After the Clifton Forge Town Council voted to give Jeff Irvine another term as mayor, Irvine nominated Dale Burdette as vice-mayor, a position he received via a 5-0 vote.
Ben Nicely, having won his position on Council in the Nov. of 2022 election, is now seated on Council where former vice-mayor, Bob Umstead previously sat. Burdette, who was originally appointed to fill a vacancy on Council, is serving his first elected term as second in command.
Debbie Laudermilk, master brewer at Jack Mason’s Brewery, and Shorty Wolfe, a local contractor and entrepreneur, return to round out the Council.
Sam Rich, a representative of the Thrasher Group, made a presentation concerning the All-Abilities Playground that Council approved in 2022. His update on a possible path forward includes colorful drawings of the park, each one of the three listing 10 different possibilities for development.
Each of the drawings portray the development of the All-Abilities Playground planned for the east section of Linden Park, leaving the basketball courts, tennis courts and baseball field unchanged on the west section.
Rich reported that the project could cost $2 million but that it can be modified by completing one section at a time, starting for as little as $500,000.
He noted that there are funding sources that can be tapped into, and he gave VDOT as one example.
Rich concluded, “There are different buckets of money to pull from.”
Following Rich’s presentation, Jenny Oeltjen, president of Clifton Forge Main Street, presented the 2022 Storefront of the Year Award to the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center. Executive Director Connie Baker was on hand to receive the coveted award.
Council then approved the minutes from its meeting on Dec. 13, 2022 by a 5-0 vote.
By another 5-0 vote, Council approved the department reports as written: code enforcement, police department, public works, library, water plant and fire department. The Armory Committee did not meet in Dec.
In other action taken, Council approved the appointment of Shasta Robertson to the TAP Board of Directors and the rezoning of 1409 Main St. from Business General District (BG) to Residential District (R3). Both passed via 5-0 votes.
Dale Burdette was nominated to serve as a CEDS representative, and Council approved his appointment.
John Mosur addressed Council and took Mayor Irvine to task by complaining that Irvine had promised that water rates would not go up but that he, Mosur, is now paying $20 more per month for water that he filters the rust from each month.
Mosur quipped, “I bought filters, and they have rust in them.”
In 2022, Mosur, who resides on Church St., accused Irvine of running a stop sign while texting. The stop sign is near Mosur’s home.
Mosur looked at Town Attorney Jared Jenkins, whose home is close to his, and asked Jenkins about the water problem, but Jenkins remained stoic without responding to Mosur’s questions about the water problem.
Councilman Wolfe responded to Mosur by noting, “I moved to Clifton Forge from Covington, and I keep filters on my water, and they have rust.”
Mosur continued to press the water issue with Irvine, and Irvine responded by challenging Mosur to produce proof of the accusations that he was making.
Town Manager Charles “Chuck” Unroe presented a progress report on a litany of projects the Town of Clifton Forge is pursuing, and he noted that the water problems are many.
He revealed that the River Street Project is perhaps one week away from completion and that the sewer and water lines have been laid under the Jackson River so that Verge St. residents will be better served.
He acknowledged that the temporary water line that runs across the bridge will soon be removed after the two-year project is completed to deliver water and handle sewage on the south side of the Jackson River.
He announced that the Jefferson School Survey has been widely distributed to gain public input that will help decision makers determine the best path forward in developing the school and the property it sits on, noting that the survey is part of “Phase II,” of a seven-month housing project study being conducted by the Town of Clifton Forge.
Unroe remarked, “The more information we have, the better decisions we can make.”
He announced that a 2.2 mile section of waterline will be laid along Smith Creek upstream to the Smith Creek Reservoir, and he said that the project will take two years to complete the run from Commercial Ave.
Unroe heaped praise on the three maintenance department workers who gave up their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their families to repair frozen water pipes.
The current aging waterline will not be removed, and Unroe observed that it can serve as a backup without the Town bearing the expense of digging it up.
Unroe heaped praise on three maintenance workers who sacrificed their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to repair frozen waterlines. The workers are Billy Campbell, Ben Tucker and Amanda Gunter.
During the “Council Comments” section of the agenda, “Laudermilk thanked all for coming and praised the three maintenance workers who spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day working in freezing weather on broken waterlines.
Nicely, who was serving as a member of Council for the first time, thanked the voters who elected him, and he praised Clifton Forge’s public works and police department for outstanding work.
Councilman Wolfe said, “I think we got a lot done here tonight.”
Burdette thanked all for coming, and he praised Town Manager Unroe’s performance, saying, “Chuck, you’ve got a lot of projects to juggle.”
He concluded, “We’ve got great town employees from the police department (on down the line).”
Each member of Council congratulated the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center that was founded in 1985.
Irvine thanked the Council for voting him in as mayor for another term, and he bridged the subject about a possible change of the tax collection date from Dec. to Nov. to move the date away from the Christmas season.
The idea had been floated at the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors Jan. meeting, and Irvine indicated that he favored the change.
After “Council Comments” section of the agenda was completed, Council voted 5-0 to go into a closed session concerning real estate.