Chincoteague Council Meets: Chamber Announces Business Person, Citizen of the Year Awards

Valerie Tolbert, 2020 John White Shields Citizen of the Year, with Benjy Holloway, Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce President. Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce photo.

By Carol Vaughn —

The Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce announced its 2020 awards for citizen and business person of the year during the Chincoteague Town Council meeting Monday.
Sue Johnson, owner of Blue Crab Treasures on Main Street, was selected as the Leonard “Buddy” Burton Business Person of the Year.
Johnson has been a Main Street merchant for more than five years and is a staunch supporter of downtown businesses, according to a press release.

Sue Johnson, 2020 Leonard “Buddy” Burton Business Person of the Year, with Benjy Holloway, Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce President. Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce photo..

She is a member of the Historic Main Street Merchants’ Association and coordinates many activities including the annual Search for the Shamrocks.
Johnson supports local artisans by offering their items in her store, according to the nomination ballot received from a frequent customer, who said she is quick to inform customers of events and activities on the island to encourage participation and attendance. Johnson is an avid horse lover and supports fundraising efforts of the Chincoteague Legacy Group, The Feather Fund, and the Chincoteague Pony Rescue by selling their items in her shop.
“Sue is one person who loves this community. … That is a well deserved award,” said Councilwoman Denise Bowden.
Valerie Tolbert was awarded the John White Shields Citizen of the Year Award.
“A good citizen is a smiling citizen,” Holloway said in presenting the award.
While raising two active boys, she and husband, Mike, built and operated a very successful family business, Sunrise Motor Inn, according to the release.
Now Tolbert enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren while still remaining active in the community.
She has been involved in PTA at both Chincoteague Elementary and Chincoteague Combined Schools over the years, as well as storytelling at Chincoteague Elementary School, serving as chairman of the After Prom Committee, and numerous fundraising positions.
Tolbert has held positions on the board of trustees and administrative board of Christ United Methodist Church and has been a volunteer for Manna Café since its inception.
She also brings cheer to nursing home residents with regular visits and gifts and helps at the polls on election day.
“There are so many people she has touched on the island with her warm smile,” according to her nomination ballot.
“You really know how to touch people,” Bowden said to Tolbert.
Water Supply Update
The Virginia Department of Health inspected and approved the filtration plant NASA Wallops Flight Facility built for Chincoteague’s water supply, which comes from wells on the mainland, Town Manager Mike Tolbert said.
The town also is requiring operational testing of the plant to verify its effectiveness when used on a typical schedule.
The town has approved the testing protocol proposed by NASA, but the tests have not yet been scheduled, Tolbert said.
The filtration system is designed to remove PFAS, a chemical that had been detected in Chincoteague’s water previously.
PFAS are man-made industrial chemicals manufactured since the 1940s that are persistent in the environment and in the human body.
In the case of Chincoteague’s drinking water, they were traced to a foam used at a former fire-fighting training area at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility main base.
After discovering in 2017 that four of Chincoteague’s seven production wells tested positive for PFAS at above the EPA’s health advisory level, those wells were taken out of service and NASA began supplementing the town’s drinking water with water from the Wallops Flight Facility main base.
As a longer-term solution, NASA is installing the filtration system, which will enable Chincoteague to use its shallow wells for production, according to NASA.
CARES Act Grants
The town has given out 34 applications for a second round of grants to small businesses and watermen, funded by the federal CARES Act.
Applications became available for pick up at the town office on Sept. 24 and continue to be available.
Completed applications may be submitted starting Oct. 6 at 10 a.m.
Awards will be made on a first-come, first-served basis starting the week of Oct. 12.
“We are hopeful that we will have a lot more people will apply,” Tolbert said.
Eligible businesses and watermen could receive grants of $4,000 each.
Chincoteague is receiving another $281,961 in a second round of federal CARES Act funding from Accomack County.
The money is to be used for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the grants and other items, some of the funds went for hazard pay pof $2 per hour for employees whose duties required them to be in close contact with potentially positive cases between March 1 and June 30.
Two long-time town employees, Finance Director Karen Hipple and Building and Zoning Administrator Kenny Lewis, recently retired.
The town hired ling-time employee Kelly Lewis to fill the position of finance director and Mark Bowden as building and zoning administrator. Bowden has 26 years’ experience working in the Accomack County Building Department, most recently as deputy director.
EMS and COVID-19 Update
The Chincoteague Emergency Medical Services Division in September had 74 EMS responses, nine more than the same month in 2019.
“And 2019 was our busiest year on record,” Rush said.
The department is still working to get additional personal protective equipment, in particular large N-95 masks.
After reporting changes, 30 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Chincoteague ZIP code.
That includes around eight to nine active cases at present, Rush said.
In all, 604 people in the 23336 ZIP code have been tested for COVID-19.
“We are on day 209” of the town’s state of emergency, according to Rush.


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