By Carol Vaughn —
The Chincoteague Police Department was recognized for being fully accredited.
“These are agencies that are professional. These are agencies that want to do the best that they can do. … It takes a lot to be an accredited agency,” said Derrick Mays, program manager for the Virginia Center for Accreditation, a department of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice.
Mays presented the accreditation certificate to Police Chief R. K. Fisher at the Chincoteague Town Council meeting Monday.
Being accredited involves meeting 190 standards, according to Mays.
“When I can come in and send three people from anywhere in the Commonwealth to evaluate this police department and they walk out two or three days later with a smile on their face, that’s professionalism; that’s transparency,” Mays said, noting this is the Chincoteague Police Department’s third accreditation recognition, out of three assessments.
“We are really proud of our officers. They do an incredible job,” said Mayor J. Arthur Leonard.
Police Crash Investigation Equipment
Town Manager Mike Tolbert said Northampton County’s administrator plans to include in the Northampton County Board of Supervisors agenda a request to help pay for Virginia State Police equipment that would help speed up crash investigations on the Eastern Shore. Accomack, Chincoteague, and the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company already agreed to pay shares of the cost.
After a recent fatal crash on the Chincoteague causeway, delays in the crash scene investigation halted all access to Chincoteague for more than six hours.
New guidance about what items qualify to be paid for using federal funds coming to the town through the American Rescue Plan Act indicates projects that were part of the fiscal year 2021 budget but were delayed or cancelled due to the uncertainty of the pandemic could qualify for funding.
“We have a couple hundred thousand dollars of those” deferred projects, Tolbert said.
He listed nine projects in his report to Town Council, including a new boiler for the municipal building, fuel pumps for the Department of Public Works, paving Memorial Park’s parking lot, replacing and purchasing new needed equipment for the Police Department, a new high-rise lift pump, and fuel system upgrades at the harbor.
Additionally, spending for outdoor activities, such as parks, qualifies, he said.
“As you know, we are in the middle of building some parks. Any expenditures that we had between March 3, 2021, and December 31 of 2024 would qualify,” Tolbert said.
A committee will meet to consider uses of the ARPA money.
Causeway Improvements and Safety
The Accomack County Board of Supervisors and the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission have submitted letters to the Virginia Department of Transportation supporting Chincoteague’s request for a safety study of the Chincoteague Causeway and a realignment of project priorities for the causeway.
Restriping and installation of reflectors on the center line on the causeway are complete, but there is still a chance additional improvements the town requested, including edge line reflectors and center rumble strips, still could be approved, Tolbert said.
VDOT is continuing to make adjustments to traffic signals on Maddox Boulevard to improve traffic flow, he said.
Old Firehouse Leases
The town now has three tenants in the former Chincoteague firehouse on Main Street.
Chincoteague Island Community Cats and veterinarian Dr. Holly Kossuth each signed one-year leases for former office space. The Kiwanis Club signed a one-year lease for part of the first floor of the former town garage on the property, according to Tolbert.
Meals and Transient Occupancy Tax Collections Up
Revenue from meals taxes and transient occupancy taxes for July was up, “far exceeding the three-year average” by 42% and 61%, repectively, according to Tolbert’s report.
The town collected $194,520 in meals taxes and $293,886 in transient occupancy taxes in July, through July 27, compared to an average for the previous three years of $136,558 collected in July for meals taxes and $182,564 for transient occupany taxes.
“You can certainly see we are busy. We’re very busy,” Tolbert said.
Brianna Kindness Park Progress
All playground equipment has been installed at the Brianna Kindness Park and the playground should be complete by mid-August, after mulch and fencing is installed, according to Public Works Director Harvey Spurlock.
Bathrooms will be constructed at the park starting in September.
Virginia’s statewide 7-day positivity for COVID-19 testing as of Monday was 6%, up from as low as 1.4% at the end of June and the same as it was in June 2020, according to Chincoteague Emergency Services Coordinator Bryan Rush.
January 2021 was the high point to date, at a positivity rate of 16.7%.
“So it’s not time to panic by any means. … The real story is, COVID is out here. It’s still here. We said it was not going to go anywhere, although we were able to manage it,” Rush said, “…This is going to be one of those things now that we have to adapt to.”
In Virginia, the percentage of “breakthrough” cases — cases in which a vaccinated person becomes ill — is very low, less than 1% as of Monday.
Chincoteague has had 185 cases reported since the pandemic began, up 14 since July 14.
Wearing face coverings indoors is now recommended in Accomack County, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
The council approved purchasing a new trolley to replace a 2011 model. The town owns and operates three trollies. The cost is $168,746, of which $165,650 will be paid for through federal CARES Act funds. The balance will come from the town’s trolley capital account.
The old trolley will be sold as surplus.
The council last month asked staff to look into the possibility of providing on-demand trolley service for residents who need local transportation, after a resident suggested it.
Trolley Manager Larry Welsh said STAR Transit currently offers on-demand bus service with 24-hour advance notice.
Welsh and Tolbert recently met with STAR Transit representatives.
“This is moving forward. We have some opportunities to take a good look at what’s available. I think it would be nice to be able to partner. To offer a trolley to go and provide that kind of service would be very expensive. We need, in essence, something like Surfer Dude, which is the van we have. We’ve used that for transportation for people that have physical limitations,” Welsh said.
Investigation into costs and other details is ongoing.
The council voted to approve paying for a high-pressure compressor the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company needs to fill self-contained breathing apparatus air tanks for firefighters.
Because it is an urgent need, the council voted to immediately purchase the equipment with reserve funds, at a cost of $53,750, and to transfer the cost to be paid through ARPA funds if the project committee approves it.
The council approved merit raises for employees based on performance reviews. The average raise based on performance scores is 2.72%.
The council approved an ordinance setting the November general election date as the date for town elections, to comply with a new state law. Town elections previously were held in May.