Town of Exmore Basks in Fiscal Health, Considers ‘Road Diet’

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By Stefanie Jackson – Exmore officially has more than $3 million in the bank, and at Monday night’s town council meeting Mayor Douglas Greer thanked everyone who helped the town reach its goal, including the council, the police department, and every town employee.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart, because I can remember when we had nothing, I mean nothing. And that has seriously changed,” Greer said.

“It’s a team effort here. There’s no one person that’s running this rodeo. … I just thank each and every one of you.”

Town Manager Robert Duer said “it’s been fun” getting Exmore to the $3 million mark.

That doesn’t mean Exmore has no financial woes. The town’s sewer system needs a major overhaul that will cost millions, and even with a hefty sum in savings, Exmore will still have to borrow money to get it done.

But Duer is confident the town can handle the financing. If Exmore gets 900 customers for its sewer system – and it has nearly that many now – for every $1 million the town borrows, it will cost an extra $5 on each household’s monthly sewer bill, he said.

For example, if Exmore borrowed $4 million, households would pay $20 per month to build the infrastructure in addition to about $69 per month the Hampton Roads Sanitation District would charge to provide sewer service, Duer said.

The town may be able to obtain a 0% interest loan from the Department of Environmental Quality for the project, he added.

That would give Exmore twice the borrowing power and reduce the extra charge on each monthly sewer bill from potentially $20 to $10.

Last month, Duer proposed replacing the public works department’s old pickup truck with a smaller, less costly lightweight utility vehicle.

Employees said they would prefer a standard pickup truck, so they will get Director of Utilities and Zoning Administrator Taylor Dukes’ “hand-me-down” work truck when it is replaced during the next budget cycle, saving $10,000.

“Might as well give them something they’re going to work with than something we think they need,” Duer said.

The council passed Exmore’s budget for fiscal year 2020, totaling around $2.1 million, with a surplus of about $13,000.

The council also voted to accept a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help pay for a new trash truck.

No certified police officers answered Exmore’s job advertisement, so Police Chief Angelo DiMartino selected the most qualified applicant to attend the police academy for training, Tyler Hinman.

Duer called the decision an example of “management by solution, not excuse.”

Dukes relayed a request from the owner of the former Sage Restaurant for financial assistance to demolish the building that closed after a fire nearly four years ago.

The owner estimated the demolition will cost $25,000.

Council members agreed the building needs to be torn down. Duer noted if the town condemns the building, it will have to tear down the structure and sue the owner for the cost of the demolition.

In either case, Exmore will have to spend money to remove the structure. Duer suggested offering 10% of the demolition costs or $2,500, whichever is less. Councilman Thomas Lewis made the motion that passed with one “no” vote.

The town council will consider putting Exmore on a “road diet” – narrowing travel lanes to make room for a new improvement. In Exmore’s case, the improvement would be a bicycle lane along most of Main Street and Willis Wharf Road.

Duer recommended making a memorial donation to Virginia Beach’s public works department to honor the victims of the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach municipal building May 31.

Councilman Chase Sturgis suggested donating $1,200 to represent the 12 people who died. The motion passed unanimously.