- Last Updated on 10:49 AM 01/06/10
- BY Doug Ford
South Boston Town Council grilled a Comcast Cable representative at its monthly work session on Monday, with several councilmen describing current cable service for the town as “unacceptable.”
Paul Comes, director of Government and Community Affairs for Comcast Cable, appeared before council to answer questions concerning cable service in the town in advance of franchise agreement negotiations.
Councilman Coleman Speece told Comes that he has received more complaints from his constituents about cable service and the costs of that service than anything else during his time on council.
South Boston Comcast customers have no high definition service at present, and Comes told council no date has been set for the implementation of that service.
Councilman Ed Owens reminded Comes that when Comcast took over from Adelphia Cable, Comcast had indicated upgrades would come quickly.
That hasn’t happened, Owens told Comes, adding he had contacted him several weeks prior to the meeting with questions council needed to have answered.
“I appreciate your coming here, but I don’t appreciate your coming here with no answers,” Owens told Comes.
Councilman W.R. Snead Jr. asked Comes why South Boston subscribers pay a higher rate than their City of Danville counterparts for basic limited service.
Basic service should be averaged out, he told Comes, adding he has not been able to locate a suitable programming guide on the Comcast network at his residence.
“Saying it’s unacceptable is as nice as I can say it,” Snead told Comes.
“I appreciate your coming, and this is nothing about you, but about what Comcast has provided our community, which is unacceptable.”
Ruff, Edmunds Warn Of Budget Difficulties Ahead
State Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate-elect James Edmunds met with council to discuss area issues and concerns in advance of the upcoming General Assembly session.
The commonwealth is facing additional cuts to the budget above and beyond those already experienced in the current fiscal year, Ruff told council.
Education and public safety have for the most part been spared the cuts seen in other areas, but there are no guarantees for the next round of cuts, Ruff warned.
Town Manager Ted Daniel and Police Chief Ted Binner expressed concerns that the “599” program, which provides financial assistance to localities with police departments, would suffer further cuts.
Currently, 40 cities, nine counties and 126 towns receive “599” funds. The Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) administers the program.
Calculations to determine the distribution of “599” funds to localities are performed biennially by DCJS. The funds are allocated by a distribution formula, which uses population, crime rates and social services rates.
Funds for the South Boston Police Department under the “599” program were cut from $377,000 the prior fiscal year to $330,000 for 2009-2010.
“We rely very heavily on “599” funding for this community,” Binner explained to Ruff.
In regards to the hot button issue of transportation, Ruff said maintenance and safety remain the highest priorities, but that new construction would be put on hold.
“Everyone will need to do more with less, and until people start going back to work, we’ll be in this trough,” Ruff said.
Edmunds told council that economic problems are magnified in South Boston and Halifax County, because they rely more on state dollars than urban localities such as those found in Northern Virginia.
“It’s time to think out of the box,” Edmunds added, agreeing with Ruff that if localities can come up with a ‘bare essentials’ list in unison with neighboring communities, a unified voice would help in Richmond.
“If we can speak as one, it would help greatly,” said Ruff.
“Larger communities have full-time lobbyists, and our only chance for survival is to act as one.”
Current Issues Committee Items
• Daniel updated council on the proposed 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
Riverdale merchants have expressed dissatisfaction with the long-term plan for their area contained in the Comprehensive Plan that calls for the town to have the option of acquiring properties located in the flood plain as they become available, and if funding were available, for environmental restoration. (See related story on front page)
Riverdale merchants also feel the long-term plan affects their ability to resell their property, Daniel told council.
The South Boston Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the 2030 Comprehensive Plan Dec. 9 at 6 p.m., while town council will follow with its public hearing Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., with both hearings at council chambers on Yancey Street.
• Council considered a Board of Viewers’ study of a request from applicant Ianthia S. Johnson to close a dedicated public right-of-way between Hamilton and Parker Ave.
The Board decided unanimously that no inconvenience to the public would be caused by closing the unopened street and recommended that council deed the entire portion to Johnson at no cost.
The issue was put on council’s agenda for further action at its December meeting.
• Council considered a staff recommendation to purchase property (two lots at tax appraised price of $4,900 each) at the northwest corner of Noblin and Logan streets for storm water control.
Daniel said a creek runs through the property and floods the two lots during thunderstorms, adding that the lots are at the entry point for tremendous storm water runoff from downtown into the creek that in turn feeds Poplar Creek.
The Noblin-Logan intersection is frequently under water as a result, Daniel explained.
Controlling both the lots in question and adjacent lots would allow the town to develop storm water detention ponds in the future to control runoff from heavy storms.
The issue was advanced to council’s agenda for its December meeting.
• Council considered a request from the Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens & Environmental Education Center to establish a park and public garden on the old Cotton Mill site.
In a letter to Daniel, Dr. Charles Stallard, president of the organization, said they “anticipate devoting time to planning and design work along with grant research and development.”
They plan to begin purchase of “liner” plants – seedling size trees, shrubs, and perennials that take one to two years to reach a size that can survive in the landscape - for use in the project.
The center proposed the town develop a memorandum of understanding outlining areas of responsibility between them for the design and implementation of the project.
In his letter, Stallard said that his organization is using a similar approach with Halifax County concerning a project at Edmunds Park.
Further discussion was advanced to council’s Dec. 14 meeting.
Monthly Financial Statement
Town Finance Officer Erle Scott reported that General Fund revenues as of Oct. 30 reflected a balance of $2,582,346, while expenditures reflected a balance of $2,775,208.
The Landfill Closure Fund reflected revenues of $78,625 and expenditures of $173,176 as of Oct. 30.
Scott explained that expenditures would continue to run ahead of revenues as long as debt service is paid and until tax revenues help balance the budget.
Tax revenues have begun to accumulate, with just under $199,000 in real estate tax collections as of Monday and $110,005 in personal property tax collections as of Monday, according to Scott.
Occupancy tax collections reflected a balance of $59,679 as of Oct. 30, while meals tax collections reflected a balance of $263,521 and business license tax collections a balance of $9,269, according to Scott’s report.