BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Town Council member Paul Bryant has resigned his position in order to spend more time with his family, according to Mayor Teross Young.
The council will later discuss whether to appoint someone to fill the seat or wait until the 2021 election.
The council met several times over the past week in continued closed sessions to discuss the vacant town manager position and to consider candidates. They have offered the open town planner position to a candidate but are still negotiating at this point.
Council members also expressed distress about the delays in funding for the approved Talley Street sidewalk project, which the community and council worked toward for years. Council member George Harris said town officials met with Sen. Vickie Sawyer, who contacted NCDOT to request information on the status of the release of project’s funds.
Council member Paul Henkel said the situation has “dragged on” for four years. Referencing NCDOT’s overspending and budget woes, Henkel complained that “somebody at DOT doesn’t do their job, and as a result, citizens all across the state are suffering.”
“The federal funds are there, but they can’t be released unless DOT approves it.”
Henkel was appreciative of Sawyer’s looking into this “stonewalled” situation, which he called a “shell game” and “hogwash.”
Henkel also thanked citizens along Talley Street who donated right-of-way for the project.
Several council members also complimented Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson, other staff, and town volunteers for their help in decorating the Richardson Greenway for the holidays.
Young said the feedback from citizens on the new additions to decorations, including grapevine deer, additional Christmas trees, and lights in existing trees, was positive, with many citizens using them as a backdrop for holiday photos.
“The way you dressed up the town looks really good,” the mayor said.
Henkel expressed his appreciation to staff, who have carried on with their work despite recent hardships related to COVID-19. The town building is now being regularly sanitized through a fumigation type system, in addition to daily cleaning measures, to keep staff and citizens safe.
Young recently filmed a public service video with other town mayors, hospital CEOs, county officials, and Iredell County Health Department Director Jane Hinson to urge citizens to wear a mask, social distance, and hand wash as the county’s positive COVID-19 numbers and hospitalizations have risen sharply.
The hospitalization numbers doubled in 24 hours from 25 to 50 over the weekend, and five new deaths were reported on Monday.
Young asked other council members and staff to take a mask selfie and use the “#MaskUp” hashtag on social media posts. “It’s starting to tax our hospitals even here in Iredell County,” he said.
The mayor encouraged citizens to mask up to protect themselves and others when they are out and about in the community to avoid additional restrictions that may be necessary from the Gov. Roy Cooper if numbers do not improve.
Finance Director and Acting Town Manager Steve Shealy reported that the town had $18,685 remaining in COVID-19 relief funds to spend before the end of the year.
Shealy reported that sales tax numbers continue to look strong, with November receipts rising from $65,477 last year to $74,604 this year. First quarter utility taxes and Powell Funds are down slightly due to decreased usage this year.
After being down for the last four months, in amounts ranging from $15,000 to $49,000, water and sewer billing was up in November, rising from $157,568 in 2019 to $168,936.
Shealy said business and school closures and more plentiful rain this summer and fall, which reduced irrigation needs, contributed to the lower water and sewer numbers in the four previous months.
Though property tax collections fell about $82,000 in November, Shealy said the previous high rate of property tax collection in September and October, over double the collection for those months in 2019, has the town ahead of last year at this point.
Council members were pleased to see the positive revenue numbers for the general budget. Because of this news, the council voted unanimously to award the other 1 percent of a 2 percent staff raise approved in this year’s budget beginning in January.
Before the vote, Shealy noted the staff was deserving of the raise and the money was budgeted and available. The council had withheld part of the raise until impacts of the pandemic on revenues were more clear.
SOUTH IREDELL GREENWAY PAVING COSTS RISE
Shealy reported that the South Iredell Greenway Project, which must be closed by the end of the year, has run into a snag that could cost the town an additional $50,000. The state is refusing to reimburse the town for a section of the greenway because the required soil samples were not taken.
The state said because the town is ultimately responsible for the project, it must absorb the cost of the error.
Town council members questioned why the contractor or the state-required third party inspector or the town engineering consultant the town hired to oversee the project were not responsible for the failure to take the required samples.
Shealy said each party was blaming the other for the error. The concerned council members instructed Shealy to forward the information and contracts signed by each party to Town Attorney Gary Thomas to determine if the town can hold any or all parties responsible for the costly mistake.
UPCOMING THURSDAY MEETING AGENDA ITEMS
On Thursday night, Town Council will hear several items on a light agenda, including:
♦ The 2019-2020 Budget Year Audit Report.
♦ An economic development request from the Iredell County Economic Development Corporation for “Project Gigi.”