By Carol Vaughn —
Evelyn Shotwell, director of the Chincoteague Island Chamber of Commerce, thanked the town council and staff for everyone’s help during the Oyster Festival.
“It was a great success and the first big event that we’ve had since COVID, and everything seemed to go very well,” she said.
Julie Brommer of Chincoteague Island Community Cats said a weekend Trap-Neuter-Release clinic in October had more than 35 volunteers participating; despite the last-minute unavailability of a veterinary clinic to spay/neuter the cats, 64 cats were vaccinated for rabies and seven cats were spayed or neutered through the help of Wicomico Humane Society.
Additionally, Brommer last weekend distributed 400 pounds of pet food provided by a Pennsylvania humane organization to Manna Cafe and colony caregivers.
Accomack County Supervisor Billy Joe Tarr told the Town Council that after redistricting done according to the 2020 U.S. Census numbers, Election District 1 for the first time will include part of the mainland as well as Chincoteague Island.
Tarr attributed the change to an increase in part-time residents, who own a home on Chincoteague but are counted for the census at their primary residence.
Tarr said Accomack County will receive around $240,000 of $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds going to Virginia tourism.
The amount will be split among Chincoteague, Onancock, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Town Manager’s Report
Curtis Merritt Harbor has had record fuel sales for the first part of Fiscal Year 2022, according to Town Manager Mike Tolbert.
Gross sales since July 1 totalled just over $206,000, with nearly 71,000 gallons sold, compared to 163,713 gallons sold in all of the previous fiscal year.
Additionally, in Fiscal Year 2021, the harbor had a 57% increase in gallons sold over the previous two years.
The next available fuel sales for mariners going south for the winter season is 75 miles away, making Curtis Merritt Harbor a popular fuel stop, he said.
Twenty-eight children participated in the third annual Harbor Master’s Fishing Tournament Saturday, Oct. 16 at the harbor. Fishing poles and bait were provided and captains from the Chincoteague Charter Boat Association were on hand to lend their fishing expertise.
Additionally, Police Chief R.K. Fisher brought a police car and Virginia Marine Resources officers sailed a patrol boat into the harbor for the children to tour.
Four legal-size flounder were caught, including two by Alyson Bowden.
Tolbert thanked Harbor Master Vernon Meritt for organizing the event.
“They had lunch. They all got a T-shirt and everybody had a real good time,” Tolbert said, adding, “This continues to be for the third year now a well-attended event.”
Transient occupancy tax collections for October increased 17% over last October and now have exceeded the total Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
Meals tax collections for October were up about 7% over last year.
Tolbert reported at least four individuals toured the old firehouse in October with the intention of renting spaces there.
The building and zoning department issued 36 building permits and conducted 51 inspections last month.
Additionally, a derelict structure on Sea Bird Drive, in Ocean Breeze, was demolished.
“There are a few more on our radar that will be coming up in the next few months — structures that either have to be repaired or taken down because they’ve been deemed unsafe,” Tolbert said.
Police Chief R.K. Fisher reported the police department in October made 10 arrests with 16 charges as result of investigations into criminal offenses.
The public works department is continuing construction of restrooms and other facilities at Brianna’s Kindness Park and is making dock repairs at Curtis Merritt Harbor, among other activities, according to Director of Public Works Harvey Spurlock.
Chincoteague EMS responded to 91 calls in October, 22 more than the same month last year, according to Director of Emergency Services Bryan Rush.
Chincoteague had a spike in COVID-19 cases in October, with 32 cases. Chincoteague had five additional cases reported in the week since Oct. 25, for a total of 261 during the pandemic.
The surge in cases appears to be subsiding, with the statewide seven-day test positivity rate down to 5.5% as of Nov. 1, down from 8.5% at the beginning of October, according to Rush.
ARPA Project Selection Committee gets underway
A committee to help select projects to be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act met for the first time Oct. 6.
Mayor J. Arthur Leonard said the committee “resolved that at the top of the list — we’d heard from the public — they wanted septic to be the top issue.”
“It’s a lot of money to be juggled,” he said, noting the committee will meet again soon.
Chincoteague has received $1.491 million, which is the first payment of the total amount of $2.982 million the town is to receive from the federal government.
The town has until Dec. 31, 2023, to commit the funds.