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Approved budget gives workers raise

Halifax Town Council approved a $1,460,523 budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year that includes up to 3 percent raises for employees based on annual evaluations.

The vote came during council’s regular meeting Tuesday night in Halifax Town Hall.

The newly approved budget includes a $481,945 VDOT SAFETEA-LU/MAP-21 grant for the Banister Gateway Project along with $11,000 in level funding for the Halifax Library, a $12,000 donation for a new fire truck for the Halifax Volunteer Fire Department and a shift from part-time to full-time status for two employees.

 No tax increases are included in the budget that allots $407,709 in expenses for line items including administrative, $29,750 in business development, $45,300 for municipal building, $325,174 for police department, $39,350 for fire department, $473,000 for street and $140,240 for sanitation.

Also Tuesday night council set a public hearing for its July 8 meeting to discuss an update to Chapter 66, Article II of the Town Code pertaining to parking.

 The new updates give authority to counties, cities and towns to provide parking facilities for public use with or without changes and states no person will park a vehicle except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the direction of a police officer or traffic control device in the following places: 

On or blocking a sidewalk;

 Blocking a public or private driveway;

 Within an intersection or within 20 feet of an intersection;

 Within 15 feet of a fire hydrant;

 On or across a pedestrian crosswalk;

 Within 30 feet of the approach to any flashing beacon, stop sign or traffic control signal located at the side of a street;

 Within 50 feet of the nearest rail or railroad grade crossing;

 Within 15 feet of a driveway entrance to any fire station or on the side of a street opposite the entrance to any fire station 75 feet of the entrance when properly signposted;

 On the roadway side of any vehicle parked at the edge or curb of a street, known as double-parking;

 In a restricted zone where such zone is marked by official signs;

 In a marked fire lane;

 At any place where town signs prohibit standing or parking;

 In any location or manner which operates to obstruct traffic;

 On the wrong side of the street (left wheel to curb);

 Parking across or on any line or marking painted on the street or parking facilities by the town to designate a vehicular parking space;

 Over or on top of the curb;

 Beyond the posted time or time allowed by a parking meter or by other sign device;

 When the vehicle fails to display a valid state license plate or valid state license plate;

 When the vehicle state license plates are not properly displayed;

 When the vehicle fails to display a valid state vehicle safety inspection sticker;

 On any highway or public street or public alley or on public owned property, an inoperable motor vehicle;

 Parking in spaces reserved for a person with disabilities; and

 Blocking a public or private alley.

Along with the updates to the code, it also proposed fines including the following:

 For being parked over the time limit in a two or one hour zone;

 Parking in a restricted or permitted area;

 Parking in a crosswalk; 

 Blocking a driveway;

 Parking at a fire hydrant;

 Parking in a reserved space;

 Double parking;

 Parking on the wrong side of the street; 

 Parking in a handicapped space fines will be raised from $10 to $25; and 

 Fines for parking in a handicapped zone will be raised from $100 to $200.

Another action council took Tuesday night involved confirming the reappointments of Dexter Gilliam and Stewart Nelson to serve on the Halifax County Service Authority Board of Directors.

The board reappointed Gilliam and Nelson to serve an additional four years on the board by unanimous vote. Both appointments will expire June 30, 2018.

After a long discussion about employee paid time off and sick leave, council decided to table adoption of a new PTO policy along with corresponding changes in the town personnel policy manual until the July 8 meeting.

Town staff and finance chair Councilman Dennis Witt recommended the adoption of the proposed policy which is set to be implemented for new full time employees July 1 and is proposed to go into effect  for all other employees Jan. 1.

The policy calls for any accrued sick leave at that time to be frozen up to 720 hours as allowed in the current policy which will be set aside and used in the event of an employee qualifying under short-term or long term disability coverage.

The proposed policy includes accrual of vacation and sick leave days for those who have served between one to three years and allotment of vacation and sick leave days for those who have served four plus years. 

 The current policy allows employees to accrue a certain number of PTO hours a month based on years of service while accruing eight hours of sick leave per month, and the maximum amount of hours an employee can accrue is 240 hours of annual leave and 720 hours of sick leave.

Several board members said they needed more time to think the new policy through.

In other business Tuesday night, Espy updated council on its VDOT request to reduce the speed limit on State Route 651 (Cowford Road).

A study was conducted to determine if a reduction in the current 45-mile per speed limit is warranted as request by council, but VDOT determined the posted 45 mile per hour speed limit be retained with minor speed limit signing adjustments.

Adjustments included relocating the existing 35 mile per hour sign currently posted approximately 0.36 mile east of Route 501 for westbound traffic to a point approximately 400 feet to the east directly across from the existing 45 mile per hour speed limit sign and removing the existing reduced speed ahead sign currently posted approximately 0.44 mile east of Route 501. Changes also call for installing a 35 mile per hour reduce speed limit ahead sign in advance of the 35 mile per hour speed limit sign for westbound traffic.

The watch for children sign currently located on the same post as the 35 mile per hour speed limit sign should remain at its current location approximately 0.36 miles east of Route 501 for westbound traffic, VDOT suggested.

Also Tuesday night council members were informed as of May 23, VDOT had increased the speed limit from 35 to 45 miles per hour on Route 501 from the south end of the Banister River Bridge to the Route 360 intersection in the town.

The decision to make the change was prompted by a citizen’s request. 

In other action, council received an update on derelict properties.

The town is seeking estimates from qualified contractors to demolish vacant derelict buildings, clear brush and debris and stabilize/reseed the cleared lots at the addresses of 1010 Back Street, 1024 Cowford Road, 1033 Back Street and 1045 Back Street. Proposals are due by end of business June 27.

Espy said demolition of the structures will require a building permit to be issued by the Halifax County Building Inspector’s Office. 

On Tuesday, Espy also notified council six properties are in violation of Chapter 22 of the Town Code, and the town has been given permission to proceed with remedying the unsafe conditions.

Those properties are located at 430 North Main Street, 1104 Golf Course Road, 1031 Bethel Road, 1010 Back Street, 1024 Cowford Road, 1021 Cowford Road, 1033 Back Street and 1045 Back Street.

 In other business during the work session, Events Coordinator Rebecca Ramey updated council on the Friday Night Jams held last Friday.

 According to Ramey, attendance was good but down from last year with only 189 people attending the event. The bands received nothing but praise for their quality of music and willingness to travel to Halifax, she said. 

The bands exceeded her expectations in musicality and performance, and the only down side was that one of the bands had agreed to supply lighting and failed to do so.  Each band cost the town $750, she said.

Beer sales were steady, and a $438 profit was made on the beer and bottled water sales. Bright Meadows Farms made $450 in wine sales, the events coordinator added.

Beer sales were lower than last year, and the addition of the winery and lower attendance probably contributed to that.   

In all the event raised $862.82.