By Adam Pack
The Ronceverte City Council met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Mar. 6, at 7 p.m. at the new City Hall building on Edgar Avenue. Ray Still, a certified building inspector, was on hand to discuss the work he’s currently done and his outlook on the state of Ronceverte’s number of dilapidated buildings.
Still briefed the city on what it is he does, and emphasized that his “one and only concern” comes down to safety. “The whole reason for all of what I do with inspecting buildings is to determine whether or not they are sound or unsound, or more importantly, whether or not they pose a public safety issue,” Still said.
Still determined that there are buildings in town which do pose a public safety hazard and urged the City to begin the process of finding grant funding to deal with condemned structures. “I really want to explore all legal options for a property that’s dangerous, but if I have to mark a building as unsafe then the city is financially and legally obligated to take some action.”
The top two solutions for cities struggling to grow, according to Stills, involve getting rid of condemned buildings and working on zoning.
“Zoning: every city that has trouble with growth and trouble with degradation of structures has little to no zoning, and has not passed the International Property Maintenance Code. Ronceverte wants to move up, but the zoning desperately needs to be redone and the city has not yet adopted the IPMC.” The city agreed to begin meeting with Stills later this week and hopes to alleviate these issues and make Ronceverte more attractive for development and growth.
The city then discussed two updates to funding sources for the police department. The Ronceverte Police Department is requesting an increase in citation fees from $15 to $25, and a request to increase the fee for a police report from $20 to $30 per report. The former increase, regarding citations fees, is an inflation based raise to help with police equipment funding. The Police Equipment and Training fund, an ESCROW account used only for the purchase of vehicles, firearms, ammunition, uniforms, radios, other equipment and training, is the final destination for funds acquired through the payment of fully adjudicated fees. The latter request is based on the fact that it takes a considerable number of manhours to generate reports. Police reports are generated as part of vehicular accidents as well as all criminal investigations and or arrests, and on responses by officers to citizen reported crimes. The cost would be incurred by individuals and or insurance companies. Insurance companies require them after car accidents to determine payment, and individuals will occasionally request them after reporting a crime. Funds accrued from report fees go to the department’s general funds and help to pay payroll as well other expenses. The increases were both approved by the council.
Next, Jorge Rodriguez-Stanley addressed the council to propose a set of potential new mottos for the town of Ronceverte. The new motto, part of the city’s ongoing rebrand, would hopefully “push us into our next chapter” according to Rodriguez-Stanley. The new mottos proposed before the council were: “The only Ronceverte,” “Go with the Flow,” and “Along the River.” The council briefly discussed the three mottos, as well the potential of opening the decision up to the public in some fashion. Without reaching a final decision, and agreeing to discuss it further, the council thanked Rodriguez-Stanley for all his recent work on helping market the town.
The city then moved to filling committee vacancies left by the retirement of former council member Kathy King. King was a member of the Mural Committee, and the council voted unanimously to appoint newly elected councilman Mark Trent to fill her seat. After the appointment of Trent to the committee, the council briefly discussed the status of the committee’s upcoming projects. They were previously planning to place a typographic spelling of Ronceverte on the concrete retaining wall next to the amphitheater, but have decided to place that mural design on the side of the new city hall building, and to place a far more simplified mural on the retaining wall. The new mural position would be better, as any mural in such close proximity to the river would need to be touched up frequently, councilwoman and Mural Committee member Tanya Hazelwood explained.
The city went over old business, as well, beginning with an update from Anthony Brown of the Thrasher Group on the upcoming manhole cover replacement project. Brown informed the council that Thrasher would like to map the city to get better and more accurate markings before replacing manholes in the town. Brown explained that this project has taken quite a while due to the fact that Dunn began the project, but in the process Thrasher acquired Dunn and is now ready to finish the project.
The city also approved the request for approval of evidentiary materials from the Community Development Block Grant for work on the fourth phase of the city’s water line upgrade, as well a letter of understanding with Region 4 Planning and Development office. The letter of understanding simply acknowledges that Region 4 will administer the city’s water upgrade on upcoming work.
Bob Hazelwood was also on hand to inform the city council about a potential windfall. There are still roughly $64,000 held in contributions made by Ronceverte from American Rescue Plan funds for projects over the last 18 months. These funds, held in accounts with Region 4 Planning and Development, who administered the projects, can be returned to the city upon submission of invoices and an application of reimbursement. One item in particular, a new meter on the pump station, was brought up, but the council is looking forward to utilizing those funds in the future. Mayor Deena Pack afforded Hazelwood a great deal of praise, saying that she and the council were “so grateful for you and the work you do to help find us funds, or figure out how to find more materials; you’ve been such a big help to the city.”