WINCHESTER — Money from the federal CARES Act could be used to improve Winchester's trash-collection services.
At its work session on Tuesday night, City Council was advised by Winchester Public Services Director Perry Eisenach that other localities in Virginia have successfully used CARES funds, which are intended to offset unforeseen expenses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, to update the way solid waste is collected by municipal sanitation vehicles.
Eisenach said $200,000 of the $4.9 million in CARES money allocated to Winchester could be used to implement a new trash-collection system that he first proposed in October 2019.
The money would fund a pilot program that would partially automate the practice of physically lifting trash cans and emptying them into the back of a collection vehicle. As proposed, all eight of the city's trash trucks would be outfitted with metal tippers that pick up trash containers, taking the physical burden away from Winchester's sanitation employees.
The tippers only work with containers that have a built-in lift bar, so Eisenach said the city would also have to buy 95-gallon and 65-gallon containers and distribute them to city residents and businesses.
The pilot program would be limited to four small areas — one in each of the city's four wards — giving officials a better sense if the new collection method should eventually expand to include all of Winchester.
"I like the idea," Councilor Corey Sullivan said, but he asked why all eight of the city's vehicles would be upgraded for a limited pilot program.
"We don't always know what truck we're going to be driving that day," Eisenach replied. "Trucks break down and have to be swapped out."
City Manager Dan Hoffman said he has worked in other municipalities that offer semi-automated trash collection, and he's eager to introduce it to Winchester.
"People are doing it because it makes good financial sense in the long run," Hoffman said. "We're just thrilled to get started down this path."
City Council agreed, giving Eisenach the green light to flesh out the pilot program and seek official approval in the coming weeks.
"Time is of the essence, and we've really got to move this forward if we want it to happen," Eisenach said, explaining that all of Winchester's CARES money must be spent by Dec. 31.
In other business at Tuesday night's meeting and work session, City Council:
- Unanimously approved the addition of a planned-unit development (PUD) designation to 9.65 acres of property zoned Low-Density Residential (LR) at 654 Fox Drive. The rezoning clears the way for a planned expansion of the Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury retirement community.
- Unanimously approved a conditional-use permit (CUP) allowing multifamily use of a single-family house at 305 N. Loudoun St., adjacent to the former Sarah Zane Fire Hall.
- Learned that Winchester's chief financial officer, Mary Blowe, has been given the added title of deputy city manager.
- Voted 8-0 to approve a CUP allowing an 8-foot-tall security fence that exceeds the city's height limitations to be installed around Rinchem, a chemical storage company located at 206 W. Wyck St. Councilor Bill Wiley abstained due to a potential conflict of interest.
- Unanimously approved a CUP allowing Karen Darby to convert a multifamily dwelling at 417 Fairmont Ave. to a single-family home.
- Unanimously approved a resolution of sorrow honoring former vice mayor and City Council member Richard D. “Dick” Kern Sr., who died on Oct. 1 at the age of 100.
- Held a first reading of a proposed ordinance authorizing more than $23 million in adjustments to the fiscal year 2021 budget.
- Voted 6-3 to approve a CUP for Kim Craig, who plans to operate a neighborhood convenience establishment in a small building at 1200 Valley Ave. that is zoned Limited High-Density Residential (HR-1). The CUP will allow the property to be used for a wide range of things, including a convenience store or bakery. Wiley, Councilor Kim Herbstritt and Mayor David Smith opposed the measure because they said the range of possible uses was too broad.
- Held a first reading of a proposed ordinance that would allow bollards to be used instead of raised curbs in the parking lots of commercial properties.
- Held a first reading of an ordinance to add a PUD overlay to 1.96 acres of land at 1811 Roberts St. The designation would make it possible for Winchester developer Richard W. Pifer Sr. to build 36 two-bedroom apartments directly behind City National Bank at 1830 Valley Ave.
- Unanimously approved an ordinance to vacate and convey a 2,057-square-foot portion of city-owned property to allow for construction of a driveway at 152 Fox Drive. In a related vote, councilors also unanimously accepted a viewers' report on the conveyance that was submitted by Eisenach, interim Fire and Rescue Chief Hadden Culp and Winchester Police Chief John Piper.
- Unanimously authorized a resolution allowing the formation of three City Council committees that will focus on public safety, finances and the oversight of other boards and commissions.
- Unanimously agreed to forward an amendment raising the amount of overpaid tax revenues that can be refunded by the city treasurer without City Council's permission. The current maximum of $2,500 per refund would be doubled to $5,000.
- Unanimously approved a resolution reminding citizens of the importance of social distancing and face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Met in executive session for 15 minutes to discuss insurance coverage. No action was taken following the closed-door discussions.
Attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and work session in Winchester’s War Memorial Building were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice Mayor John Hill, Vice President Evan Clark and members John Willingham, Judy McKiernan, Les Veach, Kim Herbstritt, Les Veach and Bill Wiley.