By Matt de Simone
During the Fincastle Town Council’s January meeting last Thursday, members of the Fincastle Volunteer Fire Department (FVFD) were recognized for their recent accomplishments. Namely, the department posted 6,700 training hours completed by its members over various courses, which is the most training accomplished in the department’s 75-year history.
“We’re really proud of what we have going on,” Deputy Chief Ben Campbell said during the award ceremony. “I appreciate [Council’s] support. We’re really driving in the right direction.”
Department Chief Dustin Ware and Deputy Chief Ben Campbell awarded the members with certificates of recognition and introduced them to the board. The recognized members of the department included: Ethan Wright, Merritt Taylor, Dylan Setliff, Brendan Kiser, Leeanne Wood, Wayne Cunningham, Matthew Webster, Jennifer Firebaugh, Ginnie Thomas, Kirk Taylor, Matt Taylor, and Matt Kavanaugh.
Mayor Mary Bess Smith shared words of appreciation for the department’s commitment and for all of their assistance during the holidays.
Other notes from the Town Council meeting
The Fincastle Town Council held the January meeting at the Fincastle Volunteer Fire Department’s training room last Thursday night.
Town Manager David Tickner updated council on the Community Development Block Grant. The town conducted their first project management team meeting via Zoom on Dec. 22. Next step is to conduct a second meeting on Jan. 17. They will “fine tune” request for proposals (RFPs) for submission to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and then proceed to take it before the committee.
Councilmember Richard Flora noted that the RFPs had to go through the hands of DHCD and a number of people added comments that were considered in the retooling of the RFP. “We’ve gotten good feedback from the state regarding the grant and we hope to get that thing moving in the next couple of months.”
Community Development Block Grant program supports community development activities to build stronger and more resilient communities. To support community development, activities are identified through an ongoing process. Activities may address needs such as infrastructure, economic development projects, public facilities installation, community centers, housing rehabilitation, public services, clearance/acquisition, microenterprise assistance, code enforcement, homeowner assistance, etc.
The town has nearly completed the preliminary work on Big Spring Park prior to the actual construction. There is another “simple writeup” required that includes an erosion and sediment control waiver from the county in which Assistant County Administrator Jon Lanford continues working with the town to complete. Tickner anticipated the writeup’s completion in the days following last Thursday’s meeting.
Members of the town’s planning committee met with Shawn Jadrnicek, an agriculture and natural resources extension agent with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, about the prime location of the orchard garden and the wildflower area/pollinator garden locations. Tickner expressed appreciation for the committee’s assistance in the process. The town currently seeks assistance for a gravel trail. Prior to that, tree stumps and brush still need clearing.
Tickner stated when asked about the ongoing project that, as far of the Virginia Department of Forestry grant the town received at the park, they have a certain amount of that funding that must go to this part of the project. The remainder of the funding is for some interpretive signage and an outdoor classroom. The other funding received through the Department of Conservation and Recreation is for the construction of a walking trail up to the walking track at Breckinridge from the park itself.
The town recently received estimates from EAL Concrete about a block of Main Street between Monroe Street and Hancock Street ($25,000) and also the sidewalk on Blacksburg Road near the retaining wall ($40,000). An EAL contractor proposed to put down wire and bracing along the wall so it doesn’t fall back during the project.
Later in the evening, Town Council decided to hold off on the section of sidewalk at the corner of South Roanoke and Main Street ($4,500) until they had a better idea of what the contractor was proposing. According to Mayor Mary Bess Smith, this is one of the most historic sections of sidewalk in the town. Some of the sidewalk stone that was buried underneath the asphalt was preserved. Pieces of the old historic sidewalk will be incorporated into the new curb.
The town’s infrastructure committee met earlier last week and plans to figure out how to fund these “significant” repairs. EAL Concrete is the company that has produced concrete work for the town over the last several years.
Councilmember John Thomas added that he spoke with the Virginia Municipal League and learned there is a group of contractors through the league that monitors contract requests for utilities and concrete work. He suggested looking into utilizing that group for assistance.
Tickner presented a resolution for the Springwood Road extension that “mysteriously” came off of the town’s six-year comprehensive plan. An updated resolution was presented to council. Mayor Smith noted the elements of safety included in the resolution and wanted to go on record with the county Board of Supervisors before the other construction begins in town.
In July of 2021, the town adopted its new comprehensive plan featuring a brand-new section in the plan called “sustainability.” This sustainability section of the plan is geared towards going “green”– conserving resources, encouraging buying local, and keeping an eye out for the planet. It set forth the establishment of a sustainability committee, comprised of Chairperson Bess Madonna of the Planning Commission, Breckinridge Elementary School teacher Amanda Schultz, County Planner Jonathan McCoy, Diane Kees of Micro Harmonics, Tara Williamson of Williamson Farms in Troutville, and Fincastle Librarian Sarah Rodgers.
Town Council met with Executive Director of the Botetourt County Chamber of Commerce Khari Ryder about finding a vendor to “revamp” the town’s website. Mayor Smith mentioned that “this is something that can’t happen soon enough.” Currently, the town isn’t sure if they need to set an RFP, but will continue to do more diligent research.