City Council gets earful from citizens

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 20, 2004

A Chesapeake man appealed to the Suffolk City Council Wednesday for help funding an alternate worksite for developmentally disabled people left unemployed by the recent closing of Tidewater Occupational Center.

During late appearances, Thomas Swanston, executive director of the Chesapeake Service Systems, a nonprofit organization that provides employment for the mentally disabled, said his group is hoping to fill the void by expanding its existing business to hire more than 100 additional people.

He asked the city to consider contributing $25,000 to the group’s capital campaign and to pass a resolution supporting the organization’s plan. The letter was requested by U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes, who has pledged to enlist federal funding for Chesapeake Service Systems.

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Four other people spoke during late appearances, including:

–Sam Callis, a longtime council watchdog, asked council members for help in getting the necessary permits to build a bungalow on his Sleepy Hole Road property. A former farmer, Callis recently sold all but a couple of acres to a developer.

Callis, 85, said the proposed project repeatedly gets tied up in red tape within Suffolk Planning Department.

&uot;I’m asking you to help me out,&uot; Callis said. &uot;The city needs to cooperate. I want this house…and I need it.&uot;

— Leroy Schmidt criticized pay raises earned by city departments heads, saying most of them received far more than the average 4 percent raise other city employees earned.

&uot;It’s the most inequitable way of distributing money I’ve ever seen,&uot; he said.

— William H. Harward, a Manning Road resident, expressed concern that the city is leasing too many buildings for its operations.

According to Harward, the city is paying $36,000 annually for the voter registrar’s new office at 425 W. Washington St. The city is also renting three building for the public utilities department.

&uot;For what we are paying in rent, we should build a building that will last for a long time.&uot;

*Dennis Godwin, a Missouri Drive resident, praised the Suffolk Police Department’s work on a recent drug bust in his neighborhood.

He also questioned how the Industrial Development Authority had the funding resources available to make a contribution to the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts.

He also opposed the city’s efforts to stop panhandling on the streets of downtown. Suffolk.