Martinsville City Council recognized one of its own during a regular meeting Tuesday.
Chad Martin, now a former council member, was recognized for his seven years of service after resigning to accept a position in North Carolina.
Martin, whose final day was February 28, thanked his family, friends, City Manager Leon Towarnicki, and several others for their support and mentorship during his tenure.
“This job does not pay. There has to be some level of care for the community to stand up here and do this,” Martin said.
City Council members agreed to hold a preliminary hearing at the March 14 meeting for those interested in filling the vacancy.
An overview was given of Monday night’s Southside Community Meeting at Wesley Memorial Baptist Church. Residents voiced concerns about cars, utility trailers, abandoned homes, coyotes, and an out-of-service fire hydrant.
Vacant homes, abandoned cars, and trash were among the issues noted by council members during the tour.
Police Chief Rob Fincher said there has been a 21 percent reduction in crime in the southside area based on an analysis between January 2022 and January 2023.
“The leading crime we are having in the area is assaults,” said Fincher. He indicated that most of the assaults are domestic. He also encouraged southside residents to lock their car doors to prevent vehicle theft. In addition to those prevention measures, Fincher said the city will be divided into four zones. An officer will be assigned to each zone to help monitor specific crime trends or service trends to determine where additional resources may be needed. Local police are also using additional efforts to monitor traffic and areas of potential criminal activity.
At that meeting, an Oakgrove Avenue resident who identified herself as ‘Jane,’ broached the issue of abandoned vehicles along her street. Mayor L.C. Jones said that the issue would be investigated. Another resident was concerned about the impression that the abandoned vehicles make on potential residents of the city.
A Park Street resident who identified herself as ‘Gail,’ addressed an issue with a fire hydrant that has been bagged up for an extended time frame. “It concerns me,” she said.
Coyotes are an issue on Park Street, according to Betty Cannady, who said that some pets in the neighborhood were harmed.
“Coyotes are classified as wildlife and they are a nuisance animal,” Fincher said, adding that there are different regulations to remove coyotes and the locality is working with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for a solution. Fincher indicated that it is important for residents to be aware of potential food sources such as pet food which also attracts coyotes.
“The biggest concern is our pets because that is what they are going to target,” Fincher said, noting that it is rare for a coyote to attack a human.
Vice-Mayor Aaron Rawls addressed traffic as a concern in the city.
“Speeding is a big issue,” he said, adding that crosswalks are not properly recognized by motorists. There is a Transportation and Safety Committee, led by its chairman, Mike Sanguedolce, which hopes to resolve many traffic-related issues in the city and county as well. Sanguedolce was recently appointed to the committee.
Jones also noted officials are in the process of creating a Community Advisory Board which will deal with many of the specific issues addressed at the meeting.
At a meeting Tuesday, council member Tammy Pearson said the board will not be a replacement for residents reaching out to council members. Rather, the board will study ideas and bring potential solutions to the council.
“I think that is going to help this city council to make better decisions based on true citizen input and feedback,” Pearson said.
The board will serve as a liaison between the citizens and the council. It will consist of 8-10 members. Additional information will be available on the city website in the near future.
Noting the formation of a Martinsville Youth Advisory Board, Pearson said, “we want to give our youth the opportunity to engage in government and make sure their voices are being heard.” The board’s membership will be Martinsville High School students. The hope is that they will bring their issues as well as potential solutions to the council.
In other matters Tuesday, the council:
*Heard an update from the United Way about an eviction prevention program. Individuals who used the program were triaged based on need. Eighty-seven people requested help over the past year, and the program was able to serve 68, or about 78 percent of the total requests. A total of $119,000 was requested by those approved, and $92,000 was paid out, including $87,000 for rental assistance and $4,000 in utility assistance.
So far this year, the United Way has had requests from 58 people seeking help and has been able to provide intake through the eviction prevention program for 33. Statistically, there are 60 eviction cases each month in the area.
*City Resident James Dalton addressed several issues.
“Most of the time you report on the same houses, same cars,” he said and added that he feels the city gets involved in many larger projects whereas smaller ones go unnoticed. “I’ve got confidence in the council that we are going to do something different,” Dalton said.
Council member Kathy Lawson referred to Dalton as a great resource to the community.
Jones said Dalton’s frustration is shared among the council members.
“We have a plan to fix these issues,” Jones said.
In addition to The Community Advisory Board, the council hopes to create a reporting system where residents can indicate issues and track the progress.
*Council appointed three additional members to the Transportation and Safety Committee during Tuesday’s meeting. The committee will have its first meeting with the Martinsville Police Department at 10 a.m. on March 14.
*A Community Meeting for the West End area will be held on March 27.