BY DEBBIE PAGE
In the midst of rising COVID-19 cases, Troutman Town Council has decided to modify or cancel upcoming holiday events in the interest of public health and safety.
During the council’s pre-agenda meeting on Monday, the Troutman Christmas Parade was cancelled after some discussion of holding a “reverse parade” in which the parade entries are stationary and spectators drive by in cars. However, after Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson noted low signs-ups for the parade thus far, the council decided to go with a simpler version.
Instead, the star of the parade, Santa, will visit Troutman neighborhoods on either a fire truck or float on the weekend of December 5-6. The town will publish a schedule of neighborhood visits so residents will know when to come out into their yards to greet jolly old St. Nick.
Watson also detailed decorating plans for the newly expanded town holiday decorations. Volunteers will begin putting lights in trees along the Richardson Greenway on November 16 and complete all decorating and the set up of several Christmas trees by early December.
Another change is that the annual in-person Tree Lighting Ceremony is cancelled to avoid a large public gathering. Instead, an online event is planned with Mayor Teross Young, council members, and staff members extending holiday wishes in recorded video messages to be played just before the live tree lighting on December 3.
The final holiday event, fireworks on New Year’s Eve to replace the canceled Independence Day show, was cancelled. Staff cited several issues, including reluctance of county officials to permit the use of the fairgrounds and the difficulty of requiring people to remain inside their cars during the event.
COVID-19 BUDGET EFFECTS
Finance Director Steve Shealy informed the council that the town has $21,670 remaining of its approximately $66,000 in COVID-19 relief funds. These funds must be used by December 31.
Sales tax receipts continue to outpace 2019 by nearly $26,000 over the past three months. Early property tax payments are also up over this period last year by nearly $363,000.
However, first quarter utility sales tax is down about $3,000 because of reduced business and school use. Water and sewer billing was also down about $48,000 from 2019 numbers over the past four months.
Shealy reported those who were delinquent on water and sewer bills are now caught up or nearly paid off. He also noted that permits and construction projects are continuing to increase, which will eventually boost billing.
Council member Paul Bryant added an agenda item to discuss the town’s expiring memorandum of understanding regarding school resource officers with Iredell-Statesville Schools. He noted the MOU had not been reviewed since early 2019.
Bryant said that some items included in early agreements were missing in the current MOU. He asked council to join him in requesting that Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck write a letter to Superintendent Jeff James and I-SS School Board representatives to request a meeting to discuss amending the agreement to request “meaningful changes” needed by the Town of Troutman.
Noting time was short before February budget meetings next year, council member Paul Henkel asked that the negotiations occur as soon as possible.
Shealy reported that SRO reimbursements rose from $201,795 in 2019 to $242,427 this year.
WAGNER STREET BUILDING
Plans to add a mural to the south wall of the town-owned building at 151 Wagner Street continue as council members approved Watson’s design plan to use the Town of Troutman oar logo on a weathered gray wood grain background with the text “Welcome to Troutman” and the catchphrase “Enjoy Lake Norman…Naturally.”
After council’s request in September, Gruesbeck presented several options for the 2,274-square-foot building, which the town has owned for just over two years. The town purchased the building for $125,000, with the intent of improving it to kickstart downtown revitalization.
The building is fundamentally sound, according to Gruesbeck, but will require extensive interior and exterior renovations and updates. Repairs to exterior brickwork was recently completed, as well as exterior cleanup and mailbox repairs.
Gruesbeck presented six possible ideas for the building, including selling the property as is or put out a request for proposals to find a bidder that matches the town’s vision for the building.
Other ideas, which will require town investment and rehabbing the building, were repurposing it for town use for the planning or police departments or leasing it to one or more non-profits, to individuals for a “co-working” space, or to a commercial business.
The town has collected about $14,000 in rental income from the property to date and has $310,000 saved for economic development, some of which could be used to remodel the building.
Gruesbeck noted various grants and low-interest loans could also be financial resources that the town could access if desired.
Henkel noted that the town’s long-term goal was to inspire downtown revitalization as part of the town’s economic development and Strategic Master Plan. He believes that finding the right leadership from a community/urban development expert could help them with ideas for the property as well as locating grants and other funding.
After two years, Henkel was eager for the council to make some decisions and move forward with the property.
A committee consisting of Mayor Young, council members George Harris and Sally Williams, Gruesbeck, and a volunteer contractor will study the proposals, evaluate the building and determine repair needs, and narrow to specific options to present to the board in January.
GOAT VEGETATION CONTROL
Council looked at a first draft of a goat grazing ordinance, based on one from Knoxville, Tenn. The draft called for a $25 permit to allow up one goat per 10,000 feet of property, or up to four goats per acre, for seven days. Goats under six months of age did not count in the limit.
The goats had to be contained, properly cared for, and have appropriate veterinary care records. Male goats over six months of age must be neutered.
Harris shared some ideas expressed at the Planning and Zoning Board, including using applicant Erika Martin’s property as a test case to determine the correct number of goats and time period required for effective goat vegetation removal.
Interim Town Planner Jonathan Wells researched various ordinances from across the country and talked to several goat renting services to get input as well. The University of Tennessee veterinary program recommends one goat per 2,500 square feet.
Bryant questioned how many people would even want to rent goats. Williams said she knew several with kudzu problems who would be interested if the ordinance was passed.
Henkel suggested that council wait to get further input from the Planning and Zoning Board before moving on the issue. He said accurately determining the number of goats and time period needed for efficient kudzu remediation is important to getting the ordinance right.
Williams expressed concerns about a brazen coyote that hung around her back yard for an extended period and then moved off toward ESC Park. Henkel also recounted a similar recent incident during yard work one afternoon.
The mayor suggested that an alert be added to the newsletter to remind citizens to be careful with their small animals, which can fall prey to coyotes. Williams noted that goats can also be in danger from these predators.
UPCOMING THURSDAY NIGHT
At Thursday night’s meeting, council will consider:
♦ An ordinance regulating vehicular flow on Rumple Street near Troutman Middle School.
♦ Approval of budget amendments to the Troutman ESC Park Capital Project Fund and the Street Improvements Capital Project Fund.
♦ Adoption of the 2020 Iredell-Rowan Hazard Mitigation Plan
♦ A rezoning request from rural preservation to suburban residential from Rick and Brenda Morrow.
♦ Appointments to the Board of Adjustment and Design and Review Board.
The council will also:
♦ Receive a recognition for the Troutman Police Department’s safety audit from the NC League of Municipalities.
♦ Present a recognition in memory of Vernon “Red” Overcash.
♦ Proclaim November as “National Diabetes Month.”
♦ Hear reports from the Troutman ABC Board and the J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library.
♦ Hold a closed session to discuss economic development and personnel.