Cheriton Council Debates Future of Town Policing, Discusses Drainage

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By Stefanie Jackson
Since former Cheriton Police Chief Marc Marshall was the sole member of the town’s police force when his contract was terminated in late September following accusations of misconduct, the police department was rendered inactive.
For the last three months, the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office has been under contract providing all police coverage in Cheriton, and deputies have written 105 traffic tickets there, generating approximately $18,500 in revenue for the town.
“I wish it had been more revenue,” Mayor Larry LeMond said, but he added that Cheriton paid the sheriff’s department only $3,600 for its service, meaning the town earned five dollars for every dollar it invested.
LeMond wanted council members to consider the expenses and revenue associated with the contract when deciding what to do with the town police car that remains parked and has a dead battery from not being driven in four months.
“It’s an asset of $35,000 sitting right outside the door here, doing nothing,” he said.
Because the police car is not being used, “it’s not an asset, it’s a liability,” Councilwoman Norma Spencer countered. She recommended selling the vehicle and all related police equipment.
Councilwoman Jackie Davis reminded her peers that they had previously discussed possibly sheltering the police car under cover until a final decision could be made about the vehicle’s fate.
LeMond added that Sheriff David Doughty is “definitely” interested in buying the police car when he hires a new deputy in early 2019.
Councilman Barry Downing agreed that “we should get rid of it,” and Councilman Robert Lewis favored selling the car to the sheriff’s department.
Councilman Matthew Yancy agreed with selling the car as long as the council wouldn’t be “closing the door” on possibly reactivating the police department.
LeMond suggested keeping the money made from selling the police car in a separate account instead of putting it in the general fund.
Drainage Issues
The mayor, council members, town staff, and residents discussed Cheriton’s drainage issues and who is responsible for maintaining its ditches.
The discussion centered on poor drainage at Cheriton United Methodist Church, situated between Sunnyside Road to the north and Wilson Road to the south. Both roads connect to Business Route 13 to the west.
On the east side of the property runs a drainpipe that was buried in 2003 or 2004 when the ditch that was there was deemed a safety hazard and filled in.
Town Clerk Stacy Salenski contacted Dale Pusey at the Virginia Department of Transportation to determine who is responsible to maintain the drainpipe.
VDOT maintains the culverts on Sunnyside Road and Wilson Road, but not the drainpipe by the church because VDOT has no right-of-way there, creating a liability, Salenski said.
Town Code Official Warren Wisneski said, “VDOT, a couple years ago, just decided they weren’t doing maintenance on private property anymore because, apparently, of some lawsuits,” and “everything reverted to the original homeowners.”
VDOT began publishing brochures as early as 2013 stating that “property owners are responsible for the maintenance of drainage facilities on their private property.”
Downing asked, “You have a piece of property and a ditch runs through … and is owned by the town, and it drains the whole town. … VDOT gives up cleaning that ditch anymore so the landowner becomes responsible for the town’s drainage ditch, is that what you’re saying?”
Lemond said, “If the ditch he’s referring to drains most of Cheriton, a lot of Cheriton, then this council and this town have a responsibility for the common good.”
Wisneski said, “If the town council wishes to take care of it … I don’t know of anything stopping you.”
Cheriton’s annual budget includes $20,000 for drainage projects.
LeMond recommended further discussion of the matter at a later date.