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Activity at a peak in Martinsville despite pandemic

Activity at a peak in Martinsville despite pandemic

From the Martinsville-region COVID-19/coronavirus daily update from state, nation and world: Aug. 13 series
Only $5 for 5 months

City Manager Leon Towarnicki told city council a month ago that there was more going on in the city right now than he could remember in more than 30 years. Tuesday night he laid out the projects and noted their progress.

The city of Martinsville received $1.1 million in federal CARES Act funding and is set to receive another $1.1 million in the next few days. Nearly half of the first round of money has been given back to small businesses in the city and more might be on the way.

“We’ve approved 137 applications and granted $404,376 to small businesses,” said Towarnicki. “We set a goal for $250,000, but legitimate applications kept coming and the number will probably increase.”

The second round of money must be spent on COVID-19 related issues, the city manager noted, just like the first round and another portion of the money will likely be set aside for small businesses, but possibly with some additional qualifying conditions.

Construction projects

The Chief Tassell building project at 51 E. Church Street is moving forward. Waukeshaw Development is now working inside the building and architectural plans are nearly complete. When finished, the historic building will be converted into 18 residential units and eight commercial units.

Chris Hairston and Shawn Moore have submitted their grant application to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the renovation of the old BB&T building at 1 Ellsworth Street and expect to have a response by October. Meanwhile, the city intends to employ a designer to conduct a space review of the first floor of the building. The project involves the city moving its offices from the municipal building to the BB&T building.

The application for tax credits on the old American Furniture property on Aaron Street has been approved and bidding on the demolition of the property is expected to go out next month. Grant money is already in place for the cleanup. Once the site is cleared and shovel ready, the Landmark Group intends to construct 52 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments for people 55 years and older.

The work on the inside lanes of the Commonwealth Boulevard bridge is complete and the rest of the work is scheduled to be complete by the end of September. The project was mostly funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Financing for repairs to the spillway at the Martinsville reservoir has been arranged and the contractor hired to do the work has begun moving equipment in and lowering the reservoir level by four feet. The fireman’s cabin nearby will be used as the contractor’s construction trailer. The $2.5 million project should be finished in March or April.

A pedestrian lane and parking for the portion of the Dick and Willie trail at Country Club Drive is finished. Henry County is working on plans for the next connecting leg that involves “pretty elaborate plans” for crossing Spruce Street near Corn Tassell Trail.

The city has applied for a Harvest Foundation grant in order to build a new concession building at Hooker Field. An architect is working on plans and a firm price for the project should be known by next month. Once financing is in place, construction would be scheduled for this fall with plans to have it finished by next season.

Special use permit denied

City Council continued a public hearing and then denied a request from Homero Sandoval Ramos for a special use permit in order to convert the old Midgett Market building at 125 Clearview Drive into a vehicle display lot and custom designed vehicle wrap business.

Although communication with Ramos and city officials was not definitive, Community Development Director Mark McCaskill said it was the city’s belief the owner had made other plans for the property.

“We were not able to contact the applicant, but at one point we were ear witnesses from one of the parties that there was no longer an interest,” said McCaskill. “Maybe it will re-open as a convenience store."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included incorrect wording of a quote from  Community Development Director Mark McCaskill in the last paragraph.

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

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