During the Tuesday evening council meeting, Mayor John Manchester presented the city’s annual report for the past year, calling 2016 “a very challenging but productive year.”
The summary includes the main activities and accomplishments of the city and he offered thanks to the many employees, volunteers and community members in making Lewisburg a fine community in which to live.
As an iteration of Manchester’s community pride, he proclaimed Jan. 1, 2017 to be Joshua Saxe, Volunteer of the Year Day in Lewisburg. Saxe, pastor of the St. James Episcopal Church, was nominated for his commitment to organizing and coordinating volunteer efforts immediately after the June 23 flood. He made the church available as a command center for the United Way of the Greenbrier Valley. For weeks the church was the distribution and information center for people seeking and delivering donations and cleaning supplies. Most notably, Saxe and the church congregation offered hope to residents in the unincorporated Caldwell community, which was hit particularly hard by the flood, by setting up a distribution center in Caldwell.
In other business:
- The week of Jan. 15-21 was proclaimed to be The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week in Lewisburg.
- Public Works Director Roger Pence said the city is still addressing flood repairs along Howards Creek’s waterline crossings at Rts. 60 and 63, which have affected the residents of The Retreat’s access to water since the flood. Inclement weather has delayed repair efforts, he said. Heavy rains raised the stream level, and together with cold temperatures, crews efforts were limited to only a few days during the month of December, he said.
- A safety hazard concern was brought to the attention of city council by Lee Street resident Nancy Harris. Calling the intersection of Greenbrier Road and Lee Street a place where an accident is likely to occur, she said, “I’m not going to be quiet about it. One of these days it’s going to happen.”
Council member Joseph Lutz, who heads up the Public Safety Committee, concurred, stating, “Greenbrier Road is steeper than one imagines.” It was clear, he said, from the chunks of curbing littering the street and fender-high scrapes on the three telephone poles in the roadway that damage is being sustained by vehicles on that roadway and a safety hazard is present. The issue will be on the agenda of the next public safety meeting, Lutz said.
- Reporting from the planning commission, Zoning Officer Chuck Smith said the city council approved a conditional use permit for five single-family attached dwellings to be developed by Ream Properties at a North Jefferson location, near the boundary of the historic district and the osteopathic school. Council member Mark Etten stated a concern the commission had was the potential for similar developments to occur. Consistency with the surrounding area is one of four requirements for a conditional use permit in a residential area.
“In my mind, as soon as the historic district sign appears, I expect to see everything looking pretty sharp,” said council member Josh Baldwin, who questioned whether the approval of the conditional use permit would introduce a series of student housing developments upon entering town. Smith responded that the design of the project is attractive and consistent with the surrounding structures, and could serve as a design guideline for future developments. Manchester declared it prudent for the planning commission to review the zoning overlay of the area with a eye for inconsistencies.
Smith also mentioned an upgrade change has been requested by the overseer of the hotel project planned for the Gateway Commons next to Cinema 8. The “Tru by Hylton” hotel designation will be changed to “Home 2 Suites,” also a Hylton entity. All the rooms will become suites, he said, enlarging the footprint of the project and will also require changes to the storm water drainage plans.
- Police Chief Tim Stover’s report highlighted the installation of a lighted 15-mph sign on Rt. 60, alerting vehicles of the presence of school-aged children near the Lewisburg Elementary School.
- Council approved the hiring of Matt Peltier to serve the Lewisburg Volunteer Fire Department as a driver-operator, replacing Fire Chief Joseph Thomas, who held that position before he became chief. Thomas said Peltier has five years firefighting experience and has fulfilled all the required certifications. He will begin employment on Jan. 26. Thomas said the next round of smoke detectors are arriving and residents wishing to take advantage of having the department install three free smoke detectors in their homes are invited to call city hall.
- The city of Lewisburg has come to a public-private partnership agreement with Greenworks Recycling to fulfill the collection, transportation and disposal of non-hazardous recyclable materials in order to continue offering Lewisburg residents curb-side recycling services. Those services had historically been undertaken by city employees, which proved not to be self-sustaining. Rather than discontinue the service, the contract will initially be for a trial five months term in which recyclables will resume residential pickups on the first and third weeks of the month. The city will continue to provide bags for recyclable materials, which will be available free of charge at city hall, the public works office and the Greenworks office.