By MIKE WILLIAMS
The building that once housed the former Pulaski Hospital and most recently the Randolph House came under fire Tuesday evening during a meeting of Pulaski Town Council.
Two Randolph Avenue area residents – Dan Love and his daughter, Jill Love – approached council about the condition of the building and property surrounding it, as well as goings-on at the property in both daytime and at night.
Dan Love, a Tenth Street resident for some 45 years, said the property is “right in my front door,” and he sees “dope deals,” people meeting for their “affairs” and other lurid activities on a daily basis.
He said parts of the structure are actually falling down and overall is in a “terrible shape.”
“The grass is high, bushes have taken over the front of the building. People have started pulling the boards off the windows and are going back inside. There are a lot of things going on in there during the day and night,” he said, adding he can see lights on inside at night.
Jill Love echoed her father’s comments and included some properties further up Randolph Avenue as needing to be addressed as well, concerning junk cars and other issues.
Town Manager Darlene Burcham told the Loves the property had recently been purchased by someone in Lynchburg. She said she hasn’t heard directly from him what his plans are for the property, but had been told by a realtor that the new owner does plan to develop the property.
She said she would talk with the new owner about what his plans are and relay the Loves’ concerns.
In other news:
-Burcham told council she had on Tuesday authorized purchase of a charging system for charging electric vehicles. She said the charging station would be installed at First Street and Washington Avenue and would be paid for by federal ARPA (American Recovery Plan) funds.
She said it would be a two-vehicle charging station that will have a cost to users, which she said is typical.
“We see this as another way to bring people to town and benefit people who have already bought an electric vehicle,” Burcham said, adding Pulaski will be one of the few towns in the region to take the step.
Mayor Shannon Collins agreed with the reasoning.
“Having an electric vehicle, when traveling you look for that,” he said. “There are very few throughout the area. Wytheville is the closest. It’s a very wise thing to do and will draw people to town.”
Burcham suggested that people using the station could spend the time their vehicle is charging to visit downtown or take a stroll to Calfee Park to see a ballgame.
-Burcham told council the new skatepark and basketball court on First Street will be dedicated soon.
“I receive emails and questions on Facebook almost daily asking when they will be open,” she said.
[It was later announced the facility will be officially opened and dedicated during a Friday ceremony at 2 p.m.]
Burcham said she anticipates work on the proposed mountain bike park to begin in early August.
-Council approved a resolution to donate two parcels on Pierce Avenue in Pulaski to Alquist 3D for construction of their first two 3-D printed homes.
Earlier this year town staff cleared and graded the parcels to allow for a demonstration by Alquist of 3D home construction. The donation will allow Alquist to construct two homes on the site – one for sale and one to serve as a model home for future buyers.
Town Attorney Spencer Rygas did note the donation of the parcels is tied to a performance agreement with Alquist.
-Council formally adopted this year’s town budget, including new water and sewer rates, capital improvement plan, a convenience fee for those who pay the town using credit or debit cards and revisions to the town’s pay and classification plans.
Burcham noted the town’s budget increases by only 4 percent – roughly half of the inflation rate (8.5 percent) we are currently experiencing.
She said the budget reflects state revenues as they stand now, and modifications in the budget may be necessary after July 1 once the state finalizes its budget work.
“We are fortunate that local funds are recovering nicely [post-COVID] and we know that our community is being looked at for additional economic development,” Burcham said.
Burcham explained that, routinely, a five-year capital improvement plan is approved, with only the first year being funded through the budget. This year, however, the entire first year of funding is being covered by federal ARPA funds.
The town has increased its minimum staring pay to $15 and is providing a $2,000 annual increase to every employee on a 40-hour work week schedule.
In the future, the town will charge a 2.3 percent convenience fee to anyone using a credit or debit card to pay fees, taxes, etc. to offset the fee amount charged to the town by its bank.
Burcham said citizens can avoid the fee by paying their bills with cash or check.
Vice-Mayor Greg East and Councilman Jamie Radcliffe praised Burcham and town staff for the work they did on the budget.
East called the spending plan “a conservative budget that is very realistic and very detailed as it should be.”
Radcliffe said plans to improve employee retention and pay “are long overdue.”
Burcham responded, saying she is “looking forward to a very successful year with what work we have done and the budget preparation as well as execution during the past and current year. We’re right on track.”