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Roundabout is fair play for South Boston

The use of roundabouts as a means of improving traffic flow along the busy Hamilton Boulevard corridor was discussed at Monday’s town council meeting.

 

Three intersections along Hamilton Boulevard are candidates for roundabouts, according to Town Manager Ted Daniel, including its intersections with Houghton Avenue, Parker Avenue and North Main Street.

Daniel told council he had been working with VDOT to identify improvements to the busy corridor, with VDOT encouraging the use of counter-clockwise roundabouts to help in traffic flow.

Daniel had looked at several other roundabouts in nearby localities and asked council for their input, with Councilman Coleman Speece saying in his opinion roundabouts could be used to expedite traffic but not necessarily heavy traffic. 

Councilman W.R. “Bill” Snead said he has driven in a number of roundabouts while visiting France with his father.

“I love roundabouts…they work great,” said Snead.  “You may have to wait a tik but traffic keeps moving.”

In the long run roundabouts can be a good thing, added Vice-Mayor Ed Owens, but in the short run some residents would take a while in getting used to them.

“We have a bunch of citizens in our community who have a tough time with stoplights,” Owens said.

Public Works Director Alan Auld told council the town has $500,000 of “urban money” already earmarked for improvements to Hamilton Boulevard.

Those funds possibly could be used toward planning and construction of roundabouts or widening of Hamilton Boulevard from John Randolph Boulevard to North Main Street.

Another possible use of the funds would be in extending the westbound right turn lane from Hamilton Boulevard onto North Main Street at one of the town’s busier intersections.

Citing increasing construction costs, Auld added the town was getting “less bang for the buck each day we talk about it.”

 

Extension of terms on commissions and boards draws comments

Council offered mixed opinions on a town staff recommendation to amend Town Code to allow planning commission members to serve more than three four-year terms.

Daniel explained members of both the planning commission and board of zoning appeals undergo substantial training and do a lot of work on behalf of the town.

“Look at the planning commission and the board of zoning appeals,” said Daniel.

“You ask citizens to receive training, and they’re performing in a professional manner.”

The need to keep qualified citizens on both panels calls into question the practice of setting term limits, Daniel continued.

“We don’t want to lose that talent,” he added.

Several council members expressed their concerns over the proposed amendment, including Morris Bryant and Owens.

“I understand the rationale for doing it, but it seems that it just shuts out other citizens who want to serve,” said Bryant.

Owens said that 12 years is long enough for anyone to serve on any board, adding the town should be inclusive and not exclusive.

“It’s a good learning ground for people who want to serve on council,” continued Owens.

“We’ve had some people serving for 25 years, that’s ridiculous.”

Speece said there was a need to keep competent people on the board of zoning appeals and the planning commission because of the important job they do, while Snead stated council could simply take a position that 12 years on any town board is enough.

“If you know you have to wait 12 years to get on a commission, that’s a long time to wait,” said Councilwoman Tina Wyatt Younger.

Councilman Robert “Bob” Hughes added he could see both sides of the issue.

Washington-Coleman Community Center construction update

Daniel updated council on construction costs regarding the Washington-Coleman Community Center.

A total of $864,139.25 is available in capital funds for the project, said Daniel, who added McDannald Construction Company was low bidder for the project with a base bid of $944,397.

Daniel proposed transferring $30,500 from the Parks and Recreation line item along with $49,757.75 in contingency money to the capital line item in the current budget.

In addition, Daniel proposed $1.2 million in bond anticipation borrowing (Suntrust) for the current fiscal year, giving the town approximately $2.2 million to complete the project.

The issue was advanced to council’s Nov. 5 meeting.

 

Finance statement

With one quarter of the fiscal year complete, Town Finance Officer Erle Scott told council budget figures were on track, with revenues standing at $2,360,234 as of Sept. 30 (20 percent of budget) and expenditures standing at $2,802, 703 (24 percent).

The cash operating general fund had a balance of $2,596,666, Scott said.

Personal property tax statements and real estate tax statements have been mailed to residents, Scott told council.

Selected general fund revenues for categorical aid stand at $575,144 as of Sept. 30, or 21 percent of budget; personal property tax relief at $295,432 (100 percent); local taxes at $112,347 (29 percent); occupancy tax at $39,749 (32 percent); meals tax at $288,252 (27 percent); and business license tax collections at $25,600 (5 percent).

A total of $37,321,83 in delinquent taxes had been collected as of Sept. 30, including penalties and interest, Scott reported.

The town has set a goal of $130,350 for delinquent tax collections in 2012-2013, Scott noted.

 

Other council items

In other items, council set a public hearing for Monday’s meeting to hear citizen comment on an application for certificate of convenience and necessity for a taxi service in South Boston.

Jackie Bowey has applied for a certificate to operate a taxi service in South Boston – Jackie’s Cab - at 210 Factory Street.

Bowey formerly operated a taxi service for over nine years but did not seek renewal when her certificate expired in 2010.

State and local laws require taxicabs to have a certificate of public convenience and necessity, with town council establishing the number of taxicab certificates allowed and conducting a public hearing before new certificates are issued.

Council also advanced to next week’s agenda a proposed amendment to Town Code requiring pawnbrokers to submit electronic daily reports.

Police Chief Jim Binner told council the amendment would allow town code to mirror state code and help police monitor the movement of pawned goods.

Pawnbrokers already submit daily electronic reports to his department, according to Binner, who added the new language “gives us teeth” to hold pawnbrokers accountable for the reports.

“It’s not an unusual request,” Binner said, adding his department provided pawnbrokers with the software to record items in a format easily understood by the police department.

 

Appointments made to joint library committee

Town council came out of closed session Monday night and voted unanimously to appoint Vice-Mayor Owens and Councilman Snead to the joint library committee.

The committee was formed recently to study and research consolidation of the branches in South Boston and Halifax and other matters of service and funding for the county library system.