BY DEBBIE PAGE
debbiepage.iredellfreenews@gmail.com

Troutman Town Council members met on Monday afternoon to discuss several items, including moving Troutman Fire and Rescue to a municipal department, creating a remote meeting participation policy, selecting a town manager, and deciding the fate of the Independence Day festival after the Rotary Club of Troutman dropped their operation of the event.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

Continuing the council’s budget retreat discussion about the Troutman Fire and Rescue becoming a municipal department, members seemed less interested in pursuing an $18,500 study to investigate the process after receiving a letter from the TFR Board of Directors that indicated a lack of support for the move at the present time.

The department is currently transitioning to the county tax fire district, which goes into effect July 1. The board wishes to assess this new process and funding mechanism before considering a move to a municipal department.

In light of this letter, Councilman Paul Henkel suggested putting the idea on the shelf for now. If council proceeds with the study at this time, the data would have to be updated in the future whenever the council and department decide to move forward.

“Let’s let it lie and see how the relationship matures. If everyone is happy, why change anything?” Henkel asked.

Councilman Paul Bryant agreed, saying that the increase in the tax rate (7.5 to 9 percent) should hold the department’s funding steady or create additional funding.

The board may instead decide to get a slimmed down version of the study to analyze the department’s current situation, processes, staffing, and call volumes, which would provide useful for TFR Chief Wesley Morris as he presents his case for funding needs to the county.

The council will vote on whether to proceed with the study at its regular meeting on Thursday night.

REMOTE PARTICIPATION

Over the years, several council members have had illnesses, surgeries, or business obligations that have prevented their attendance at council meetings. As a result, discussion of a remote participation policy has come up several times.

Council members on Monday asked Town Attorney Gary Thomas to begin drafting a remote participation policy for its consideration, especially in light of coronavirus concerns.

The Iredell County Board of Commissioners recently passed such a policy for its members as part of a comprehensive rules and procedures update.

Mayor Teross Young also asked members to consult a Centralina Council of Government (CCOG) guide on creating town policies to see if they wanted a more formal set of policies governing the council’s operation and procedure as the commissioners did or just add the remote participation policy.

Henkel and Councilwoman Sally Williams favored just adding the participation policy at this time since the council operates cooperatively and effectively under its current procedures.

INDEPENDENCE DAY FESTIVAL

Recreation Director Emily Watson informed the council that the Rotary Club of Troutman indicated that it will not operate the annual Independence Festival prior to the fireworks at the Iredell County Fair Grounds on June 29.

With only a short time left to find another organization to run it and limited town staff, Watson sought council’s direction on how to proceed.

The council discussed going with the parade and fireworks only, finding a third party to run the festival, or just renting the fairgrounds parking lot and perhaps having only limited festival with a few food trucks and music to accompany the fireworks show.

Council asked Watson to consult with the Parks and Recreation Committee at its Monday, March 16, meeting and then inform the council of its recommendation.

Council members were adamant that the town staff, already highly involved in the parade, not be stretched to a 16-hour day to run the festival as well.

TOWN MANAGER SEARCH

Interim Town Manager Jim Freeman announced that the Town Manager Search Committee had examined the town manager candidates’ information provided by CCOG and come up with several that it recommended.

The council met in closed session after Monday’s pre-agenda meeting to discuss town manager candidates and talk about the interview process.

NEW LIFE MISSIONARY CHURCH SIGN

Mayor Young and council members asked Town Planner George Berger to find a resolution to the New Life Missionary Baptist Church’s request to allow digital signs on the pump station wall structure, built by the town, in front of its property after Berger and the Board of Adjustment denied the request.

The town’s 2019 UDO adoption added an ordinance prohibiting “animated signs with lights or illumination which flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink, flicker, vary in intensity or color or use intermittent electrical pulsations, except for time and temperature units.”

In 2017, the church began raising money to replace its increasingly dilapidated signage on the pump structure with a digital message signs to better promote church services and events. The church consulted with town staff at the time about the plan and were given positive feedback.

In October of last year, after completing the fundraising and sign selection process, the church applied for a sign permit and was rejected because of changes to the town sign ordinance in the UDO revision passed in January of 2019.

The town placed a sewer pump station on the property in front of the church over a decade ago and built the brick sign marquee to hide the unattractive station. Members note the smell and pump alarms are disruptive to church members and activities.

Council members indicated that they want the issue addressed and solved in a timely manner.

HORSE SHOW CONCERNS

Council members asked Police Chief Tina Fleming to come up with a plan to protect residents’ property from illegal parking during the upcoming Dixie Horse Auction on March 19-21. In the past, traffic congestion and yard damage from trucks and cars have been problematic.

The town and Fleming had not even been notified by organizers of the event’s dates, learning of it when Independence Parade Chairman Chuck Gallyon mentioned the upcoming auction in passing during the pre-agenda meeting.

Fleming and town staff promised to quickly come up with a traffic and parking plan.

COFFEE WITH A COP

Fleming announced the revival of Coffee With A Cop on Saturday, March 28, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the McDonald’s at I-77 Exit 42. Fleming invites the community to stop by for a cup or coffee or other beverage of choice and meet some of the department members.

This opportunity is an excellent time to express community concerns and build relationships with local law enforcement officers.

THURSDAY NIGHT AGENDA ITEMS

♦ Public Hearing Matters: Annexation Request (AX-20-01) Non-Contiguous-Redwood Living; Rezoning Request (RZ-20-02) Redwood Living

UDO Text Amendment (TA-20-02) Truck Parking and Maintenance Text Amendment

Town & Chartered Fire Department Consolidation Assessment Proposal

Consider Acceptance of Purchase Offer of Town Massey Street Property, PIN 47371716682

Consider West Consultants PLLC Engineering Proposal for Water & Sewer Planning Services

Introduction of Officer Gina Cranford

J. Hoyt Hayes Troutman Memorial Library report

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