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Danville City Council – LIVE! (5/17/16)

SouthsideCentral was LIVE! for Tuesday’s Danville City Council meeting. This article is now complete, so enjoy reading it!

Tonight’s meetings start with a special work session at 5:30 PM, the business session at 7:00 PM and the work session after that.  Let’s get started!

Council has started their 5:30 special work session, and gone into closed session for attorney talk. I have no idea what this one is about, but Transportation Director Marc Adelman is in the meeting. In the meantime, let’s go for a walk up to council chambers.

Here’s the timer on the speaker’s podium. It’s preset for 5 minutes. That’s the time limit for a public commenter.

City Clerk Sue DeMasi runs the time clock from this control box.

Looking down from the mayor’s seat, you can see that he has a timeclock countdown as well as his own video monitor from the big TV system. And a peanut butter cup.

Let’s go back downstairs and see how the closed session is going…

Still closed. How about the other door?

Well, that wasn’t a surprise.

The closed meeting ends and no action is taken. Let’s go back to the 4th floor for the business meeting.

We’re underway. Lee Vogler leads the prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce President Laurie Moran gets a proclamation for Business Appreciation Week.

It’s the amazing Laurie Moran!

Here’s a look at tonight’s almost-empty audience section. (Front to back, left to right) Dolores Reynolds, Harold Garrison, Laurie Moran, Sheila Baynes, (Mike and Jeannette Miller off camera), Rhonda Vogler, Brian Dunevant & Earl Reynolds.

On the other side, we have (front-to-back, left-to-right) Steven Gould, Jeff Hubbard, Ed Polhamus, Renee Hughes, Trina McLaughlin. Dianne McMahon, a mystery person who I don’t know and Mike Adkins.

The first item up for new business is the electric rate increase. John Gilstrap asks a few questions with Danville Utilities’ Jennifer Holey answering them.. We move to the vote and it passes 7-2, with Alonzo Jones and Lee Vogler voting no. They give no explanation on their “No” votes at the meeting, so I’ve got to BBQ them for that. The electric fund is $9,000,000 in the hole and that deficit has to come from somewhere. Whatever reason that they had for the “No” vote isn’t relevant when it comes to making a responsible financial decision. I’m disappointed in the “No” vote, and I’m also disappointed that neither Vogler nor Jones made a statement to the public before that vote.

Later on Tuesday night, Lee Vogler told me that his “No” vote was because the city’s general fund is dependent of Danville Utilities profits and that fund transfer needs to be lowered. I understand that and agree with it, but next year’s budget is ready to go and that issue wasn’t addressed. His “No” vote on principle is nice, but it failed to address the current financial problem.

The school board’s budget is next and Special Guest Star Ed Polhamus comes up to the podium for any questions.

School Board chairman Ed Polhamus is our next contestant.

John Gilstrap is against the precision machining project and repeats his objections. Mayor Sherman Saunders gets a bit testy and calls for the vote. Bad form. At the last work session, Gilstrap declared his opposition and was clear about it. But the work sessions aren’t televised and that’s where the real debate can happen. As mayor, Sherman Saunders doesn’t like to have any disputes in the televised business sessions and wants it all worked out in the work session. John Gilstrap wanted to go on the record with his strong opposition and that pissed Saunders off.

New business is next. Here’s the recap on that:

  • Riverwalk Trail expansion – This is one that’s paid out of the Duke Energy settlement.
  • CDBG program – Danville gets federal money for housing programs every year
  • Electric capacity – Danville Utilities is now authorized to buy what’s like stock options but with electricity to try and hedge the market on electricity prices. This is only for a small part of their power needs, so it’s a good risk to take.
  • Extended Recreation program – Danville gets around $55K from the Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services Board for summer recreation programs for intellectually challenged residents. It’s matched with city funds to make the program work.
  • Curbside Recycling Fee Reduction – The city is switching to bi-monthly curbside recycling pickups instead of weekly. This cuts the fee in half. Fred Shanks notices that this eliminates curbside glass pickup so he wants more information on it before the final vote in June. Gary Miller concurs.
  • School board leftover money – The school system didn’t use all the money they had last year, so this lets it go back to the city’s general fund. Now, the city can give it back to the schools and cover most of this year’s increased funding request. During the debate on this, Fred Shanks notes that the extra funding for schools this year is for ongoing expenses. John Gilstrap says that’s probably going to lead to some tax increases next year. Sherman Saunders bristles on that and reminds everyone that is just Gilstrap’s opinion. Gilstrap clarifies his remarks saying maybe not tax increases, but the money will have to come from somewhere. The tension between Saunders & Gilstrap is very obvious tonight.

It’s time for the public hearing on the city’s new budget. Let’s see who gets up and speaks.

Anyone? Anyone?

Bueller? Bueller?

Nope. Nobody wants to talk about the budget. So that happened.

Around the horn time. James Buckner talks about the upcoming “Cease Fire Rally” and Thunder Road Harley-Davidson’s ribbon cutting and everybody else mostly piggybacks on that. After Sherman Saunders wraps up his around the horn speech, he tosses it over to Fred Shanks for a closing prayer. That’s the first time for that to happen.

The work session is coming up next. We can do this with photos.

Mike Adkins goes over the financial reports.

Here’s tonight’s work session audience.

City Engineer Brian Dunevant talks about getting City Manager Ken Larking to sign an agreement with VDOT.

Human Resources Director Sara Weller explains her annual personnel manual updates. And she smiles for the camera!

Up next is a closed session for economic development updates, so we’re done with tonight’s meeting.

Thanks for reading the most comprehensive report on Tuesday’s Danville City Council meeting. It’s only here on SouthsideCentral!

7 comments to Danville City Council – LIVE! (5/17/16)

  • Sheila B

    The work session after the meeting is closed per what I saw. Is the 5:30 closed too?

  • Berkeley Bidgood

    The work sessions should be televised so people who can not go to the meetings or are able to, can see the what the council is doing not just the part in the chambers.
    What is that called???????? O I remember TRANSPARENCY!!!!! Any member of council who does not want this to be seen should have to explain why not. It is the work for the people by the people elected by the people so why can’t the people have TV Seems the city should be able to get this arranged some way or another if they really want to be transparent. Access to the meetings in this high technology world we live in should be easy if it is really wanted. Somewhere along the line I was told that certain members would not be happy if the work sessions were televised. I answer to that is ,If you don’t want the people to know what you are doing then don’t get elected to do the job for the people.

  • Rebecca Wright

    There is no need for prayer to be a part of these meetings. I would be highly uncomfortable sitting in a business meeting that ends with prayer.

  • Thank you Bruce for your coverage of Danville City Council Meetings! Things seem to be quite mellow. Maybe I should drop by in person and liven things up … lol. Thanks again.

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