THE BATTLE FOR BURKEVILLE
How Burkeville can best maintain its infrastructure, attract new businesses, and remain a safe place to live -- with limited Town revenue -- is the challenge facing three men running for Mayor.
Adam Cliborne, Tommy Goin, and Brian Weltch fielded questions -- most of them focused on the need for growth -- for an hour last Wednesday at the Burkeville fire station during a Candidates Forum hosted by the Crewe-Burkeville Chamber of Commerce. They’re hoping to succeed retiring Joe Morrissette, who has led the Town since 2002.
“We have to find more businesses and create jobs,” Goin declared. “This town will die if not. And we need a grocery store here.” Goin, a 54-yearold landscaper and former postal worker, also said he’s been talking with two different companies about bringing a grocery store to Burkeville.
Weltch, a 41-year-old combat veteran who served in Iraq and is Assistant Chief of Burkeville Fire Dept., called for Burkeville to be more proactive seeking grants. “That’s one of the things Burkeville hasn’t done very well in 15-20 years. We didn’t go out and try to find grants.”
Cliborne, 35, agreed that increasing employment is key to the Town’s future success. But he also didn’t rule-out raising taxes. “Taxes are going to happen -- a small raise here and there, while we don’t want it, it’s mandatory at times.”
Burkeville doesn’t have a Town Manager, so the Mayor’s job is more hands-on. Will the candidates be available and accessible to help handle day-to-day operations?
Cliborne is a career medic in Buckingham County. “I only work 10 days a month, 24-hour shifts. I don’t go out a lot. The farthest I normally go is Crewe to play a little golf. My phone line is always open. And I’ll be able to delegate things when I’m not here.”
Cliborne said he has experience as both a worker and supervisor, “and I’m in a great position to be able to work with employees and make longstanding, financially-smart decisions.”
Weltch pledged to be available six-to-seven days a week, 8-10 hours a day. “Our (fire and rescue) calls are usually less than two hours, then I’m right back here.” Weltch says he does a lot of fire dept. paperwork in the middle of the night so he can be available during the day.
“If I can handle an emergency scene, I should have no problem handling a water leak,” added Weltch.
Goin said, “I can be available any time...I’ve given a hundred percent to this town for years on different projects. Anytime they need me, I’m available anytime.”
Goin also mentioned his prior stint as Meherrin Postmaster and President of the Farmville Jaycees for two years in the 1990s. “I took our Chapter to #10 out of 210 in the state.”
Burkeville is preparing to bid farewell to its only police officer, retiring Chief Billy Abel, who has served the Town for 16 years.
“You can’t replace Billy Abel,” said Weltch. “They just don’t make police officers like they did when Mr. Abel came up in the 1970s.”
Weltch said he believes Burkeville needs a full-time chief and possibly one or two part-time officers. He also expressed concerns about speeding.
Cliborne said he supports a full-time officer in Burkeville “to be the face of the community just like Mr. Abel.” But he also said part-time officers from other jurisdictions could also assist. “I don’t want us to turn into a ‘speed trap,’ but speeding is a very big issue here.”
Goin said that first and foremost, the Town will need to advertise the position and conduct an open search. “We need an officer we can trust as Chief of Police. It’s going to be hard to replace Billy Abel, but we can do it.”
Cats and Dogs
Goin and Weltch said they believe Nottoway County’s new animal shelter, which is being proposed for a site in Burkeville owned by Jack Boswell, would bring additional visitors to town.
Cliborne apologized for being unfamiliar with the animal shelter issue. He expressed concerns about noise from dogs and said, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” But he pledged to do more research on the issue.
Just Sitting There
All three candidates expressed support for using the 1915 train depot for community events. Weltch said that before the Town decides on a use, it must first get VDOT to release $100,000 in funds stuck in “red tape” to complete renovations. “It’s a beautiful building, but unfortunately, it’s just sat there, and it’s going to need a paint job and new roof before you can really use it.”
Goin said the station must be finished and, when completed, “It should be used every day, every hour if possible.”
Cliborne said he’d like to see the old depot, which was jacked-up and relocated 200 yards from its original location in Dec. 2001, become a community focal point. He said rental fees could help the Town recover maintenance expenses. He also mentioned the possibility of the building becoming a “commercial spot.”
“Where Have You Been?”
Perhaps the most pointed question of the night came from Burkeville Councilwoman Joann Branch. She apparently was referring to Cliborne and Weltch when she said, “Two of y’all, I didn’t see until the last couple of months when you decided to run for Mayor. Where’ve you been all this time? You didn’t come to Town meetings and have suggestions. Now all of a sudden, you’re interested.”
Goin, whose turn was first to answer, assured the councilwoman and audience that he’s been attending Council meetings for two years, prompting Ms. Branch to reply that she wasn’t talking about him.
Weltch said he’s been in Burkeville since Dec. 2012 and joined the fire department the following year. “I’ve been in every part of town for the last seven-plus years running over 1,600 EMS calls. I may not have been politicking, going door-to-door, and quite honestly, I don’t care for politicking.”
Cliborne said he’s been an active volunteer with the squad and fire departments since the late 1990s. “I’m 35-years-old, so I’m at a point in my life where I can step-up and help my community more so now, than during my teens and 20s. I’m a known face in this town -- me and my brother (Matt) both. A set of 6’ 6” identical twins don’t go missing very often.”
Cliborne said he came forward because “a 17-year veteran is finally retiring (Mayor Joe Morrissette), and someone needs to step-up and take control and help keep Burkeville moving in a progressive fashion.”
Services and Revenues
Council’s married duo, Councilman Jim Bruce and Councilwoman Zora Bruce, asked questions about growte and keeping taxes and rates level.
For the most part, candidates stuck to general themes.
Weltch called for taking aim at unkempt properties and dilapidated structures. “If you clean-up the image of your town, it’s going to make it more enticing.”
Cliborne said he’s willing to offer new businesses incentives, including major breaks on taxes for five years, to entice them to Burkeville.
Goin said Burkeville’s return to glory must include completing the train station, expanding High Bridge Trail to town limits, and renovating the old municipal building.
Cliborne said, “We need to revitalize what we have. We have a lot of nice property here in town.” He said more events and nice venues will attract more visitors, who “will see what Burkeville has to offer. I think it will start drawing people to live in this community.”
Sheriff’s Office Assistance
Nottoway District Two Supervisor John Roark asked the trio about the Sheriff’s Office possibly taking over patrols of Burkeville in the absence of a police chief.
Weltch said he’s already contacted Sheriff Robert Jones for a meeting after the election but that he prefers to have a Town officer devoted to Burkeville.
Cliborne said he’d welcome the Sheriff’s Office and that he’s open to being served by part-time officers. “What can we afford and what can we save with the County? It’s a big issue, and I’d like to talk to Sheriff Jones and members of the community to see if that’s an option to pursue -- to turn over to the County and have them patrol us rather than have an in-town officer.”
Goin said Burkeville must have active law enforcement. “We’ve all got to work together -- Nottoway, Crewe, Burkeville, Blackstone -- to improve our security. All of us currently don’t work together. That’s a big issue.”
Weltch said he wants the Town office to be more accessible, including a voice mail system after hours. He also wants residents to be able to pay utility bills with credit and debit cards and online. “There are quick, fast fixes to give the people a better place.”
Cliborne pledged “to give my heart and soul to this town. I’ve been here all my life. I know the ins-and-outs, and I want to help this community grow.”
Goin says he’ll make sure “that we will all work together as a community and try to increase services for the people who live here. And try to make Burkeville a better place to live.”
The Town’s 2010 population was 432, down considerably from 606 in 1980 and 535 in 1990.
The Town’s racial make-up is 67% white and 32% black. Burkeville has a total of 301 registered voters.