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South Boston Town Council taps new member to fill seat

South Boston Town Council came out of closed session Monday to announce the appointment of Connie Manning to fill the vacant seat on council created by the resignation of Sandra Thompson.

Manning is a family and consumer sciences teacher at Halifax County High School and has lived in South Boston for over 25 years, according to a press release issued by Mayor Carroll Thackston.

Manning, who previously served South Boston as Community Development Coordinator from 1988-1993, will take the oath of office within the next few days and take her seat on council at its Jan. 10 meeting.

Her term will run until a special election is held in November.

Manning admitted Tuesday she was “very surprised” when she found she had been appointed to council.

“There were several individuals who had expressed interest who I feel were very qualified for the position, so surprise is probably putting it mildly.”

“I am very honored to have been chosen, and I intend to do my very best to represent the citizens of South Boston,” she continued.

“This has been my home for more than 26 years, and as a citizen who has enjoyed all the things this community has to offer, I felt a strong obligation to give back.

“Having worked for the City of SoBo several years ago, I am anxious to get back into the swing of things.”

Nine South Boston residents expressed interest in being appointed to town council to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Thompson, including Manning, James H. Barczak, Jonathan L. Berry, Tony Bomar, Margaret Coleman, Carol Foster, Bob Hughes, Elizabeth McGurty and Robert Meeks.

Thompson’s resignation was effective Dec. 1, and state law required council to make an interim appointment within 45 days, or by Jan. 15.

Contest centers

Council is keeping an eye on what the City of Danville is doing to define and regulate sweepstakes contest centers and Internet cafes.

The Danville Planning Commission passed along five of six requests for special use permits to operate Internet cafés to Danville City Council at its December meeting, including a recommendation to allow them to operate.

Two of the potential Internet cafés are located on Piney Forest Road, two are located on Riverside Drive, and one is located on South Boston Road.

Danville planners also forwarded a request to Danville City Council for a special use permit from Halifax County resident W.A. Stevens to operate an Internet Café on South Boston Road.

Stevens, who recently withdrew an application for an Internet café location in Halifax County, appeared before the South Boston Planning Commission last week during a public hearing on the issue, after which planners recommended changes and amendments to a town code zoning ordinance aimed at adding the definition of electronic contest devices and amending the definitions of an amusement center.

“The planning commission recommends amending the zoning ordinance in accordance with this,” Daniel told council Monday night.
“What this does is this changes and expands on definitions of sweepstakes type operations and electronic game centers.
“There is also a proposed amendment to Chapter 70 under discussion of gambling in town code.  It adds a paragraph and expands and makes our ordinance up to date with state code regarding gambling.

“What we do is amplify and explain what an amusement center is and show that an electronic game center consisting of one or more machines would fall under an amusement center and require a special use permit,” Daniel added, while noting each application would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Proposed amendments

No one spoke either in favor or against proposed amendments to the South Boston town charter and the town’s 2010-2011 budget during town council’s monthly meeting Monday night.

Town Clerk Jane Jones advised council at its November work session state code had recently been amended regarding council vacancies, and that the town attorney had recommended the Town Charter be amended to mirror that of the state.

An amended town charter would require remaining members of council to appoint a qualified voter to fill a council vacancy within 45 days after the office became vacant until that vacancy is filled by a special election.

Within 15 days of the occurrence of the vacancy, council is required to petition Halifax County Circuit Court to issue a writ of election to fill the vacancy as set forth by the Code of Virginia.

Other amended language concerns residency requirements for qualifying as a candidate for council and for the office of mayor, with any potential candidates required to have been a resident of Virginia for one year and a resident of the town for 30 days.

Council approved the amendments to the town charter in a unanimous roll call vote.

Council also approved, again in a unanimous roll call vote, an amendment to the 2010-2011 budget, involving $125,000 in funds for a storm water master plan and $210,000 for the joint Industrial Development Authority (IDA) financing for a proposed tourism center.

The additional funds, if approved, would be allocated to the General Fund and increase the 2010-2011 budget from $9,793,553 to $10,128,553, according to Daniel, who told council during its latest work session it was time to get started on a master plan to help identify the extent of storm water problems and obtain empirical data as a backup as the town sought funding for a long-term solution.

Revenues are on track to exceed expenditures by approximately $125,000 this fiscal year, Daniel explained to council.
Botanical gardens

Town council approved an agreement with Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens and Environmental Education Center to develop a botanical garden at Cotton Mill Park.

The town has designated approximately 8.8 acres at Cotton Mill Park for use by SVBEEC as a botanical garden.

Dr. Charles Stallard and Bill McCaleb, two of the primary forces behind the botanical garden, detailed the project at a recent council work session.

Stallard and McCaleb both said they see the garden as a potential engine for economic development that would afford learning opportunities in conjunction with the SVHEC.

The horticultural garden would have three major economic benefits, according to a vision statement provided to council, including the development of entrepreneurs to serve horticultural markets, development of tourism and encouragement of horticultural education and training, according to materials presented to council.

Another goal expressed by the center would be the realization of a region where every resident has the opportunity to visit or be a part of a community garden.

Long reappointed
Council voted unanimously to reappoint Dr. Roger Long to a new four-year term on the South Boston Planning Commission.
Long’s term expires Dec. 31, and he had expressed interest in being reappointed for another term, according to Town Clerk Jane Jones.