By Carol Vaughn —
Onancock was not awarded a grant it had applied for to pay for improvements to the northeast section, in part because the town did not prove enough residents of the neighborhood had low enough income to meet grant requirements, Mayor Fletcher Fosque said at the July 26 Town Council meeting.
Council members agreed the town should apply again for the grant in the next cycle.
The grant would have paid for sidewalks, removing derelict buildings, rehabilitating houses, streetlights, and drainage improvements.
“If anybody has driven through the district, you know there are about six or seven houses that are really in rough shape,” Fosque said.
The town a few years ago purchased property and removed one derelict building, at a cost of around $13,000.
The town still owns the parcel.
Council member Sarah Nock asked if the town could create a rolling fund by selling the parcel and putting the proceeds towards the cost of addressing other derelict buildings.
The council voted to list for sale the parcel the town owns at 9 Watson St.
Fosque asked whether the council wants to do something about other derelict buildings in the neighborhood in the meantime.
“There are a lot of options. Do we want to look into that or do we just want to sit around and wait for the grant to come back?” he said.
Council member Joy Marino said it is important to let residents know the town did not get the grant, after two years of meetings by a committee.
She said $90,000 was allotted in the grant application to address building blight, and if the town is going to address blight, the amount could be redirected to other needs in a future grant application.
“My thinking is, we worked with the committee to come up with the needs that need to be addressed in the neighborhood. I think we need to hear from the northeast neighborhood of now what their thinking is,” she said, adding, “…We need to ask the committee, do they want to re-apply, do they want to keep this $90,000 into the grant to take care of this problem.”
Margie Spangler of Northern Accomack Community Cats, a non-profit group that offers a low-cost spay and neuter program for outside, free-roaming cats — referred to as community cats — spoke during the public comment period.
The group does trap-neuter-release, which means the spayed or neutered cats are returned to their original location.
“We just want people to be aware that we are here; we are here to help them with their outside cats. We do outside cats only, because that’s where the need is at,” she said.
The group in its first year, starting in March 2020, spayed or neutered 149 cats. In five months this year, since March 2021, it has spayed or neutered around 160 cats.
“What we are asking for is for you to let the community know we are here,” Spangler said.
The group offers to spay or neuter a cat for $25, which includes a rabies vaccine and ear tipping.
“The more people can get these cats spayed and neutered, the better the population will be for the cats and the residents,” she said.
In September, the Virginia Beach SPCA will come to do another spay and neuter event with the group.
“It takes a lot of money to do this. … I would like to see the town of Onancock set a precedent for the rest of the towns … by possibly making a donation to us, and that way we can let the other towns and even Accomack County know, this is what Onancock is doing to help their residents, help with the feral cat situation,” Spangler said.
The group so far has spayed or neutered 33 cats from Onancock and just received colony registrations for another 20 to 30 cats in town that need to be spayed or neutered.
Council member Maphis Oswald said the parking lot behind town hall “is a prime example” of a place where cats congregate.
Resident Priscilla Hart also spoke during public comment, saying Sue Burdge of the Eastern Shore Animal Control Facility told her about Northern Accomack Community Cats.
Through the organization, Hart was able to get three cats neutered or spayed in June.
“We didn’t really know what else we were going to do until we found this organization. … They helped us immediately,” she said, adding, “It really does work.”
Adam James, Onancock Volunteer Fire Dept. fire chief, updated the council on the fire department.
The department in 2020 answered 246 calls requiring fire engine response (including fires, accidents, and the like) and 978 emergency medical services calls.
So far this year, the department answered 144 engine runs and 615 EMS calls.
The department now runs three ambulances instead of the former two.
The department recently replaced a 1993 tanker that carried two people with a new, $549,900 one that carries four people.
The department recently was awarded a rescue squad assistance grant, with a 20% match, that will help pay for a new ambulance to replace an aging one.
“That was huge for us. Ambulances now run about $200,000,” James said.
Several other grant awards will pay for needed medical equipment.
The department is required to replace airpacks for the self-contained breathing apparatus firefighters use by the expiration date, March 2022, at a cost of $198,000. The department has applied for a FEMA grant to assist with the cost.
“Things are pretty busy. We are like any other volunteer organization; we’d love to have more members; we need more members,” James said.
Town Election Date Changed
The council approved a state-mandated change moving the date of town elections from May to November.
Wastewater Plant Update
Town Manager Spuck reported he signed the agreement to sell the town’s wastewater treatment plant to Hampton Roads Sanitation District, after the council previously authorized him to do so.
Four town employees at the plant will be transferred to working for HRSD, likely in late August.