BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Town Council members are encouraged by news of the mostly healthy revenues, along with help from COVID CARES Act funds, to help keep the town’s budget on track.
During Monday’s pre-agenda meeting, Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck reported that sales tax receipts during the first quarter of this fiscal year were $218,791, up from $203,541 during the same period last year, despite a slight dip in July.
Property tax collections were also up in September, rising from $137,639 to $289,127 this year, with more people choosing to pay their property taxes early.
Reimbursement from Iredell-Statesville Schools for school resource officer positions was also up, rising from $201,795 to $242,427.
However, water and sewer collections were down just over $14,000. The decline was attributed to some outstanding bills, lower school and business usage, and sports fields and yards not being irrigated as often because of plentiful rain.
Powell Bill funds were also down about $1,000 because of lower state gas tax collections, and utility sales tax collections were about $3,800 lower.
Though council members were pleased with the revenues coming in, council member Paul Bryant warned that if a COVID-19 resurgence occurs and stay-at-home orders resume, the numbers could go down very quickly. He urged the council to remain conservative in spending.
Gruesbeck said the town has spent just over $31,000 of its COVID CARES Act funds on eligible expenses. About $35,000 remains in this allocation, which must be used by the end of the year.
Some of the funds were used to purchase a new audio-visual system to broadcast town meetings to replace unreliable equipment. Since meeting attendance is limited to 25 people during Phase 3 of the reopening, the town wants to provide clear access to the public.
Gruesbeck plans to spend some of the remaining funds to update microphones and a video projector used to display information.
The manager also outlined Phase 3 Town Hall operations, including reopening the lobby area to the public, with face coverings and social distancing required. If citizens cannot use face coverings, they can access town services through the drive-thru window.
Small meetings are allowed in offices with face coverings, but Gruesbeck encourages the use of the council chamber instead, when possible.
The Dixie Horse Auction is apparently planned for the Iredell County Fairgrounds November 26-28, though vendors will start to arrive November 25, according to council member Sally Williams.
Whether the event will get state permission to occur under Phase 3 restrictions and from the county to use the fairgrounds is still uncertain. Police Chief Tina Fleming also has not received word from organizers about security arrangements.
If the event goes forward, council members asked Fleming for a security, safety, and parking plan to be presented at the November meeting to address past concerns about attendees crossing Highway 21, parking in citizens’ yards and along the gravel area near the greenway, and cleanup of horse droppings and garbage after the event.
Register of Deeds Ron Wyatt commented that the twice yearly horse auction, which was canceled in March, is a large economic driver for Troutman and the entire since it brings in thousands of people from all over the country.
If the event is not allowed this fall because of COVID-19 restrictions, Wyatt worries that the organizer will find another location and the area will permanently lose the event.
UPCOMING TOWN EVENTS
Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson reported on the status of upcoming town events during the remainder of the year, with some canceled and others modified to meet safety concerns.
Wicked Fast 5K
Two upcoming Halloween themed events will go on with some modifications. The popular Wicked Fast 5K, which normally draws several hundred costumed participants, will occur virtually this year.
Participants can pick their date, time, and start line and then run or walk a 5K (3.12 miles) anytime between October 24 and Halloween. After submitting their time to Watson (email@example.com), they will receive a finishers’ medal & race shirt by mail or they can pick them up in person at Troutman Town Hall (400 N. Eastway Drive).
Registration is at https://runsignup.com/Race/NC/Troutman/VIRTUALWickedFast5K.
Participants are encouraged to dress in fun, festive costumes and submit their pictures so they can be featured on the department’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TroutmanESCPark).
Trails and Treats
The wildly popular Trails and Treats will take place this year on the Richardson Greenway to allow greater social distancing. However, Watson reminded community members that due to the unknown and ever-changing nature of COVID-19, this event has the potential to be cancelled at any time.
Kids and families are invited to don their Halloween costumes and come trick-or-treat with local businesses and organizations on Halloween from 4 to 6 p.m.
Watson said the new location will allow dispersement of vendors (about 40 feet between each) and allow the line to move without clustering of participants. The line will start at the Downtown Depot end of the greenway (137 S. Main Street) and move northbound towards Troutman Town Hall, with only one-way foot traffic.
A pedestrian walking lane will be created on Eastway Drive for participants to return to their vehicles once finished. All aspects of the event will be supported by staff and volunteers to ensure safety.
Watson asks that all participants use physical distancing, masks (Halloween or other face covering), and gloves to be respectful of others’ space and safety. Vendors will only hand out pre-packaged items.
Watson will continue to communicate parking options and other event details on the department’s Facebook page.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in participating as a vendor. Vendor spots are open until October 30. About 37 organizations and businesses have signed up to hand out treats so far.
Because social distancing is impossible at CATS and the fairgrounds are not available, the annual Holiday Market Craft Show is canceled.
The Christmas Parade is still planned for Saturday, December 5, with applications currently being accepted through November 25 for the 11 a.m. event. However, the parade can be cancelled at any time if the COVID-19 situation changes.
In lieu of an application fee, the town asks that parade participants donate new, unwrapped toys for the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program, which is in need of toys for all ages of children, especially for those 12 years and up.
A trailer of donated toys will travel behind Santa in the parade so that spectators may also contribute gifts to helper elves as the trailer comes by them on the parade route. Toys will also be collected at the Town Hall any time between now and December 7.
Those participating in the parade should gather at the Career Academy & Technical School (CATS) Auto Tech entrance (258 Murdock Road), no later than 10 a.m. on the morning of the event. The parade will travel on Old Murdock Road from CATS to Eastway Drive, then down Eastway and ending at Troutman Baptist Church.
Parade participants are reminded not throw any objects, including candy, during the parade. If they have candy or other items to pass out, they may walk the route and directly hand out candy or items.
This distribution procedure prevents any children or spectators from coming into the parade travel area and decreases the risk of folks getting hit or injured as well as keeping the town clean of candy debris.
Applications and all parade rules are available at https://tinyurl.com/troutmanchristmasparade.
For any parade questions, please contact Angela Hoover at the Town of Troutman at 704-528-7600 or email her email@example.com.
The annual Tree Lighting ceremony on December 3 will also have a new look this year. If the COVID-19 gathering restrictions are still in effect, the town will have a virtually broadcast ceremony with town officials, followed by the lighting of the tree and new town decorations.
If in person, the event will be at Town Hall rather than at ESC Park. Because of citizen input, the town’s newly purchased 18-foot tree will be now located on the Richardson Greenway in front of Town Hall instead of at the park’s pavilion.
In August, council members heard Watson’s plan to purchase the new decorations with budgeted Parks and Recreation funds, including pre-lit grapevine deer, the new tree, warm winter lights for trees along the greenway, and new large bows.
Volunteers, with the help of public works and town staff, will do the decorating during the first week of December, and the town will light up the entire area at the annual tree lighting ceremony.
From south to north on Highway 21, the plan is to have lighted brown grapevine deer and garland at the Depot, lighted garland and wreathes on the light poles, lights wrapping the trees along the greenway, a large wreath on Town Hall with large tree on the greenway out front, and the current 12-foot tree with more lighted deer on the greenway near Food Lion.
Council members also asked for wreaths at the town signs on Highway 21 and Old Mountain Road.
Jingle Run 5K
The annual Jingle Run 5K on December 6 is still undecided. Depending on COVID restrictions, the event may be held in person, proceed virtually, or be cancelled entirely.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
Because the town was not allowed to have fireworks for the Independence Day celebration, the council discussed moving them to New Year’s Eve. Watson has arranged for a fireworks provider and received a contract, but getting county permission for fairgrounds access for parking and firing the display is still not finalized.
Council members also discussed perhaps arranging for a variety of parking areas visible to the display to allow for more distancing options.
ON THURSDAY’S AGENDA
♦ Approval of Statement of Work Amendment with Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG) for Board of Adjustment Training
♦ Approval of Utility Reimbursement Agreement for Water and Sewer Services with Nest Communities for the Calvin Creek development.
♦ Recognition of Service and Retirement of Police Officer Russell (Rusty) Wade Jones of the Troutman Police Department
♦ Recognition of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) for Splash Pad Sponsorship
♦ Presentation of Proclamation 03-20 Proclaiming October 11th -17th as “Emergency Nurses Week”
♦ Consider Appointments to Town Boards – Board of Adjustment (In-town Alternate – 2 year term) and Design Review Board (In-town member – 3 year term)