At the Community Gathering held at The Historic Masonic Theatre on Thurs., Jan 19, Town Manager Charles “Chuck” Unroe highlighted the Town’s progress in 2022 and shared his vision of a path forward.
Unroe remarked, “The Town’s first six month’s budget is in the black.”
He noted, “There is a ton of Virginia Housing money that Main Street can be designated to receive (to develop upstairs rooms over stores downtown).”
Unroe revealed that he has secured a register for vacant buildings that Lewisburg, W.Va. uses, and he said that the Town can get its attorney to reword the register to meet Virginia’s housing codes.
By initiating a register for vacant buildings, the Town can require registration fees, assist owners in selling their vacant buildings by keeping a log of the owners’ contact information to provide for potential buyers and encourage owners to improve their property.
As for the repurposing of Clifton Forge High School that a private party had been considering, Unroe reported that the ones considering the project did their due diligence and determined that the $18 million project was not cost-effective and had, therefore, declined to continue to pursue the endeavor.
Unroe quipped, “Before there are rumors about it, the private party that was interested simply said that it was a purely financial decision and that it was far too risky.”
He reported that the $3 million waterline project from Commercial Ave. to the Smith Creek Reservoir is projected to take three years to complete, and he noted that the 18” waterline now in place has sprung a leak that the Town’s maintenance crew is trying to stop by applying pressure to clamp the leak.
Unroe invited all to attend a meeting that will be held in early Feb. concerning the Jefferson School survey that has been widely circulated by the Town, one that has already resulted in 200 being returned.
“Out of the 200, only two were negative toward the development of the Jefferson School property,” Unroe observed.
He went into great detail about the various ways the Town has distributed the surveys, and he promised that all the input will be made available to the public at the early Feb. meeting yet to be set.
As for the river crossing waterline project that has been completed, Unroe pledged that the water will be on before the end of next week, and he said that the waterline from the bridge will be removed and the bridge cleaned.
He also told the audience that there will be two river access points on Verge St. and that landscaping of the two areas will be forthcoming.
Unroe said that the River St. water project will be completed in a week, and the water leak will be ended as well.
He noted that during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, three of the Town’s maintenance workers spent hours working to mend broken pipes, and he said that he gave them time off the next week to make up for their sacrifice.
“I think 2023 is going to be a big red letter year for Clifton Forge,” Unroe concluded.
Leading up to Unroe’s comprehensive report, Mayor Jeff Irvine pinch hit for Scott Dudding, president of the Armory Committee.
Irvine noted the improvements that have been made and revealed that the facility is serving the community in an effective way via providing recreation opportunities.
Clifton Forge Vice-mayor Dale Burdette and Councilwoman Debbie Laudermilk attended the meeting.
Courtney Howard, chairwoman of the parks and trails committee, gave a progress report on the All-Abilities Playground and noted that some donations are coming in and that fundraisers with community businesses such as Jack Mason’s Tavern are underway.
Gayle McIntosh, chairwoman of the architectural review board, presented a brief history of the way the downtown area became a historic district in 1992, the same year that Main Street Clifton Forge was incorporated as a non-profit.
Jenny Oeltjen, president of Main Street Clifton Forge, preceded McIntosh and reviewed the many activities that Main Street sponsored, including the July 3, 2022 fireworks and parade the following day.
A comprehensive report by Executive Director Justin Reiter of The Historic Masonic Theatre revealed that the debt that was costing the theatre about $100,000 per year was retired in 2022, and he thanked The Alleghany Foundation for its ongoing support, noting that he would not have a job without the Foundation’s financial aid extended to the theatre.
He revealed that there were 62 movies shown at the theatre in 2022 and that the theatre has gained the right to show new releases such as “Top Gun” beginning in the spring, movies that will cost the theatre only $200 per film to screen.
Reiter thanked Gayle Hillert for her work and leadership at the theatre.
The Community Gathering was led by Bill Atherholt, a member of Main Street, who welcomed the 35 attendees, not counting the speakers.