BY DEBBIE PAGE
Faced with Iredell County’s growing number of COVID-19 cases and the temporary closure of the Iredell County Fairgrounds, the Troutman Town Council decided to cancel this year’s Independence Day Parade and fireworks show, which had been rescheduled for August 15 due to the pandemic.
Council members made the call at Thursday’s board meeting following the Iredell County Board of Commissioners’ decision to cancel this year’s county fair and close the fairgrounds.
Concerns about sparking a COVID-19 outbreak with school scheduled to start on August 17 was a factor in the Troutman council’s decision. Council member Sally Williams also said that only 15 units were currently signed up for the parade.
The town had not signed a contract with a fireworks company so there is no financial loss to the town.
If the COVID-19 situation improves, the council may consider a New Year’s fireworks event. The town Christmas parade is also in jeopardy depending on the reopening phase North Carolina is in at that date.
MILL VILLAGE SEWER REHAB CONTRACT APPROVED
The council approved the long-awaited Mill Village sewer rehabilitation contract, awarding the project to Classic City Mechanical. An alternate $547,000 bid was also added to the motion, which will pay for a generator and needed repairs and upgrades at other pump stations throughout the town.
STREET PAVING BID PROCESS BEGINS
Council passed a motion to rebid repaving on Winterflake Drive and on portions of Rumple and Georgie streets as well as for the new parking lot area next to baseball/softball fields being constructed at ESC Park.
A bid by the contractor currently completing paving and repairs in town was much higher per ton of asphalt than current pricing trends. Town engineers believe the town could save up to $25,000 by rebidding the project, even with the $5,000 cost of bid preparation and processing.
Engineer Todd Poteat said prices are at late 1990s to early 2000s prices because of the reduced demand after all NCDOT projects were put on indefinite hold.
He said most projects are also getting seven or eight competitive bids instead of just a few and that some projects are coming in at prices half of what they would have been six months ago.
The council asked Poteat to prepare a base bid for just the street repaving and an alternate bid to repave the streets and pave the parking lot together. Council can also choose to do only one or two streets with or without the parking lot.
Mayor Teross Young said the staff moved onto phase three of the ESC Park Master Plan to build the ball fields and parking lot after the amphitheater, the last part of phase 2, was put on hold to avoid possible duplication of facilities.
The town is waiting for county commissioners to decide if they will build an amphitheater at the nearby Iredell County Fairgrounds.
REZONING REQUESTS PASSED
The council passed a rezoning request from heavy industrial to central business, initiated by the council itself, for a nearly 3-acre parcel at the Lytton and Tally intersection. This rezoning better fits into the town’s Strategic Master Plan.
Travis Elliot’s request that nearly an acre at 124 North Eastway Drive be rezoned from town residential to central business also passed unanimously. Elliot plans to build an upscale steakhouse restaurant, seating up to 150 diners, on the property.
In the public hearing on the request, Wes Edmiston, who owns a business on Highway 21 across from the property, said that the restaurant “would be a step forward and draw business up here.”
Edmiston warned if council didn’t act, it risked future restaurants all ending up at Exit 42 instead of downtown.
UDO ORDINANCE AMENDED
The council approved a Unified Development Ordinance text amendment to section 6.2.3 that restores the prior UDO language regarding electronic signs and that allows movement on “time and temperature signs, or Electronic Message Board (EMB) panels as part of a principal/monument ground sign that meets the provisions of this Chapter.”
The move to change the UDO began in January after the Board of Adjustment had to turn down New Life Missionary Baptist Church’s electronic message board request for its front sign structure, built by the town to cover a sewer pump station.
However, this change will not fix all the church’s sign issues. The size of the church’s brick sign structure is still a legally-nonconforming sign structure.
Also, because the V-shaped sign structure requires an EMB panel on each wing, the panels will not be one on each side of one structure. Both EMBs will therefore be visible from one point at the same time, which is prohibited by the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
Planning Director George Berger said that even if these UDO changes are approved, the church would still have to return to the Board of Adjustment for a variance.
However, Berger said the church’s sign likely meets the special conditions required for a variance because of the unique conditions that led to the construction of the sign structure and visual shield for the town’s pump station.
He did not believe a variance in this situation would establish a precedent allowing or encouraging other potential applicants to pursue a monument sign not in compliance with existing requirements.
TPD REMOTE ACCESS AGREEMENT
Because of increased federal regulations on student privacy, Iredell-Statesville Schools and local law enforcement agencies have created an agreement that determines when law enforcement can gain remote access of school cameras.
Town Attorney Gary Thomas said these agreements are being created all over the country in response to a federal clampdown under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FRPA).
School resource officers can access their school cameras to investigate incidents, but the Troutman Police Department and other law enforcement agencies cannot access a live feed remotely except for under emergency situations when students are in danger, such as an active shooter situation.
Agencies can get footage in non-emergency situations by request. According the federal law, the school system could actually require a court order to turn over the footage.
Thomas said without the agreement, schools would be violating FERPA. Attorneys and law enforcement agency leaders have been working on the agreement for months.
The Iredell-Statesville Board of Education has already approved the agreement, and the Statesville City Council is expected to act on the agreement in July. Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell has also indicated he will sign the agreement, which does not require county commissioners’ approval since the sheriff holds an elected post.