The South Hill Town Council met for the first time since January on Monday, March 8. The meeting kicked off with the approval of January minutes and February reports.
Mayor Dean Marion read a letter from South Hill Planning Commission Chairman Stuart Taylor recognizing Lincoln Sturdivant for his service as an asset to the South Hill Planning Commission and the Town of South Hill since December 9, 1991. “Commitment, enthusiasm, community mindedness are the three characteristics that come to mind when you think about Lincoln.” The letter continued, “He will be thoroughly missed by the community and members of the Board. Thank you Lincoln for 29 years of irreplaceable service to our community.”
Town Manager Kim Callis presented the Council with a Small Purchase Policy, which was primarily created because the Police Department needs something more detailed than the current policy following the Virginia Public Procurement Act to achieve accreditation. “Chief Bowen and Captain Johnson have worked tirelessly on numerous requirements for accreditation for our police department. Accreditation is important as it demonstrates excellence in public safety operations and can be helpful in many ways.”
Councilman Mike Moody requested clarification on whether department heads could approve purchases of up to $100,000 without the Town Manager or Council input. “$100,000 just seems like a lot to be approved by one individual without the input of the Town Manager. That just seems mighty high to me.”
“When we’re going to spend $100,000, before we do that it will very likely be a capital expenditure, it will have been included in the Town budget, it will have been vetted by the Budget and Finance Committee during the budgeting process and they will look at it, whether it’s a piece of equipment or a big project, or something like that. There are a number of different levels that these things go through. It would be very odd for us to spend $100,000 without this Council knowing it before we spend the money,” said Callis. Council approved the policy unanimously.
Mecklenburg County Attorney Russell Slayton along with County Administrator Wayne Carter have drafted an Economic Incentive Grant Agreement “defining how certain tax revenue will be shared between Mecklenburg County, the Industrial Development Authority of the Town of South Hill, and the Town of South Hill that is vital to the establishment of Microsoft Corporation data center operations in South Hill.”
Microsoft made major land purchases back in December in three of the county’s industrial parks including Lakeside Commerce Park in Clarksville, Roanoke River Regional Business Park in between Brodnax and LaCrosse, and Hillcrest Industrial Park in South Hill.
“As these data centers are constructed and they become operational in the coming years, local tax revenues will grow exponentially. They will contribute to much needed funding for things like infrastructure and providing crucial services,” said Callis. Town Council unanimously approved this agreement.
Town Staff has been working with the Southside Planning District Commission and B&B Consultants to prepare a grant application to the Department of Housing and Community Development to help fund a community project in the 2nd and 3rd Street area near the Oakwood Cemetery. The project is set to include improvements to water, sewer, storm drainage, and street improvements.
“Unfortunately there is no housing component to this project because it’s an unusual situation when you have a landlord that owns 15 houses over there. We thought that the landlord was going to agree to participate. Some of his properties are on the dilapidated properties list and he has worked hard to improve some of them. He has spent $70,000 to date improving some of them. We had hoped that he would participate in this but on the advice of his financial advisers he decided not to participate. That makes it very difficult for this grant application to be competitive,” explained Callis.
Callis and Town Staff have been considering other ways to make this project a reality. According to the Town Manager, the only thing that can be done is to raise the Town’s matching funds. The total funds need to complete the project is $1,572,200 but without the housing component the grant will only allow a request for funding for up to $1 million.
Councilman Gavin Honeycutt asked if the gentlemen had given a reason for not wanting to take advantage of the grant to which Callis replied, “We tried very hard to point out [how beneficial it would be for him] because you can get up to $30,000 per house. Initially this individual was fully invested in it and ready to go forward with it and when it came down to getting everything finalized he met with the Planning Commission and said ‘my financial advisers told me this was not a good deal for me’. Town Staff followed up with him and we can not get into tax advice and talk about depreciation and all those things.”
Councilman Ben Taylor also spoke of the condition of the 2nd and 3rd Street areas. Councilman Mike Moody asked Mr. Callis to convince him to approve the Town spending half a million dollars to fix an area where a person that owns 15 houses and apparently does not want to see it improved. Councilwoman Lillie Feggins-Boone asked Mr. Moody, “Why not [repair the area]? There are problems with water and sewer.”
Callis explained that the water and sewer lines in that area of town are undersized and dilapidated. “This is an opportunity to go in there and fix that.” He also pointed out that none of the streets have curb and gutter, which is causing storm drainage issues. “We can not do anything about the houses themselves except keep the pressure on with the dilapidated property effort.”
Councilman Joseph Taylor asked the Council not to lose sight of the other residents in that area who pay taxes and deserve to have nice paved roads after decades of rough conditions. Councilwoman Delores Luster pointed out that though the owner of the 15 properties did not accept grant assistance, he is being cooperative and has been working on his houses.
After much conversation about the condition of certain properties in the area the Council approved the request to add $572,000 of Town funding to the $1 million project if the application is approved.
Business Development Manager Brent Morris presented the updated Business Incentives, which included the following changes:
a. Real Estate, Business & Personal Property Taxes Incentive town wide qualifications were updated to reflect a reduction in private investment from two to six million now one to two million and six million plus now to two million plus.
b. The Historic Structure Incentive town wide incentive qualifications went from a five million-dollar investment or creation of five full time jobs to a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar investment or the creation of two full time jobs.
c. Water and Sewer Connection, Building Permit, and Real Estate, Business and Personal Property Taxes, Incentives downtown qualification was reduced from twenty-five thousand to ten thousand in private investment.)
d. The following grants were added to the business incentive package: Building up-fit, Business Incubation, and Business Utility and Services Grant.
e. The Greater Downtown Area map was also updated to extend the downtown from the intersection of W. Danville St. and Locust St. to N. Mecklenburg Ave. and Beaver Creek Dr. and from the intersection of Thomas St. and W. Atlantic St. to Lombardy St. and E. Atlantic St.
f. Residential was removed from the façade improvement grant.
Councilman Shep Moss asked for clarification on the reservation policy for the Exchange Warehouse venue after receiving an email from a group that wanted to have a corn hole tournament in the facility but was denied.
Kim Callis stated that the Exchange was not to be used for private events and the Council wanted those questions to be addressed to the Town Manager. “If the organization wants to do something there that will benefit the community at large and is not something that is a for profit situation then we would work with them if a community organization sponsors it.”