By Brandon Martin
Martinsville is now officially a “Bee City” following the adoption of a resolution at a March 23 meeting to designate the city as a BEE CITY USA affiliate.
The Martinsville Garden Club and the Garden Study Club will handle the application and any related projects. The city may be requested to alter mowing schedules at certain locations, refrain from use of pesticides, or to provide spaces for native plantings intended to create and enhance pollinator habitat.
Cindy Edgerton, a member of the Martinsville Garden Club, said the designation is important.
“We’ve lost 40 percent of our insect pollinators and in 2018, we lost over five percent of our insect biomass,” Edgerton said. “Pollinators are responsible for 75 percent of our crops. A third of our food source comes pollinators. And 570 billion of our jobs are related to pollinators. Ninety-five percent of our flowers come from pollinators.”
Edgerton said the bumblebee is the most famous pollinator, but others like butterflies, beetles, wasp, flies, and perching birds also fall into the category.
The Xerces Society headed the movement globally in 2012 to designate localities as an affiliate of BEE CITY USA. Since its beginning, 98 cities have become affiliates.
Edgerton said only three of the bee cities are in Virginia, including Lynchburg.
Martinsville must apply online to become an affiliate and pay an application fee based on local population. Edgerton estimated the fee to be $200, but she added the fee would be paid by the Martinsville Garden Club and the Garden Study Club.
“It’s basically pledging to reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. And to think about your native plants when you are planting in city planning,” Edgerton said.
She added that a committee will be formed to bring in other nonprofits as advisory members.
“Suggestions of people that can be on the committee, and I suggest that we open it to the community, but we’ve got the Natural History Museum, we’ve got Honeybee Associations, there are master gardeners, naturalists, PHCC, NCI and high schools can have representations from clubs and majors that are related.”
The city will be able to advertise the affiliation with signage and online promotions.
In an unrelated matter, Eric Monday, city attorney and assistant city manager, clarified the city’s policy on electronic skill games.
“We’ve been dealing with them for about a decade now,” Monday said. “They have a convoluted history here in Virginia.”
Monday said the skill games were originally illegal in Virginia, being considered gambling devices. He said “they look remarkably like online slot machines.
“About a decade ago, they were legalized,” Monday said. “Virginia took advantage of North Carolina’s de-legalization of these devices. In the following year, North Carolina re-legalized them and we de-legalized them.”
Monday said that was the state’s decision until 2020 when “the state re-legalized them, but they are going to be de-legalized” in the summer of 2022.
A local ordinance prohibits the devices in the city, Monday said.
“They are simply not allowed under our zoning ordinance,” he said. “That remains the law here in the city regardless of if the state allows this. That’s in all areas of the city.”
Monday said owners of commercial establishments can lobby council members to agree to change the zoning ordinance, if it is desired. Private clubs can also seek a waiver.
In other matters, the council:
*Honored local resident Delia Bowman Martin with a proclamation in celebration of her 100th birthday.
Martin was born March 25, 1921 and is a longtime resident of the Martinsville-Henry County community, previously working for Pannill Knitting Company for many years. She has four surviving children and three stepchildren, nine grandchildren, and sixteen great grandchildren. Martin is a long-time member of Stone Memorial Christian Church.
Members of Martin’s family were present at the meeting to receive the proclamation on her behalf.
Danny Turner and Mayor Kathy Lawson plan to visit Martin.
*Presented a proclamation recognizing the week of April 4–10, 2021 as National Library Week. Betsy Haskins, Marty Gardner and Margaret Caldwell, members of the Blue Ridge Regional Library Board of Trustees attended the meeting to receive recognition during the proclamation.
“We appreciate the relationship with the city,” Haskins said. “It is so powerful, it is so long-standing and having different relationships is what makes us strong. It really touches my heart. This means so much to us and we really appreciate it.”
Caldwell said the library is currently open on an appointment-basis and curbside delivery is available.
*Read a proclamation recognizing the week of March 28–April 3, 2021, as National Boys & Girls Club Week. Joanie Petty, chief executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, attended the meeting to accept the proclamation.
Nine different local schools have participants in the club that is primarily run by volunteers.
Petty said the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge was one of two clubs in the state to open since August 2020 during the pandemic. It was also one of 24 clubs to open nationwide.
She added that the club received a $100,000 donation designated for a rural club.
*Heard from City Manager Leon Towarnicki about changes to publication of meetings streamed via MGTV. Previously, the city council meetings could be found on the city website, which is linked to its Youtube account. Towarnicki said “for whatever reason” the platform dropped the city’s account. To address the matter, Towarnicki said videos have since been moved to a new format called Vimeo. Only videos from 2018 will be available due to lost footage.
Additionally, a switcher for MGTV has become faulty, according to Towarnicki. The function allows the city to feed council meetings into the MGTV stream throughout the day. Without the switcher, Towarnicki said meetings will be streamed live with replays available on the city website.
*Set the next reversion work session for Wed., April 14 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The next budget presentation has been moved until May 11 with a first reading scheduled for May 25. A second reading and approval will be held June 8. City council will hold a joint session with the school board on May 18. Three additional work sessions will be held between May 12-20.