Two-way traffic returns to downtown Middleburg. Temporary stoplights disappear. Side streets, closed for weeks, are now open. Parking spaces, long inaccessible, are ready for use. The Virginia Department of Transportation’s highly disruptive and in some cases economically devastating roadwork is reportedly “well ahead of schedule.” Work will continue into October, but it should no longer “impede the flow of traffic as it had.”
Best of all, the Middleburg family and friends can now see not only light at the end of a too long tunnel, but some of the goals of the plan. Just in time for the most important shopping seasons of the year, a new streetscape emerges clearly, more strikingly beautiful and pedestrian friendly than ever.
At its regular August meeting, Town Council Member Kathy Jo Shea observed that, despite the negative impact of the project, one could already see “increased revenues in the meals and occupancy taxes.” The idea that “no one was here in Middleburg,” she said, needed to be pointed out “on the public record. “
“Town Treasurer Ashley Bott agreed. “The numbers,” she said, “were very telling. Occupancy tax revenues were high and acknowledged that Salamander was a big player in that.”
On the street, merchants, who suffered through the worst VDOT disruption of business in living memory, and one of the most damaging hailstorms ever, are looking forward to fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas, always as a make-or-break season for many merchants, and this year more important than ever.
Double-checking for Damage
Stuart Will, of Imoden Environmental Services, Middleburg’s key utilities service sub-contractor, reported that, once more, a video crew had been assigned to snake a camera through all the water and sewer lines on West Washington Street. IES carefully compares the highly detailed “before” and “after” tapes “to make sure nothing was damaged during the Route 50 Project”. Will noted that all the lines will be reviewed using this new technology as soon as contruction is complete.
Time to Lower the In-Town Speed Limit?
Commander Tony Wells, Vice President of the Plains Rescue Squad, appeared before Council at its meeting to ask for their support of a request to VDOT “to reduce the speed limit in Middleburg from 25 MPH to 15 MPH.”
Wells, who lives just outside Middleburg, noted that he had been “able to get the speed limit reduced on The Plains Road,” but did not want to move forward without Council support.
With all the changes in the roadway through downtown, and increasing truck, car and pedestrian traffic, Wells noted, his experience tells him “the current 25 MPH speed limit . . . would be dangerous.”
The Middleburg Shuttle Bus
Middleburg’s Economic Development Coordinator, Cindy Pearson, reported that eighty-three people rode the trolley rented by the town to make getting from place to place easier during construction during its first weekend in operation. “Most people [still] did not know what it was for,” she said, and “expressed hope that the number would increase. “
Councilmember Shea “expressed shock” there were only eighty-three riders, and suggested further analysis to determine who was riding, when and where.
Councilmember Miller agreed it would be nice to have this information so a determination could be made as to whether all of the stops were necessary.
When Council Member Mark Snyder “suggested it would be nice to know how many people from Salamander were using the trolley,” Vice Mayor Darlene Kirk observed that “Salamander offered their guests free rides in an Audi, and . . . did not need the trolley service.”
New Media Working for the Town
Economic Development Coordinator Pearson reported that BlueTreeDigital, a Reston-based on-line marketing services company, had been retained to do postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about Middleburg, the Pink Box and the Farmers Market”
According to Pearson, “the number of followers had increased to over six thousand on the Town’s Facebook page.” New Twitter and Instagram accounts have also been started. The Town’s tourist information center, The Pink Box, she said, “was up to six hundred forty-eight followers and the Farmers Market had over two thousand.”
National Night Out
Mayor Betsy Davis officially thanked the members of the Middleburg Police Department and the many volunteers who helped them for putting on yet another “wonderful National Night Out.”
Police Chief A.J. Panebianco and his team this year designated the Middleburg event, “The Bundles Murdock National Night Out, in honor of the former Council Member’s long time and on-going support of the department and the National Night Out project. “It was her dream five years ago,” Mayor Davis noted, “to have it. “
Vice Mayor Kirk suggested that the event could be improved with more Council input. “It would be nice to have the Council do something that evening to show that it was giving back to the community,” Kirk noted, perhaps by giving away “an additional bike or bike helmets.”
Councilmember Shea noted that she had complained to the Town’s Facilities & Maintenance Supervisor “about the lack of recycling bins at National Night Out.” The Town’s “Go Green” Committee, she observed, perhaps “needed to help him remember that they [the recycling bins] were in storage and needed to be brought out.”
Mayor Davis and Vice Mayor Kirk agreed, with Kirk observing “that there were not as many [regular] trash cans available during the event,” and that and “she received a complaint” about their absence.
Council appointed Aleco Bravo-Greenberg to Middleburg’s Economic Development Advisory Committee for a two-year term, ending on April 1, 2018.
Greenberg, the owner of Middleburg’s Rutledge Farm, LLC and one of the producers of The Weather Channel’s highly successful Hurricane Hunters series, is a member of the Washington DC Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Middleburg Film Festival.
During the vote on his appointment Councilmember Mark Snyder “suggested it would be nice if the appointee’s address was not blacked out [on his letter of application] so the Council would have a general idea of where they came from.”
Town Clerk Rhonda North, replied that she had “started redacting the addresses at the request of the Town Attorney,” Angela Plowman.
Council Member Shea then noted that “Greenberg stated that he was from Middleburg in his letter. “ Snyder replied “that he would like to know whether they were located in or out of town or in another area. “
According to the draft minutes of the meeting Town Attorney Plowman “confirmed the Council could know; however, she questioned whether the public needed to know the addresses. She suggested the members of Council contact staff to ask for this information if they desired it.”
Snyder replied “he would rather not have to ask and asked that it be shown on the application.” He suggested “the street number could be blacked out, with the remainder being readable.”
Town Clerk North noted that all this was public information.
Town Attorney Plowman noted that “she did not recall the conversation with the Town Clerk” and “ . . . advised that she would follow-up on why she said this and would provide additional information.”
Councilmember Shea observed that Greenberg’s letter “clearly outlined his involvement in the community,” and that “ she knew him personally.” Even so, she said, when such an application was received, “it would be good for the Council to have a sense of why the individual wanted to be on a committee . . . and that the applicants be told that this was something the Council has requested.”
Mayor Davis officially thanked Mr. Greenberg for applying for the position, with Councilmember Snyder noting “that he was thrilled that he applied.”
Council voted unanimously in favor of Greenberg’s appointment.
“Recently Discovered” Town Financial Management Policies
According to the minutes of the August regular session of Town Council, Town Administrator Martha Semmes “advised Council that she recently discovered that the Town had financial management policies,” dating from 2006 when Mike Casey was Town Administrator.
“For the most part, the Town has been following them,” Semmes reported “although, some, including capital improvement policies, had not been as there was no money until recently to follow them.”
Semmes suggested “ . . . Council review the policies and decide in the future whether they wanted to amend them.”
Semmes also noted that the Town was “staying within the policies in terms of debt, policies which were much more restrictive than the State requirements.”
Mayor Davis noted that, among other things, that the budget control policy stated that “the Town Administrator shall comply with the policy with regard to budget transfers,” that is the shifting of funds budgeted for one activity to cover expenses for another. Davis suggested this should include the Town Council.
Semmes noted that the policy “granted the Town Administrator the authority to make budget transfers” and only required “she then report them to the Council. Noting that she did just that in July with the end-of-the-year fund transfers,” Semmes “further reminded Council that a formal budget amendment was not needed as the transfers kept the Town within its budget.”
Councilmember Shea regretted “there was nothing in the policy to “require” the Town Treasurer to make regular reports to Council, although that has been done regularly for years. She suggested that given the Town’s past history, it was important that this be made clear. Councilmembers Snyder and Kirk agreed.”
When Vice Mayor Kirk “suggested the policies should have further study,” Semmes agreed, and “recommended a subcommittee work on this or that the Council could work on it as a committee of the whole.”