Council OKs street sweeper, discusses economic survey

NEW MARKET – Town Council discussed a potential amendment to the town’s FY 16-17 budget to allow for the purchasing of a street sweeper at its monthly meeting Monday evening. An action item on the meeting’s agenda regarding discussion of the waiver of itinerant merchant fees for the upcoming Tis the Season event was withdrawn.

At the public works committee meeting Oct. 3, Town Manager Mike Ritchie addressed the idea of purchasing a street sweeper. That machine, the current owner of which is a former town contractor who has decided to get out of the business, would cost the town $15,000. Ritchie asked for a $15,000 increase in the budget to pay for it. He explained the benefit of purchasing such a machine – namely the money it will save the town.

“Since 2012, the town has spent a little over $11,000 on street sweeping,” Ritchie said. “For most of those years, it probably amounted to only one sweeping. If we had our own unit we would be able to sweep more frequently.”

The amendment was made to the budget via a unanimous vote. Ritchie said the money for the 21-year-old Elgin-brand machine will come from town reserves.

“I’m very supportive of it,” said Councilwoman Peggy Harkness. “For certain events, it would behoove us for our streets to look better. … I’m for it.”

Preceding the meeting, council members met to discuss a survey designed by Councilman Peter Hughes, engineered to best gauge the economic needs of the town – specific business-related challenges – and the ways they can best be addressed.

“We’re seeking input from the residents of New Market about what their needs are,” Hughes said. “We hope to have a plan. We hope to be able to attract businesses here. We need information to move that forward.”

Mayor Douglas Bradley voiced his support for the survey.

“I think it’s an excellent tool,” he said. “If we’re going to go out and solicit these vendors, this is something that we’re going to need.”

Hughes said he hopes to finalize the language of the survey in the “next couple weeks” with distribution set for later in the year.

During the council comments portion of the meeting, Hughes asked for an update on the request made by the New Market Volunteer Fire Department at the October public safety committee meeting requesting the selection of a volunteer to replace Tim Williams, who served as interim fire chief for the town prior to his appointment as Shenandoah County Fire Chief.

“Has anything happened?” Hughes asked Councilman Gary Comer, chair of the town’s public safety committee.

Comer responded, “no.”

Hughes then asked if the council had a plan regarding the department’s request, to which Comer again responded, “no.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or