Meg Hibbert Contributing writer
Future Salem City elections for Salem City Council will take place in November rather than May after Monday night’s Council emergency ordinance changing the date.
As City Attorney Jim Guwynn explained, the Commonwealth is requiring jurisdictions to make change, which had to be adopted by the end of 2021. Council’s vote was 4-0 with Councilman Bill Jones absent and Councilman Randy Foley participating remotely because of medical reasons.
During the portion of the meeting set for public comments, Council heard from four people. The youngest was 6-year-old Tessa Warner, who, standing on a stepstool on her tip toes, read her request to save he endangered Log Perch in the Roanoke River, and to keep the Roanoke River Greenway clean and green.
Mayor Renee Turk told Tessa she was “very, very brave” and invited her to come back to speak to Council again sometime.
Other speakers who used their allotted five minutes to address Council were:
- Tessa’s grandmother, Cynthia Munley, who asked Council to make decisions for a better legacy and economic development options. She noted past decisions to sell off a portion of Oakey’s ballfield 25 years ago; sale of the former West Salem Body Shop for development of apartments and short residential stays; building the city’s Electric Department building across Main Street from Lake Spring Park, and building a city water tank and allowing commercial buildings on open space next to the Salem YMCA. “These 52 acres could have been a park,” Munley said.
- John Breen said Council sold vacant property on Union Street off Fourth for $100,000, when the assessed value is $280,000. The property was never advertised, he said. G&H Construction purchased the lot, which the company has been building up with fill dirt.
- Nora Smith, who lives on Salem Turnpike across from the city water tank, asked Council to consider adding a sidewalk along that area for pedestrian safety. She also asked Council to plant more trees.
In other actions during the 45-minute Dec. 13 meeting, by unanimous action Council:
- Approved a request to appropriate an additional $250,000 in local funds for Downtown Improvements from Union Street to Broad Street;
- Passed an Emergency Operations Plan as the city is required to do each four years. It was actually five years this time because of COVID, City Manager Jay Taliaferro said;
- Authorized the city manager to finalize and execute a bulk water/sale agreement with the Western Virginia Water Authority;
- Approved an amendment to the School General Fund, School Grants Fund and School Cafeteria Fund, as passed by the Salem School Board;
- Appropriated $3.2 million in school grant funds, due to new grants and carryover funds;
- Appropriated a $1,118 grant to the Salem Police Department to purchase barricades;
- Set a $17,369 erosion and sediment control bond for rehabilitation of a Carter Machinery building;
- Set a $699,159 erosion and sediment control bond for a new Sonic restaurant at 1968 W. Main St. next to Tokyo Express;
- Set a $16,063 bond for erosion and sediment control and landscaping for 1361 Southside Dr. for a driveway and truck dock.
Council concluded the regular portion of the meeting to hold a closed session for discussion or consideration of acquisition of real property for a public purpose.