the Planning Commission and the Airport Commission; those positions were filled by Rev. Clifton Threat and Dale Temple.

Rick Franklin's term on the Recreation Advisory Board has expired, and he did not wish to be reappointed; Council Member Carol Mercer was appointed in his place.  Council Members Deborah Lynch and Doris White were both reappointed, as was Edward V. Lankford, IV.

The last item on the public agenda was the appropriation of $43,350 for the renovation and repair of the burn building used for training members of the Emporia Volunteer Fire Department.  This money was a grant awarded from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs.

Mayor Mary Person recessed the meeting to a closed session to discuss "a prospective business or industry where no previous announcement has been made." 

A second closed session item was added this evening, at the request of Council Member Ewing, to discuss with Legal Counsel the regulation of through truck traffic in the City of Emporia.  This issue was the topic of a February 18, 2014, public hearing, after which no action was taken by City Council.  City Administration, Public Works and the Police Department are all in favor of maintaining the existing ban on through truck traffic; as are a very strong majority of EmporiaNews.com readers (732 readers are in favor of keeping the ban in place, while only 34 are in favor of allowing over loaded logging trucks on Main Street).  Council Member Harris made a motion to specifically exempt overloaded logging trucks, but that motion died due to the lack of a second.

Code Amentment on Logging Trucks Fails...For Now

The Tuesday, February 18, Emporia City Council meeting began with a public hearing.  At issue was an amendment to city code section 74-13 offered by City Council Member F. Woodrow Harris.

After Mayor Mary Person opened the public hearing, City Manager Bryan Thrower read his recommendation from previous meetings; and stated that neither the Chief of Police and Emergency Services Coordinator would recommend amending the code to allow logging trucks on Main Street.  (The city manager’s recommendation not to change this city ordinance can be read on here).  He also added that to open city streets to overloaded trucks from only one industry seemed inequitable. After hearing the recommendation from the City Manager, Mayor Person opened the floor to public comments.

Mr. Bernard Rose an employee of Kapstone Paper in Roanoke Rapids North Carolina offered what he considered to be an industry perspective.  He began by stating that using city streets as opposed to interstate 95 was not an ideal long-term solution.  He further stated that landowners northeast of the city were at an economic disadvantage because trucks must be loaded two towns lighter.  He added that no paper company would offer of those landowners a competitive bid due to that 4000 pound disadvantage.

Mr. Rose further stated that he doubted that Emporia would see the large number of trucks and that the city of Roanoke Rapids does; he even seemed to represent that there were no issues with 300 or more logging trucks using Roanoke Avenue every day.

Mr. Rose’s comments in favor of changing the ordinance were the only citizen comments heard during the public hearing.  In this week's EmporiaNews.com poll readers were asked if they were in favor of allowing overloaded logging trucks on Main Street.  Out of 732 votes, 34 people voted yes and 698 voted no.  These results were shared with City Council Members via e-mail.

Mayor Person closed the public hearing and moved on to the regular City Council meeting.  The invocation was given by Deacon Cornel Hines.  After the approval of the minutes the bills the reports and the agenda, City Council moved to fill two vacant positions on the industrial development authority.  The unexpired terms of Mr. J. Reid Wrenn and Mr. Roland Weaver, who have both resigned, need to be filled.  Council member Ewing nominated David Webb for one of the open slots and the nomination was accepted.  As there were no further nominations further action was tabled until the next meeting.

The next item on the agenda was the amendment of code section 74-13, the topic of the evening’s public hearing.  Mr. Thrower began by advising council that he had talked when other industry asking to use city streets for their overloaded vehicles and asked that Council defer action until later so that he could get them complete information.

Council Member Harris made a motion to amend the code section, adding an exemption for only logging trucks.  He further stated that changing the code section would be a benefit to the city from indirect commerce, a claim that directly contradicted the City Manager and was not substantiated with any data.  He also stated that logging was a major industry in this area and that we all reap a huge benefit from it.  Mr. Harris further stated that the City Council had an opportunity to fix something that Congress messed up and perhaps if they did well Congress would look to them to fix more of the problems in our country.

Council Member Harris’ motion died due to lack of a second.

The next two items were reappointment to boards and commissions.  Mr. Thrower advised city council that both Cora Hines and Marva Dunn, who were willing to continue to serve on the Board of Zoning Appeals, appointed by the Circuit Court.  Council Member Harris made a motion to recommend the circuit court that both members be retained, and the motion carried.  Mr. Thrower further advised that the two year terms for all members of the Citizen’s Advisory Board expired at the end of this month and that all members were willing to be reappointed.  Council member temple made a motion to retain all members of the Citizen’s Advisory Board for another term, and the motion carried.

During the public comment period, the first person to speak was Mr. Jim Saunders, now a resident of Virginia Beach.  Mr. Sanders recently ran for mayor and lost to Mary Person.  He began his comment by saying that while it was not what he was there to speak about he thought that Council Member Harris’ motion made sense.

Mr. Saunders concern was the recent $7000 request for the County Mega Site that was not entertained by City Council.  He stated that he understood the budgeting process, and knew that this request came outside of the regular process, but stated that City Council needed to take the initiative and ask the county why this request did not come through a regular RIFA proposal.  He further stated “for the future of this city, for the future of our children when we are gone, we need jobs.”  He added that we all knew how much Social Services cost the City, therefore we needed jobs and the Mega Site was the best hope.

The next citizen to comment was former City Council Member Alton Owen.  Mr. Owen was extremely disappointed that not a single council member would even second Mr. Harris’ motion, and dressed City Council down for what he considered to be a “hiding behind their podium.”  He further stated that “these guys are being held hostage by something that Congress has done.”

The last citizen to comment was Ken Ryals, who stated that he remembered Atlantic Avenue before the bypass and Main Street before the interstate.  He thanked City Council for not amending the code section to allow logging trucks on city streets.

With the public comment period at a close, Mayor Person entertained a motion to adjourn to closed session.

Logging Trucks Allowed on City Streets? Public Hearing This Evening

For several weeks now, the Emporia City Council has been hearing discussing the possibility of allowing overloaded logging trucks on City streets.  The logging trucks in question are knowingly overloaded, in spite of the fact that their Overload Permits are no longer valid.

The crusade to put the safety of Emporia’s Citizens at risk is seemingly led by Council Member F. Woodrow Harris, who first had the item placed on City council’s Agenda for the December 3, 2013, meeting.  At that meeting City Council was informed that while the fine for any through truck traffic in the City is $175 with Overload fines on the Interstates being much higher.  Chief of Police Don Wyatt also advised City Council that the citations being written were all in the County and that any changes to the existing City Code would not stop those citations.

Logging Trucks with payloads of 84,000 pounds had, until recently, been allowed to use I-95.  Payloads of 84,000 pounds were only allowed on the Interstate with permits that are no longer valid.  State Police are currently enforcing an 80,000 pound limit for trucks using the Interstate System.

Local logging interests, including Gasburg Timber Association President Franklin Myers asked City Council to explore lifting the ban on through trucks in the city, which has been in place since 2005.  A change to this ban would allow logging trucks with VDOT Overload Permits to once again use Main Street to reach the mills in North Carolina.

For an idea of what Main Street would look like, Council Member Rev. Dr. Carolyn Carey suggests looking at US 58, East Atlantic Avenue, from the Bypass to the Truck Entrance for Georgia-Pacific.  This street is in less than desirable condition.  The shoulders are rutted and severely damaged, where trucks have pulled off of the street before reaching the plywood plant.

In addition to the physical condition of the roadway, there are also traffic concerns.  How would the addition of potentially hundreds of logging trucks each day affect Main Street?  Adding that much of a traffic burden to an already congested area like Downtown needs further study.

City Manager Brian Thrower, who was tasked with studying the issue in December, recently presented City Council with six options for changing the current restriction, including added fees for overloaded trucks, but ultimately advised City Council to keep the current restriction in place.  In light of Mr. Thrower’s recommendation, however, Council Member Harris still made a motion to hold a public hearing on changing the ordinance.

UPDATE:  Listed below are the options given to City Council by the City Manager, followed by the reasons for recommending leaving the ordinance as it is:

Option 1- Maintain the status quo and continue to enforce the existing ordinance as written.  Many other cities have similar ordinances prohibiting through truck traffic or restricting truck traffic to certain streets.

Option 2 - Allow through truck traffic on City streets.  No permit fees required.

Option 3 - Allow through truck traffic on City streets.  Require trucks (trucking companies) to obtain permits from the City prior to using City streets.  Permits to be issued and fees paid on an individual (per through truck trip) basis.

Option 4 - Allow through truck traffic on City streets.  Require through trucks (trucking companies) to obtain a monthly or annual permit from the City prior to using City streets.  Permit fees to be based n the number of anticipated monthly or annual through truck trips.  Reconcile anticipated versus actual trips at the end of the month or year with reimbursement or additional payment required.

Option 5 - Allow through truck traffic on City streets.  No requirement of through trucks (trucking companies) to obtain a permit from the city prior to using City streets.  Require monthly or annual fee based on the actual number of through tips made the previous month or year.

Option 6 - Allow through truck traffic on City streets.  Require through trucks (trucking companies) to obtain a monthly or annual permit from the City with the permit fee based on the number of trucks that will be traveling on city streets that month or year.

Option 1 was recommended for several reasons.  Maintaining the existing code serves to reduce unnecessary traffic congestion and damage to City streets.  Allowing additional truck traffic will increase the potential for traffic accidents and the need for additional street maintenance funding.  Emergency vehicles may also be hampered due to increased traffic congestion caused by tractor trailers.

Trucks are already allowed to use Interstate 95 and US 58 within the prescribed weight limits.  Trucking companies are only requesting this allowance in an effort to maximize profit at the expense of the City (traffic congestion and street damage)

Designing, implementing and enforcing any of the permitting and fee system will be difficult and time consuming.  There is very little economic interest for the City to allow through truck traffic, as the trucks are not directly engaged in commerce with City businesses and industries.

Both City Administration and the Chief of Police recommend keeping the Code as it is.

After hearing all of the above options, Council Member Harris offered an additional option:  amend Section 74-13 of the code to add an item (D) which will state exempted from this ordinance are loaded log or chip trucks traveling on Main Street in the City through December 31, 2015.  Council Member Harris made a motion that City Council conduct a Public Hearing on that specific amendment.

The Public Hearing will be held before the Tuesday, February 18, City Council Meeting.

February is Black History Month in the City of Emporia

Proclamation

Black History Month

Whereas, February is recognized nationally as Black History Month and Dr. Carter B. Woodson, a distinguished African American author, editor, publisher and historian, is acclaimed “Father of Black History Month”.  Dr. Woodson believed that African Americans should know their past in order to participate in the affairs of the country; and

Whereas, Black History Month acknowledges both past and present African and African-American icons whose courage, sacrifices, and relentless efforts have sought to improve the quality of life for all in the name of justice, honor and freedom; and

Whereas, such noted African-American icons as Ida B. Wells, the renowned writer, teacher, women’s suffragist and anti-lynching crusader; and Rosa Parks, whose famous decision to remain in her seat symbolized the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, have made imperative contributions to our society; and notable local African Americans as Joseph C. Bond, a mortician, was the first African American to serve on Emporia City Council and a founder of the local NAACP branch; Dr. Willie Joyner, a physician and entrepreneur, owned a medical building, a movie theatre, and rental properties; Dr. Joseph Macklin, a pharmacist, was the first African American druggist to manage his own business; Charles Harris, a mechanic, was the first African American to own and operate a service station; Edward Westwood Wyatt, an advocate for improved school conditions for African Americans and a zealous educator, legacy lives on as the first African American High School (E.W. Wyatt High School) was named in his honor; Charlie Stephen Thomas, a businessman and a founder of the local NAACP branch, operated a grocery store across from Greensville County Training School to provide snacks for the students, since there were no cafeterias at that time; Etta Reavis, a homemaker, provided hot meals and shelter for local teachers at R.R. Moton Elementary School; Elizabeth R. Allison, Reverend and Mrs. Willie Curley, Sr., Annie Green, and Helen Kindred provided shelter and meals for the teachers on the North side of town; George C. Williams, a local farmer, purchased a bus to transport students and teachers to school that resided in the county; and

Whereas, the Honorable Mary L. Person was elected as the first African American female to serve on Emporia City Council, made history again when she was elected on  November 6, 2012, as the first African American and first female to serve as Mayor for the City of Emporia; and

Whereas, it is essential to learn from the many lessons of history from world renowned leaders as well as the contributions of local African Americans to continue the pursuit of our Founding Fathers’ vision of liberty, justice and equality for all; and

Now, Therefore, I, Mary L. Person, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the City of Emporia, Virginia do hereby proclaim February 2014 as Black History Month in the City of Emporia.

Done this 4h day of February in the year 2014.

Emporia City Council Meeting

The Emporia City Council met on Tuesday evening for a meeting with a short agenda.  The meeting opened with a moment of silence for Deputy Lee House, who lost his life in the line of duty last week.  The moment of silence was followed by an invocation from Council Member Rev. Dr. Carolyn Carey.  After the minutes of the last public hearing and meeting and the agenda were approved, the first order of business was a resolution in recognition of Black History Month in the City of Emporia (the text of which I hope to publish tomorrow).  Mayor Person read the resolution and presented it to Cornell Hines.

City Manager Brian Thrower presented council with a funding request for the MAMaC Regional Industrial Facilities Authority.  As reported yesterday, each locality in the Authority (Greensville County, the City of Emporia and Mecklenburg County) were asked to fund an additional $7000 to extend the contract of Troutman Sanders Strategies for another year, at a reduced rate of $4000 per month.  Staff recommended that the request not be funded for two reasons.  Firstly, the request was outside of the regular budget process.  Secondly, City Manager Thrower pointed out that the City of Emporia will receive no tax revenue from this project.  Thrower concluded by stating that if Council agreed with his recommendation that no action was needed and that there would only be a need for a vote on the matter if they disagreed.  There was no motion to provide any additional funds for the contract.

City Manager Thrower informed Council of two vancancies on the Industrial Development Authority as both J. Reid Wrenn and Rolland Weaver had offered letters of resignation.  Council was asked for two nominees to fill the remainder of those terms, but action was tabled until the next City Council Meeting.

The City Manager also informed Council that the City had been awarded an OAG Grant from Federal Forfeituress of more than $23 Thousand; the funds are to be used to purchase a Harley Davidson motorcycle for the Emporia Police Department.

Only one citizen spoke during the Public Comments period-Judy Mathews advised Council of a potential safety issue involving rail road crossing arms that malfunction during cold weather.  She was concerned that the extra time it took for Emergency Service vehicles to use the 58 Bypass to reach the east side of town could be detrimental to those in need of service.  City Manager Thrower advised that they knew of the issue and that the City was already working with CSX to repair the situation.

City Council ended the meeting in closed session.

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