By Brandon Martin
The City of Martinsville entered into an agreement to participate in the statewide Virginia Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (VA WARN).
As part of the agreement, the city will participate in a mutual aid agreement with other areas of Virginia to allow for the emergency use of public and private water/wastewater utilities.
Emergency assistance can be in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and other associated services as necessary from other water and wastewater utilities. It allows for rapid, short-term deployment of emergency services to restore the critical operations of the impacted utility.
Mike Kahle, director of water resources, said surrounding localities have Public Service Authorities associated with VA WARN already, including Pittsylvania and Franklin counties.
“I think it’s a good idea” for the city to also be affiliated with the group, he said, and reiterated that water exchanges are not part of the agreement.
“There’s no way we could transfer enough water for it to do anybody any good without the plans already being in place anyway,” Kahle said.
City Manager Leon Towarnicki said that if a catastrophic weather event happened and a nearby water plant was forced to shut down for “a week or two” and “we have excess water capacity and we are still up and running” then “we could end up transferring water to a community for a week or two weeks under an emergency basis.”
Towarnicki said the agreement also allows the city to call on other localities should an emergency happen locally.
Kahle said emergency aid would not affect the quality of the water for Martinsville residents.
In an unrelated matter, Kahle noted that after a water break, door hangers were placed on some homes advising residents to boil water for two days.
“We had a break Friday (April 9) morning. We had a fire early on Lanier, and when water was opened to fight the fire, it caused an air hammer and broke the line,” Kahle said. “The Virginia Department of Health requires us, when we have a break, to do boil water notices. They need to be localized or city wide.”
In this instance, Kahle said notice was localized.
“The notices were handed out south from Whittle Road all the way to Forest Park. It did not go to Knollwood,” Kahle said.
Mayor Kathy Lawson said “somebody on Mulberry” had passed along the notice to a person who contacted city council, but Kahle said that person was not affected by the boil notice.
“They probably experienced some low water pressure, but they never lost service and they did not need to boil,” he added.
Council Member Tammy Pearson asked for staff to look at more ways to advertise when these types of events occur.
“Put it on the website,” Pearson said. “Kind of like an emergency notice or something to that effect so that” the website could serve as a resource for residents. “I think maybe, just take our communication to yet another level.”
Kahle said he is researching apps that would provide real-time updates for customers.
In other matters, city council:
*Read a proclamation recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Ricky Walker, director of Focus on Youth/CASA, discussed the problem of child abuse and the role of his organizations.
“We support what the volunteer advocates do,” he said. “They get out and reach those families and coordinate what they need, making sure they navigate through the court system and get everything they need while they do that. We are trying to ensure the best outcome for the family and the child.”
In partnership with the Exchange Club, Walker helped plant flags with pinwheels at the entrance of Roselawn Cemetery, which is the symbol for the month.
*Read a proclamation recognizing April 18, 2021 as National Lineman Appreciation Day. The proclamation specifically recognizes the city’s electric linemen Daniel Morrison, Jimmy Rigney, Austin Johnson, Brian Collins, Chase Cooper, Kyle Fulkerson, Bryar Turner, Austin Shumate, Curt Compton, Jimmy Blankenship, Tim Agee, Ryan Emberson, Brandon Martin, and Todd McCrickard.
“Everybody from our meter readers to our linemen would like to thank y’all for taking time to recognize us this month for all of our hard work,” Rigney said. “We are doing everything we can to upgrade our infrastructure and I hope we are making you proud.”
Council Member Chad Martin said he is appreciative of the work of the city’s electric department.
“I love what you all do,” he said. “There is nothing that we can do that would be able to compensate for it, especially with pay. I wish to God that we could give you a raise but, of course, we don’t have the money to, but you all are amazing.”
*Adopted a resolution committing the city to certain in-kind contributions related to the Pine Hall Road Community Development Block Grant Project application to the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development.
The total project is estimated to cost $1.8 million, with the grant request being $1.2 million and the balance being in-kind and private investment. The city’s in-kind investment in previous block grant projects has typically consisted of street/roadway improvements, paving, curb & gutter/sidewalk, and storm drainage, as well as administrative costs. The same will apply to this project.