Leon Towarnicki

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki talked about the process of Community Development Block Grant for areas in the city.

The collection of information for the 2020 census will begin in April – but the time to apply for census jobs is now.

That was the message that came from Tuesday’s meeting of the Martinsville City Council, when U.S. Census Partnership Specialist Michael Stowers told council members that it is important to encourage citizens to respond to the census survey. Because “$675 billion in federal aid rides on a complete count,” he said.

Martinsville and surrounding areas have had a low response rate to the census, he said, and his role is to improve area response to these 10-year surveys.

The census will kick off in April, he said, but “you will hear ‘census’ a lot in the media” starting in January.

Temporary workers are being sought, Stowers said, and pay ranges from $13.50 to $15 an hour. The jobs would end by September.

“There are lots of slots to fill, and the jobs pay well,” he said.

People interested in applying may do so by visiting 2020census.gov/en/jobs.

Pine Hall Project

Tuesday’s meeting included part of the process of reapplying for a Community Development Block Grant for the Pine Hall neighborhood off Fayette Street. The application process has to be completed, because the original application submitted in March failed because of a technicality, a shortcoming in the advertisement process, said Janet Jonas, a project manager with Summit Engineering and Design management team.

“It had nothing to do with the merit of the project,” she said.

No one spoke during a public hearing about the CDBG, although City Manager Leon Towarnicki said Martinsville resident Alexis Lee had called him to ask him to pass on the message that she is in favor of the city’s reapplying for the funds. Two hearings were held last year as part of the initial process, and people spoke then.

Next in the application process will be to:

  • Conduct an update of the housing assessments and household incomes of families who are lined up to receive assistance through the grant; conduct a review of the preliminary engineering report; and attend the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development “How to Apply” workshop, all in January.
  • Review and update the Community Improvement Grant application and hold another public hearing, both in February.
  • Complete reviews by the Department of Historic Resources and other reviews in March.

During the discussion period, council member Danny Turner said that he felt the latest CDBG project, in the Northside neighborhood of Franklin and Dillard streets, did not look like it was worth nearly the $1.2 million the city spent on it.

Council member Chad Martin suggested that high-schoolers who are required to do community service work could do some of the door-to-door talking with the Pine Hall neighbors.

“That’s a wonderful idea,” Jonas said. “I have utilized youth volunteers quite a bit.”

Mayor Kathy Lawson pointed out that people in the CDBG-targeted area who had not applied to be included in the CDBG-funded project still are able to apply in this second application process.

Library updates

The library is about more than just books, according to a presentation by Blue Ridge Regional Library Director Rick Ward and Program Coordinator Leandio Gravely.

Ward said the library picks up where the schools leave off during summer break. Studies have shown that third-graders who don’t read during the summer lose 20% of their previous year’s gains, and seventh-graders who don’t read lose 36%, Ward said.

Every summer the Blue Ridge Regional Library system holds a reading program. The system’s Martinsville Branch Library serves city residents.

This year that program had 1,956 participants, Ward said. Staff also took the program to other sites in the area.

The program continued for 7 weeks, Ward said, and in the 12 preschool programs, 342 children attended.

The library system had 26 summer reading programs for school-aged kids, with 793 attending. Additionally, there were outreach programs at the Boys and Girls Club at Albert Harris Elementary School and day care centers at First Baptist, King’s Academy, Amazing Grace Baptist, Little Hearts and Happy Feet. A total of 53 outreach programs had 821 attendees.

The libraries also serve lunches and snacks during the summer vacation to make up for the absence of free meals students receive at schools. The food is provided by the USDA and prepared by the Henry County Schools Catering Service, Ward said.

During June and July, 999 meals and snacks were served during the library’s Summer Feeding Program, Ward said.

Gravely talked about activities at the library. Upcoming events include:

  • Today, “STEAM” education activity for kids, drop in any time between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., plus “Paranormal Hunters” program at 5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, “Who Done It? CSI” at 5:30 p.m.
  • Next Thursday, Book Bingo at 2:30 pm.
  • Oct. 19, the movie “Hotel Transylvania” at 11 a.m.
  • Oct. 22, “The Power of Plants” at 11:15 a.m.
  • Halloween, Trick-or-Treating for books
  • Each Tuesday, tai chi at 11:15 a.m.
  • Each Wednesday and Friday of the month, line dancing class at 10 a.m.

Gravely said he expects a big crowd for the holiday open house he’s planning for the winter, the third such event. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” he said – 125 people came to the first, and 200 came to the second.

Outreach activities get people interested in coming to the library, Lawson said, and hopefully once they’re there they’ll check out books to take home.

Also during the meeting, council:

  • Approved on second reading Ordinance 2019-7 to establish a new Tourism Zone, which would cover all of Martinsville. The designation would give entities that wanted to build big capital projects special access to low-interest funding of up to $500,000. “It’s designed for a multi-tens of millions [of dollars] projects such as a hotel,” City Attorney Eric Monday said.
  • Approved lease-purchase financing of five pieces of equipment: a fire truck, ambulance, backhoe, bucket truck and street-loader, totaling about $1.2 million.
  • Designated October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Martinsville.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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