By Carol Vaughn —
Parksley officials voted Monday to hold a special election Nov. 3 to fill the town council seat left vacant when former council member Frank Russell was elected mayor earlier this year.
The deadline for candidates to file for the election is Friday, Aug. 14.
To register as a candidate, go to the Accomack County registrar’s office at 24387 Joynes Neck Road at the entrance to Sawmill Park in Accomac.
The council meeting for the first time was broadcast on radio, at 89.7 FM.
The council also voted to revert to the town’s previous practice, prior to July 2019, of not charging churches for town water, a measure Parksley Baptist Church Pastor Mark Layne asked for several times over the past few months.
Research failed to show that council had voted to charge churches for town water; it is unclear how the change came about, according to the discussion.
Additionally, officials will review how many 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations other than churches are in town, with a view to considering whether or not to continue charging those organizations for water.
One such organization is the Eastern Shore Railway Museum.
The council also voted to go back to calling a fee added to residents’ water bill a debris charge, rather than a solid waste charge.
Council members voted 4-1 to approve the fiscal year 2021 budget. Councilman Ricky Taylor voted against it, saying he did not have enough information to vote in favor.
New employees are working in the town office, after several employees resigned in recent days.
“We made the decision to keep the town running,” Taylor said, noting seven people applied and were interviewed and two were hired.
“We did what we thought was best for this town,” he said.
Taylor, who with Councilwoman Dana Bundick was appointed to the personnel committee, defended hiring an employee for full-time work after a part-time position was advertised, saying it was necessary to keep the town office open after former employees resigned.
The new hires discovered a personnel policy manual in the office, he said. It had not been known that the town had one.
The police chief informed Taylor the police department also has a policy manual, which Taylor said he plans to look at.
Taylor, one of two new council members elected in May, said he has some changes to recommend to the personnel policy and plans to bring the policy to the council for consideration as soon as next month.
“They need to be put into place as soon as possible,” he said of the policies, which he said need to be “all-encompassing,” including policies for drug use, background checks, and social media, among other items.
Councilman Dan Matthews said all 19 businesses participating in facade improvements as part of a town revitalization grant project have submitted the required paperwork. Architects are putting together their final version of the facade improvements for businesses’ review, he said.
The council agreed to contact the owner of the property where Parksley Middle School formerly stood to discuss possible uses for the property.
Councilwoman Dana Bundick said a resident contacted her about the idea of building ballfields there and having the town host traveling baseball league tournaments.
Councilman John Carter Taylor reported a project to repair or replace fire hydrants, at a cost of around $66,000, was essentially complete, and that one hydrant was used to help fight a recent house fire on Bennett Street.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time in many years all of our fire hydrants are working like they are supposed to,” Russell said.
Russell will consult with the Accomack County finance director about federal CARES Act funding and how to get it to Parksley businesses. The town was allocated around $70,000, according to Accomack County Supervisor Paul Muhly.
One item neither council members nor members of the public brought up during the meeting was the status of the Confederate monument in town.
An Aug. 3 announcement on the town Facebook page said town attorney Thomas Dix after extensive research had determined “that the Town of Parksley does not, and has never owned the Civil War Monument. Due to this clarification from our legal counsel, the public hearing to discuss the sale of the property has been canceled.”
A deed recorded in 1903 says the lot was sold for $1 by the Parksley Land and Improvement Company to the Harmanson-West Camp, Confederate Volunteers.
The council had voted in June to to sell the Confederate monument and land to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
An online fundraiser has raised $12,840 to make an offer to the town to purchase the monument and the land on which it stands, with a view to “to erect the very first monument to Black persons on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, one of the oldest communities in the United States” there.
No one spoke about the matter during a public comment period.