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Town recaps 2013 accomplishments

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By Patrick Smith

INDEPENDENCE — Independence Town Manager Jerry Hughes recently recapped town activities and accomplishments in 2013.
The main focus for the year was on improvements to the town’s water lines and the recent installation of new water meters. The town’s public works department reported that the new meters have also had their share of problems, with about 20 of the 350 new meters being frozen and destroyed by the sub-zero temperatures during the winter.
Additionally, Utility Supervisor Terry Osborne said  his department assisted customers with water or sewer problems 25 times due to problems caused by the weather last month. He said several residents had complained that they had seen an increase in their water bill, but explained that this was due to the new meters providing a more accurate reading of how much water was being used.
Hughes thanked the town’s public works department for their role in the water project and others.
“We had a lot of challenges and things that weren’t expected,” said Hughes. “There were a lot of non-routine things that needed to be done, and I think it’s appropriate to stop and look at that. I congratulate [utility supervisor] Terry [Osborne] and his folks, and we really appreciate them being here.”
Mayor Butch Reeves also thanked public works and town employees, including Hughes for his work as town manager, after having served his first full year at the position.
“We have a community the size of ours, and we only have 12 or 13 people taking care of these things on a day to day basis,” said Reeves. “That’s a whole lot of work, and everyone’s done a great job.”
Hughes cited the following challenges, actions and accomplishments for the Town of Independence in 2013:

Public Works
• Late winter and early spring water breaks of significant proportions in town and on the main line from the water plant
• $29,000 to repair a four-day, massive leak on West Main Street
• Commencement of $1.5 million water line replacement project
1-B water line replacement inspections
• “Tremendous” support of town events throughout the year

Virginia-Carolina Water Authority
• Completion of two new water collection galleries
• Final certified daily capacity exceeding one million gallons
• Completion and close-out of the Rural Development grant
• Updates/reconfiguration of monitoring system
• Adjustments for the opening of River North Correctional Facility
• Initiation of the application process for the direct withdrawal of water from the New River

Commercial Development
• Purchase of the McKnight Lot (to become town park)
• Secured the Virginia DEQ grant for Phase I and Phase II of environmental testing for the town park
The town is currently seeking grants for construction of the town park on the former McKnight Lot, sidewalk replacement and additional streetscape improvements
• Continued growth and success of the Independence Farmers Market

Town Events and Beautification Projects
• Hiring of the town’s first paid events coordinator, Renae Sizemore
• Completion of the ARC Sustainable Communities planning grant
• Inaugural “Spring Bash” event held in April 2013
• New town banners purchased for different seasons
• Increased flower plantings and other improvements
• “Successful” July 4 and Autumn Harvest events and an enhanced Halloween event

Administrative
• Two annual audits completed, with the third scheduled for completion early this month
• Significant volumes of financial documents prepared for the financed portion of the B-1 water line replacement project and the $589,000 bond amount
• Major technological improvements which have enhanced security and operation
• Police and Public Works buildings repaired and improved
• New utility billing system
• Significant increase in work load with town projects and increased activity via the DMV Select operation