There’s a good chance that broadcasts of the Martinsville City Council’s meetings will resume.

Though the topic was not on the agenda for Tuesday’s nights city council meeting, an update on broadcasts by City Manager Leon Towarnicki served to open business.

Earlier, city officials had said the video-recording equipment was not working properly and was too old to be repaired dependably, and getting a new system, which was estimated at $100,000, was too expensive. City council meetings had been shown on Channel 22 and YouTube; the July 9 meeting was the last to be posted to YouTube.

Technicians have been working on the video-taping equipment in the room behind the council’s chambers, Towarnicki said, and they seem to have worked out problems with the wiring.

“It appears MGTV will be back up for the next meeting, with the meeting posted to YouTube the following day,” Towarnicki wrote by email Wednesday. “Our folks were able to rewire and bypass a piece of equipment that was giving us problems. That equipment was known as the ‘Title Maker’ and basically allowed the controller in the back room to type in a person’s name and/or title on MGTV, so that info will no longer be displayed.”

School board member

The council appointed Dominque Hylton to the remainder of a vacated 3-year term on the city school board, which became open when Sammy Redd moved out of the area.

Hylton is a Martinsville native, he said Wednesday. In 2005 he moved to North Carolina to attend N.C. A&T University and moved back to the area in 2014. He is an insurance agent with Burton and Company, and he and his wife, Shantrice, have a son, Zion, 3. He is an elder of Rock Hill Primitive Baptist Church.

Dilapidated houses

The city ran into some snags with getting 10 deteriorated houses demolished, but things are back on progress, City Building Official Kris Bridges said. He listed the progress on the houses targeted for action:

  • 729 Rahlway St., 1320 Hillcrest Ave. and 534 Dillard St.: Surveys found asbestos-containing material, so the house is not safe to tear down in the normal way and will have to be disposed of using additional safety measures.
  • 1673 Roundabout Road: The house has been demolished by the owner.
  • 908 Fayette St., 537 Dillard St. and 908 Union St.: The house has been or will be demolished by the city.
  • 807 Princeton St. and 408-408 Pond St.: The owners are repairing the houses’ problems.
  • 1210 Hickory St. and 122 Pony Place: Clear title or related information on properties is not available, so action on them will be postponed.
  • 1137 Wray St.: Owner has acknowledged it needs to come down. The property was included in the Pine Hall Community Development Block Grant application, which the city is awaiting before taking action.
  • 700 Fourth St.: A relative of the owner has provided a plan of action to take care of the demolition.

For the houses left to demolish, a Request For Proposals seeking estimates on the costs is out, but from previous quotes the amount is not expected to exceed $27,500, a report distributed at the meeting stated. There is about $15,000 left in the budget, with an additional $10,000 left over from last year, it states.

The next houses identified as needing action are:

  • 1210 Hickory St.
  • 808 D. St.
  • 127 Beaver St.
  • 210 Holt St.
  • 205 Holt St.
  • 417 Fayette St.
  • 201 Park St.
  • 550 Dillard St.
  • 200 Holt St.
  • 1007 Paul St.
  • 326 Cliff St.
  • 547 Dillard St.
  • 122 Pony Place

Garbage disposal

The council adopted on first reading Ordinance 2019-6, which amends Chapter 18 “Solid Waste” of the Martinsville City Code to limit city garbage collection to only waste generated on site.

That change was suggested because of recent problems with someone dumping trash from somewhere else onto city property, expecting it to be picked up in normal garbage collection, according to the discussion of the situation.

“We just have to clean up our ordinance so we don’t have to clean up a mountain of trash on one site,” Assistant City Manager Eric Monday said.

Volunteer fire department

City council presented a proclamation to the Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department to honor the department’s 70th anniversary. The volunteer department helps “with many essential functions” of and fundraising for the city fire department, the proclamation states.

The Martinsville Fire Department was organized in 1891 with 25 volunteers, according to information from its history book. The alarm system was a bell on the H.B. Hundley Livery Stable, across the street from the present headquarters on Church Street. The original equipment was two hose reels with about 500 feet of hose.

Some time after the organization, preparations were made to use horses to pull the equipment, the history book states. An ordinance was passed authorizing firemen to stop and commandeer any horse-drawn vehicles in the area. When no horses were available, men pulled the equipment.

That unit became a paid unit in 1936. In 1949 the volunteer department was reorganized as a 35-man volunteer company.

Council member Danny Turner, who had been a volunteer firefighter with the company, shared some memories of his time there. One was when a woman called in that her house was on fire, but she didn’t give the address. “Lady, how do we get there?” the firefighter who had answered the call said. “Don’t you have the big red trucks?” she replied.

There to accept the proclamation were department president Randall Hundley, vice president Leon Reed, secretary Renee Anderson and treasurer Page Brockenbrough.

Also at the meeting, the council:

  • Heard from Greg Myers, owner of Ladies & Gents on Starling Avenue, that the billing policy on electric service was unfair, particularly to small business owners. He has been in business for 16 years, he said, and generally he used a low enough amount of electricity to be billed under the lowest cost category of “small general.” However, using more than 25 kilowatts in any billing period bumps up the user to the cost category of “medium general,” which is billed at a higher rate. That higher rate of charge remains in effect for 12 months, he said, whether or not the user goes back up to 25 kilowatts. Towarnicki said the city would continue to review Myers’ account. After the meeting, Myers said that, in general, now that he’s been placed under the “medium general” cost-level, his power bills come in at about $75 to $100 a month more than when they were considered “small general.” He said under the current system small business owners are under, “you’re getting punished when you’re just trying to conduct business.”
  • Heard during the public comment section, from social work students in the Longwood University program through New College Institute. Anita White, Tonia Jordan, Robin Wells, Theresa Burton, Tara Hamlett and Tchernavia Jordan asked what the city does to encourage employment and the middle class, and various members of council replied the city does not deal directly with employers but does set policy to make it easier or attractive to do business in Martinsville.
  • Read a proclamation acknowledging the week of Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week. Barbara Jackman and VonMarie Goddard of the Patrick Henry Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution spoke before council and accepted the proclamation. They said the DAR has provided pamphlets of the Constitution to fifth-graders, who are encouraged to sign an agreement to live by the Constitution’s ideals.

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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(1) comment

Melody Cartwright

Interesting how most of the "confirmed" run down houses on the list are primarily in historically black and or poor neighborhoods. However, when over twenty years of complaints for vacant and increasingly dilapidated housing go unanswered in my what used to be the “upscale” has to believe there is a real level of protectionism going on for privileged citizens. In the state of Virginia, property owners have rights. Well, what about the property owners who have to live near these eyesores, which causes our property worth to go down and makes the possibility of selling our homes next to impossible? I am talking about all of the vacant, obviously deteriorating, and untended (except for weed upkeep) homes on and just off Mulberry Road. Substandard rental properties and slum landlords in all neighborhoods need to constantly be put on notice as well.

Am I the only one who sees the obvious downward spirals? Fix them up or tear them down! Please send in all of your complaints to the City of Martinsville Building Official Kris Bridges by email: or call (276) 403-5171.

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