A Sinai community member, Anthony Womack, shared his concerns about safety issues in his community with South Boston Town Council members during their Monday evening meeting.
Womack spoke during the public hearing on the town’s proposed budget for 2020-2021, in the hopes that the town would include funding for community development for Sinai in the budget.
“Please add us to the budget,” Womack requested of the council. “We are double paying tax citizens and someone needs to include us.” Town of South Boston residents pay taxes to both the town and Halifax County.
“Listen to our voices if you want our vote (in the May 19 town council election),” Womack told council. “Listen to our conversations for community development.”
Womack brought a petition signed by 182 Sinai residents to the council meeting. He voiced some of the community members’ safety concerns, including the walking conditions/lack of sidewalks on Highway 654, lack of playground areas for children and potholes and unkempt grass at Westside Mobile Home Park on Bane Street.
“The walking conditions do not meet our safety needs,” Womack said. “We want playground areas and places where we can walk…The voices of Sinai are asking that the living conditions and potholes be addressed.”
Councilman Michael Byrd thanked Womack for bringing the petition to the council meeting.
“We want to make sure we are addressing the needs for every community in our town,” Byrd said.
Town manager Tom Raab told Womack the portion of Highway 654 in the Sinai community that poses a safety concern is outside of the town limits and under Halifax County’s jurisdiction.
He said safety concerns about that stretch of highway had been brought up in 2017, and the town had shared the concern with the county administrator at that time, but ultimately no action had been taken on it. He told Womack he would be glad to pass along the information to county administrator Scott Simpson so the county could pursue funding for the project.
Mayor Ed Owens, who recently walked the stretch of Highway 654, shared with council that the chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors also had walked the stretch of highway.
“He’s going to talk with the county administrator and board of supervisors and see if they can get the funds to move that forward,” Owens said.
Womack’s petition also prompted a discussion about the condition of Westside Mobile Home Park. Councilman William “Bill” Snead said he and Raab recently had a conversation about the condition of Westside Mobile Home Park and considers it “unacceptable.”
“There are members of council that are very concerned about it and want to see a step forward,” Snead said.
Raab said Westside Mobile Home Park is on privately owned land, so the town would have to approach the owner about fixing the potholes on the road through the property.
“That’s not a VDOT-approved street,” Raab said. “We can go over there and take pictures and beg them to fix it.”
Raab shared that the town previously had tried to acquire the Westside property for a low-income housing project, but the owner did not accept the amount the town offered to acquire the property and asked for a higher amount. The town then decided on the Poplar Creek Street area for the low-income housing project, which is currently in the works.
“We can re-approach Mr. Stevens and try to get a hold of that property,” Raab said. “We would love to clean that up and do what I think is a much job than what’s going on now.”
Byrd also said he is concerned about the condition of the Westside Mobile Home Park.
“I have heard there are people who live there who don’t have running water. That’s a problem,” Byrd said. “I understand it’s private property, but he’s also a landlord in our town. What ordinances are in place to address that?”
Councilman Winston Harrell suggested that council come up with a solution to address the problem of landlords renting out properties unfit for occupancy.
“I think the council has to figure out some kind of plan to make sure landlords are not renting out homes that are not suitable for people to live in,” he said.
Raab replied, “I agree with you 100%. We need to tighten our codes.”
Councilman Bob Hughes said he believes the town needs to focus more on the rehabilitation of derelict properties, as well.
“I think it’s a real challenge but a real opportunity,” Hughes said.
Another quality of life concern that Womack brought up at the council meeting was the lack of a park in the Sinai community for children to engage in recreational activities.
“We’re asking for what we need, for safety,” Womack said. “You’ve got a whole community over there with absolutely nothing to do, no outlet. It’s wrong.”
Harrell asked what the town would need to do to start exploring the possibility of planning a park in the Sinai community.
“We’ll work on it,” Raab said. “We’re going to need some land.”
Womack was the only citizen who spoke during the public hearing on the town of South Boston’s 2020-2021 budget hearing. Council will have a second reading on the budget at its June 8 meeting.