English Park

Tim Stuart and his wife Georgie Stuart stop at English Park to have dinner by the river with their 11-year-old pug.

Kicking off budget season, Altavista Town Council reviewed capital improvement projects for the next four years during its Tuesday night meeting.

Featured prominently in the discussion were the continued renovations and improvements to town parks, including English Park on Pittsylvania Avenue. The park has seen major redesigns in the past year as part of Altavista’s “Parks and Trails Master Plan,” which is planned to update and modernize amenities for the community.

Among the projects considered were a disc golf course and a dog park — both slated for 2023 — as well as trail improvements, new picnic tables and boat parking improvements for the canoe launch council hopes to open in the coming year.

Also included was about $6,000 for improvements to a river overlook. Town council member Jay Higginbotham suggested allowing a Boy Scout troop to help with the project.

“We are going to do [the project] one way or another,” Higginbotham said. “But if you’ve got people who put blood and sweat into it ... it gives you the best product and has community involvement, so people feel like they are a part of it.”

Altavista Police Chief Tommy Merricks spoke briefly to explain the need for the $25,250 requested in the CIP for the replacement of police department body cameras.

The new body cam system would have a battery that would automatically activate the camera if a taser is unholstered. He said the new cams would work better than the existing system, which has limited storage, and would allow officers to “seamlessly” share media with the commonwealth's attorney.

“These body cameras, they keep us honest to keep the citizens honest,” Merricks said. “These cameras are cheap insurance. It helps me hold my officers accountable, and it helps me deal with the public if they have complaints with what my officers do.”

Town Manager Waverly Coggsdale said his staff plans to present a draft budget to council on Monday, and conversations on CIP items will continue into the coming months.

Also discussed at Tuesday night was the fate of the Booker Building, a rentable events space owned and managed by the town. A “use feasibility study” conducted in September by the Charlottesville-based firm Land Planning and Design Associates described the building as “underutilized,” and sought to identify the top five uses for the event space.

The firm considered uses for the 4,900-square-foot building — including event center and rental, brewery/tasting room, restaurant, parks and recreation programming or a farmers market.

In prior months, town council has continued discussions regarding potential uses and upgrades to the Booker Building. Later this week, staff will issue a request for proposals, seeking “adaptive/reuse” development proposals for the structure from the private sector. The deadline to receive proposals is mid-May.

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