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Four seek appointment to Hillsville Town Council

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By Brian Funk, Editor

HILLSVILLE — Supporters of an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in the May town election believe he should be appointed to Hillsville Town Council when his former opponent — Sulphur Springs Council Member Bill Tate — steps into the role of mayor in July.

Tate's new position will leave a vacancy on council, and Billy Walls Sr. and his supporters want him to take Tate's place as the representative for the town's Sulphur Springs district.

Tate got 288 votes in the May 6 election, and Walls got 175.

At Monday's town council meeting, Mayor Randall Gravely announced that the town had received four applications to fill the remaining two years on Tate's term, starting July 1. Those meeting the 3 p.m. Monday deadline included Frieda Jessup, April Guynn, Andy Utt and Billy Walls Sr.

Angela Little spoke to council on Walls' behalf, because he was in the hospital and unable to attend.

She turned in four pages of petitions with 53 signatures supporting Walls' appointment to council.

Little said that, although Walls lost the election, he beat Tate 77-69 in the Sulphur Springs district. Because of that, she felt those voters' choice should be honored.

(Several people showed up to Monday's meeting, apparently in support of Walls, but Little spoke for the group.)

Town Attorney Greg Goad said later in the meeting that the Code of Virginia states that, since Hillsville has a population of fewer than 3,500 people, appointments to council are done by a majority vote of council members.

Gravely said council members would review the applications between now and their next meeting, and make an appointment at that time.

The new council member would be sworn in in July, along with others who won the May election.

Tate and Walls vied to fill the vacancy that will be created when Gravely departs at the end of this month. They had faced off before in the race for the Sulphur Springs seat, which Tate won by 11 votes.

After the election, Walls said he went to the Carroll voter registrar’s office to make his concerns about the polls known to election officials and considered asking for a recount.

Walls said he received reports from citizens about behavior that he found questionable during the election, such as voters being asked questions about what they were doing when casting their ballots.

“It ain’t the point whether you lose, it’s if you lose honestly, or you win honestly, either way,” Walls told The Gazette in May.

In other action, council:

• heard Police Chief Steve Williams share a concern from a citizen about crosswalks.

Williams said the man worried the drivers were ignoring the crosswalks, and suggested placing signs in the center lines of town streets to make people more aware.

The signs would be collapsible, Williams said. "If you hit one, it just falls and springs back up."

The chief said the concerned citizen did not wish to be identified, but the man offered to pay for the signs if council would approve them.

Gravely said the town would consider it, and council asked Williams to discuss the issue with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

• heard about options for repairing or replacing the time and temperature sign at Carter Bank & Trust.

Town Manager Larry South said Hillsville and Carroll County jointly pay for maintaining the sign, splitting the $150-a-month cost.

(The clock was preserved through a town and county "Save Our Sign" campaign several years ago.)

When the bank was being renovated recently, workers inadvertently removed and discarded the temperature sensor, which can't be replaced. So, it only displays time now.

South said he'd gotten one quote on replacing the clock, and council asked if he could get a second quote for comparison.

• heard from South that he expects to put the 52 South water project out to bid by the end of the month.

• heard Council Member Ed Terry commend the town's grounds staff for maintaining the trail.

• adopted a revised floodplain ordinance in the town's zoning code to match new FEMA standards.

• learned from South that community donations to the town's "Downtown Celebrations" have been generous.