The Town of Middleburg’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been admirable, its finances are healthy and its projects are moving right along, Mayor Bridge Littleton outlined in his second annual State of the Town address Thursday night.
Close to two dozen people logged in to hear the town’s first-ever virtual mayoral address. Littleton’s hour-long presentation touched on the town’s drive to help businesses and residents amid the pandemic, the town’s financial savings through refinancing, the status of the new town office project, and what the town has planned for 2021.
Littleton outlined the town’s response to COVID-19 and the subsequent state of emergency and state-mandated restrictions, emphasizing that the town “responded admirably” in creating programs to benefit residents and businesses.
The town provided $200 credits to all utility customers, set up a retail support program in which it reimbursed businesses a portion of the value of the merchandise they sold during sales, is hosting a housing assistance program with up to $50,000 in rent and mortgage assistance through the help of the Windy Hill Foundation, is providing direct financial support and permitting help for restaurants as they prepare to set up outdoor seating in the winter months, and provided a restaurant support program in which it sent all in-town households more than $230,000 in meal vouchers to spend at participating restaurants. Littleton noted that many residents donated those vouchers to charities to distribute to others more in need than themselves.
“That really shows the strength of the community that we have here,” he said.
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on town finances, Fiscal Year 2020revenues accounting for property tax, business licenses, meals tax and occupancy taxes came in at the same levels as Fiscal Year 2018, at about $6.5 million. Littleton noted that the town also refinanced half of its debt at a 1.8% interest rate, as opposed to previous interest rates that ranged from 2.5 to 4.6%, saving the town more than $375,000. Littleton clarified that most of that was 20-year debt within the town’s utility systems.
In Fiscal Year 2020, the Town Council also adopted a new Comprehensive Plan, which outlines residents’ desires for the town to create more open and green space and welcome in more attainable housing options. Littleton pointed out that the median price of a single-family home in town is $500,000 while the median income of a Middleburg family is $54,000.
“That makes it incredibly expensive for young families … to be actually able to afford to live in the town they live and work in,” he said.
Littleton said the town has also moved forward with many different projects, including one that will see a new town office built next to the existing one.
He assured residents the new office would not only provide the town staff with a new governmental headquarters, but would also offer residents a location to conduct business and come together for events.
He said the new office will have conference rooms for the general public and a green space to host farmers’ markets, concerts, the town’s July 4 celebration and other events.
“Our broader community needs have just outstretched the capacity of this three-room building,” Littleton said of the existing town office. “This is your town hall … and it’s really a community hall.”
The town has requested funding help from the county government for that project and is reviewing architectural and design firms to lay out the schematics of the new town office. Littleton said the town staff expects construction to begin late next year.
In the last fiscal year, the town also completed the west end sewage pumping station, which increased the town’s sewage pumping capacity ten-fold, Littleton said; completed repairs to well 4, which is helping to better filter town water; and completed repairs to sewer mains, which has reduced rain inflow by about 50,000 gallons.
Moving into November and December, Littleton gave residents hope that although the town has canceled its traditional Christmas in Middleburg event, the town is committed to hosting multiple, smaller events from Thanksgiving to Christmas to celebrate.
Littleton said the town would also plan for 2021 as if it’s happening as usual but would plan events on a month-by-month basis.
He also announced that he would work as the representative for Coalition of Loudoun Towns—a non-legislative group comprised of Loudoun’s seven mayors that meets to share suggestions and collaborate on challenges their towns face—on the county’s Zoning Ordinance Committee. That committee will advise the county Planning Commission on zoning laws following the June 2019 adoption of the 2019 Comprehensive Plan. He said he would not only represent the Town of Middleburg, but all of western Loudoun in that process.
Littleton closed by asserting that town businesses are “the most important part of our town” and told those who called in to listen to his State of the Town address, and generally all residents, “the reason why we are here.”