By Carol Vaughn —
The Chincoteague town council is accepting applications from anyone interested in serving on the council to fill the seat vacated when Matthew Reed resigned.
The person must be a full-time Chincoteague resident and a registered voter in Chincoteague.
The appointee will fill the seat until a special election can be held in May.
Reed’s term was to expire June 30, 2022.
Anyone interested in applying may obtain an application from the town website or call the town office at 757-336-6519.
Water Supply Update
Town Manager Mike Tolbert at the council’s Jan. 4 meeting said 89% of real estate and personal property taxes due Dec. 7 have been collected. Late penalties and interest are being applied to the remaining bills not paid, he said.
All operational testing of the new filtration plant for the town’s water supply have been completed. Test results for treated samples show no detectable PFAS, the chemicals for which the filtration was put in place.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were identified in April 2017 in Chincoteague’s drinking water, which comes from wells on the mainland.
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 are traced to a foam that contained PFAS used at a former fire-fighting training area at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility main base.
The filtration system is owned and operated by NASA.
“I informed NASA on Dec. 10 that the town of Chincoteague will now accept treated water from the GAC filtration plant into our distribution system,” Tolbert said in his report.
A NASA project manager later notified Tolbert that the operations contractor prefers to start operations at the plant only after an official certificate of operations is received from the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water. The office has given verbal approval.
Tolbert said it could be several months “before the paperwork catches up to the field work and we actually begin using the shallow wells again.”
Monitoring and testing of the water supply to ensure safety will continue once the filtration plant is up and running.
CARES Act Update
The town has received all equipment to be paid for with federal CARES Act funds, including traffic display boards, a new dispatch system, and no-touch hand dryers and soap dispensers for public restrooms, according to Tolbert.
Accomack County has reimbursed the town for all funds it expended for the CARES Act program.
That amount totaled nearly $504,000 in two rounds of funding.
Of the total, $340,000 went for grants to small businesses; $12,000 went to extra business awards; nearly $40,000 went for hazard pay for workers; and $46,000 went to assist waterman affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
December collections for meals tax was considerably behind the amount collected in December 2019 — $28,788 in December 2020 versus $47,266 in December 2019.
Still, transient and occupancy taxes collected in December totaled nearly $40,989, just slightly less than the $41,166 collected in December 2019, according to Tolbert.
COVID-19 State of Emergency Update
Chincoteague’s emergency medical services personnel are transporting more COVID-19 patients by ambulance than at any time during the pandemic.
“Now it’s a daily thing,” said Bryan Rush, director of emergency services.
The department is “going through a lot of gloves, gowns, masks, face shield, and head coverings,” he said, noting staff have to decontaminate after each ambulance call.
Chincoteague as of Monday had 15 new cases in the past week, for a total of 93 since the pandemic began.
Rush said the weekly number represents the largest weekly increase in cases to date for the town.
Virginia’s 15.8% seven-day positivity testing rate is the highest yet seen, and jumped 3.5% in the past week.
Rush said the increase “is certainly concerning…The second wave is here. It’s worse than the first wave and we still have a ways to go.”
Chincoteague had 84 tested in the past week and has an around 17.5% test positivity rate as of Monday.
Phase 1A of vaccinations on Chincoteague began Dec. 21 with frontline healthcare workers.
Chincoteague EMS personnel are staggering when they get vaccinated so if there are adverse reactions not all will experience them at the same time.
The second vaccine doses for those Chincoteague workers will begin Jan. 11.
All Chincoteague workers so far have received the Pfizer vaccine, which requires a second dose at 21 days after the first.
The town is preparing for the next phase of vaccinations, including police, firefighters, teachers, and water and wastewater workers, among others.
“Those folks in the next four to six weeks will be eligible to start their first round of shots,” Rush said.
Rush said “the public is the key right now” as to how the pandemic progresses, urging people to stay away from group settings, wash their hands, wear a mask, and watch social distancing.