Speeding, bridge focus of Chesapeake Council meeting

Published 9:07 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

Recall effort leader questions mayor’s accomplishments

CHESAPEAKE — The mayor and council heard from a few Chesapeake residents on Tuesday who said there has been an issue with speeding on village streets.

Those raising the issue said there has been an increase in drivers speeding on Second Avenue and Riverside Drive, especially in the mornings, during school hours.

The Rev. Chuck Case, of Chesapeake United Methodist Church, was one of those voicing a concern.

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“I’ve seen a drastic reduction in police cruisers on Second and Riverside,” he said.

Mayor Tommy Templeton acknowledged the need to address the issue and said the police department has “been tied up” with other issues, but said the village is planning to target those areas, with a focus on the hours school buses are running.

“We are going to start working on Second,” he said. “That’s been one of my pet peeves for years.”

In addition to increasing monitoring of traffic on those streets, Templeton said the village has also made plans to put up more speed limit signs in the problem areas.

Council member Paul Hart again raised the issue of the lack of lights on the Robert C. Byrd Memorial Bridge, connecting Chesapeake to Huntington, which is maintained by the West Virginia Department of Highways.

Hart said the lights on the bridge were last replaced in 1994.

“We need to send a letter to West Virginia to get lights put on the bridge,” he said, noting that the bridge had been hit by graffiti recently.

Templeton said he was talking to contacts in West Virginia to see if he could get action taken.
Resident Lisa Blake, who regularly attends council meetings, said she had spoken with an official in West Virginia in the past, who told her the lights were “out on the truck” to be installed, but had not given a timeframe.

The issue of blighted properties in the village was a point of discussion, with Templeton giving updates on properties demolished by the county’s land bank.

He said that in one case, a contractor had neglected to hire a flag crew, and that he and Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham, who serves as the land bank’s chair, donned vest and, along with a few others, had directed traffic during demolition work.

He said the council needs, in future meetings, to address blighted properties not covered by the land bank, by rewriting and customizing a property maintenance ordinance passed earlier this year, modeled after one in North Bend, Ohio. The council has hoped that the ordinance, which is a less costly route than beginning a zoning process, can be used to address the issue.

During the comments from visitors, the room heard from Judy Kinney, of Chesapeake, who has been leading an effort to collect signatures to trigger a recall election of Templeton. It was her first visit to a council meeting.

She addressed her question specifically to Templeton, asking “What are your three biggest accomplishments as mayor?”

Templeton did not provide an answer, stating, “We have business to take care of here.”

“Honey, this is business,” Kinney replied.

After Kinney repeated her question, council member Richard McMaster replied, “Well, the village is still rolling, isn’t it? And he doesn’t do anything unless we approve it.”

Hart then began a response, but was interrupted by Kinney, who said her question was for Templeton.

Kinney then said, “I need some answers,” and said she had lived in the village for four years and had been silent until now.

Hart told Kinney they were “glad to have you aboard. We need people with input.”

He then outlined the issues Chesapeake faces, financially.

“We’re taking a beating on parking tickets and speeding tickets and we don’t have a good way — Coal Grove, South Point and Proctorville have different ways with water and sewer to make revenue, and we don’t,” Hart said. “We’re relying on property taxes, which are increasing because of newer homes in the village. When you take a beating, it’s a Catch-22.”

Kinney said she appreciated Hart’s answer, but she wanted to know the mayor’s plans for the next two years in the village, stating he needed to “have a goal to accomplish something.”

“And obviously, he’s not going to answer me, right?” she said of Templeton.

“Right,” Templeton replied and said he would “make a note” of her questions.

“And when are you going to answer them,” Kinney asked.

“I’ll make a note of them,” Templeton replied.

Hart said the village has seen an increase in businesses. He said Chesapeake would never be a “money-making town,” but was an ideal residential location.

He said one residential issue the village has faced is a number of houses where older residents have died off and upkeep had not been done as property has been passed down.

Kinney said the village is “a laughingstock” because of issues such as drugs.

Danny Burd, who is running for council, was sitting near Kinney and asked if she could submit recommendations to the council, which Hart said he would also like to hear. He again stated the village has “a limited budget.”

“I can understand you explaining this, but he should be able to answer,” Kinney said of Templeton. “You shouldn’t have to answer for him.”

Hart said he was giving his perspective and said the village has seen increases in expenses, such as a clerk’s salary, audit costs, utility bills and insurance.

“So many things have changed that they’ve shoved on us, now it’s more like running a business, rather than a village and just having  ‘Mayberry USA’” Hart, who has served on council since 1983, said. “And I’ve witnessed that over the years.”

Kinney then asked “How come our officers do not have the proper equipment – their tires are going flat, batteries, they don’t even have the right radios in their vehicles?”

Templeton immediately took issue with Kinney’s premise.

“Where did you get that information?” he asked. ”That’s totally false. Absolutely false. You’re just here to cause trouble.”

“I am not,” she replied.

“You don’t know what kind of radios they have. Have you talked to anybody in the county?”

Templeton asked, then stated officers had two different types of radios in their car and adamantly stated that there was no issue.

Hart also said there was no problem with equipment, though the department occasionally faced maintenance issues.

“What other equipment are you taking about?” Templeton asked Kinney. “I’ll make sure we buy anything we can buy for the police department.”

“When you answer my questions, I’ll answer yours,” Kinney said.

“Well, you don’t have to answer mine. I’m not going to answer yours,” Templeton said. “I’m just going to let you know the facts.”

Kinney, who began the recall effort following the resignation of interim police chief Randy Lewis, has told The Tribune she expects to have enough signatures to meet the recall threshold and plans to run for mayor.

Following the comments from visitors, the council went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter. No action was taken.

In other business, the council:

• Agreed to sponsor the Chesapeake Area Citizens Coalition’s Octoberfest, set for Oct. 14. The sponsorship comes in the form of insuring the event.

• Heard from residents on the issue of noise caused by dumpster pick-up in the early morning hours and agreed to discuss the issue with the company responsible.

• Accepted minutes for the August meeting and agreed to pay bills, including $600 for an annual fee for a law enforcement data system which allows officers to run vehicle tags.

• Discussed the slip behind Monty’s Pizza, which was said to be worsening. Council member Paul Penix said Crusher Run, an aggregate mix, should be used to remedy the problem, rather than just using gravel.

• Discussed the replacement of the roof on the Chesapeake-Union Volunteer Department, which is expected to take place this month.

• Discussed a $100 donation, which Templeton said was made for the police department. He said the funds were put toward a cruiser battery, valued at $200, but which they were able to get a deal for $100 from the dealer.