Nuisance and derelict properties were a hot topic of discussion at a Halifax Town Council work session Tuesday evening.

Town manager Carl Espy shared with council that the town is nearing completion of a demolition project at 450 N. Main St.

The North Main Street property prior to demolition was described as a “vacant two-story main dwelling with outbuildings, overgrown vegetation, trash and debris.”

Councilman Jack Dunavant expressed his concern about the length of the project.

Council gave approval for the project in September 2018, and the project commenced in January 2019. Roger Slagle is the project contractor.

“It’s January 2020 and his [the contractor’s] equipment is still there. This has been a blight on our town for at least six to eight months,” Dunavant said. “That’s unacceptable. We’ve got to do a better job attending to our town.”

Dunavant also commented that the language in the contract between the town and the contractor reads more like an “open-ended agreement” than a contract.

The contract states that the project would be completed in 45 days, but Dunavant said it is unclear from reading the contract whether there is any financial advantage to the contractor for completing the project in the allotted timeframe.

“I think it’s customary to see some sort of liquidating damage clause (in contracts). That keeps things moving along in a timely manner,” offered Mayor Dexter Gilliam.

Espy said that he plans to reach out to the town of South Boston for advice on preparing contracts similar to the one for the North Main Street demolition project.

The town manager also updated council on nuisance properties on Houston Street. He said the town had notifited the property owners of those issues, and the town has since seen improvements to those properties. He advised council that he would compile an ongoing list of derelict/ nuisance properties to keep them informed on those matters in the future.

The town code states the town “holds the authority to require the removal, repair, etc. of buildings and other structures, once, upon proper notification to the owner, agent or person in control has failed to do so.”

Also during the work session, Bill Covington, finance chairman, gave the December finance report. He said the town is “overall in good shape” financially for this time in the budget year, with the general fund balance greater than expenditures.

Assistant town manager Denise Barksdale updated council on the status of 2019 personal property tax notices. She said the town had sent out second notices before the Christmas break to residents who have not submitted their personal property tax payments for the past year.

Council members also received an update on current affairs during the work session, including reports on the Halifax Volunteer Fire Department’s activity from October, November and December.

The report lists 17 fire calls and one emergency services call in December, 15 fire calls and no emergency services calls in November, and 19 fire calls and 2 emergency services calls in October.

In other business, council discussed reports on business development updates, upcoming Halifax Farmer’s Market activities, an upcoming Halifax County Historical Society recognition and an update on the VDOT and Norfolk & Southern U.S. Highway 501 railroad crossing conditions.