By Brandon Martin
Martinsville City Council adopted Budget Ordinance 2020-U-3 on second reading in a 4 to 1 vote during their June 23 meeting.
Council Member Danny Turner voted against the measure. He attempted to amend the budget so that the planned 2.5 percent power cost adjustment (PCA) increase doesn’t take effect until August 31.
Of those already delinquent in payments “we’d advertise it for a year and they would have a year to get caught up,” Turner said.
City Manager Leon Towarnicki said originally, there was discussion to resume cutoffs for delinquent payments on June 14, but some power suppliers in the state wanted to extend the date.
“Ultimately, there was a compromise and it was extended a couple of months until the end of August,” Towarnicki said. “We are not cutting off customers until then. Likewise, there is no late penalty until then.”
He said those who have the ability to pay now but are forgoing payments, “are really digging a hole for themselves. Ultimately, you’re going to have to pay your bill.”
Vice mayor Chad Martin asked if the city was working on developing payment plans for struggling individuals.
“A condition of extending cutoffs until the end of August is that you come in and discuss a payment plan,” Towarnicki said. “If they don’t do that, then they will get cut off.”
“Our city is more than willing to set up a payment plan for people affected by COVID-19,” Mayor Kathy Lawson said.
Towarnicki said that the rate increase was expected to generate $550,000 in revenue. If the rate were to be delayed until August 31, he said the city would have to account for that revenue lost.
“We would have to chop two months out of that rate increase,” he said. Calculations suggested the city would lose an estimated $100,000 if the increase is delayed.
In other matters presented, city council:
*Received a presentation on the Martinsville City Police Department’s Annual Report for 2019. Police Chief Eddie Cassady said three employees retired during the year, and one position is currently open. Current staffing levels are 44 sworn officers and five civilian personnel. Last year, Martinsville police officers responded to more than 76,000 calls.
Lt. Sandy Hines discussed the types of crime the city experiences. He said violent crime increased by 17 cases in 2019; sexual assault cases also increased, which Hines attributed to more reporting. He said the area has also seen an increase in heroin incidents, and added that when crimes, such as distributing heroin increase, an increase in violent crime is also expected. Property crimes decreased by 128 in 2019, Hines said, adding that overall, there was a 20 percent decrease in total crimes.
Hines also addressed the department’s struggle to recruit more minority candidates. He said a primary reason from potential recruits is that they lack knowledge of the area. Turner suggested that the department work with “Move to Martinsville” to better market the area and increase recruit turnout.
*Adopted an ordinance concerning uptown refuse. Assistant City Manager and City Attorney Eric Monday said that there has been an issue with uptown business owners putting out trash the evening before, or sometimes, the Friday before, the scheduled trash collection. Moving forward, businesses are to put out trash the morning of collection, no later than 9:30 a.m. On designated holidays when trash collection will not occur, businesses are not to put out trash. Monday said any violation will result in a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. He said the first offense will “almost certainly” be a warning, but that it would likely will be a “three strikes and you are out” basis.
*Approved on second reading Ordinance 2020-2 establishing a local tax exemption for real estate owned by TheatreWorks Community Players, Inc.