BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council has scheduled interviews for the two finalists for the town manager position for Thursday, April 16, and Monday, April 20, at Town Hall.
During these sessions, which will be closed to the public and media and will be attended by some members remotely, council members will have the opportunity to question the candidates and determine which one can best fulfill the council’s vision for Troutman’s future.
Mayor Teross Young noted that these are difficult times for all citizens as Gov. Roy Cooper’s “Stay at Home” directive continues through April 29. “We appreciate the citizens who have been patient and abiding by the governor’s order,” he said.
“It’s important that we continue, as we try to, as the president said, flatten the curve and continue in this vein until we get to the point where we can begin to open things up.”
“Parts of the park are closed, and people are captive indoors and would like to get out more, but I think it’s important that we continue in this light,” the mayor added. “I do believe it will be a better day soon.”
As of the morning of Wednesday morning, Iredell County reported 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the central part of the county where Troutman is located, with 44 reported in the Mooresville area and 14 in the northern part of the county. Two people have died from the virus in the county.
Fifty-one percent of cases occurred in those 50 or older, with 32 percent in ages 25-29 and 17 percent in those ages 18-25.
Officials have warned that the virus is likely widespread in the community and that citizens should treat everyone they encounter as a possible infection, maintain social distance of at least six feet, and wear a non-medical mask while out in public.
Young lamented the destructive economic impact the pandemic has created for local businesses. He has received “letters from business owners who have had to close their doors during this time and have had to lay off citizens in our town.”
“I do hope that they will be up and running soon. I hope those folks that are out of work will find the right answers. Please feel free to seek out those within the town and the county and we will do whatever we can.”
Young also thanked essential workers who are providing healthcare, grocery and pharmacy goods, emergency services, and other assistance. “We appreciate the work that they are doing to help us stay both healthy and safe.”
“Our law enforcement officers are on the front lines, and I know it’s important for them to also feel safe as they continue to protect us. Our firemen and other first responders are doing extraordinary work, and we hope they continue to be safe as well.”
“I also appreciate all the processes and procedures the staff has put in place. Mr. (Jim) Freeman (Interim Town Manager) has led the team well, so I really appreciate all you are doing.”
UTILITY CUTOFF WAIVER FORMALLY APPROVED
Recognizing the growing COVID-19 threat level that is economically impacting many industries, businesses, organizations and citizens, Young announced an order to lessen the financial impact on citizens.
For 60 days from March 27, the town revised utility charges/actions and may later reassess to determine if an extension is warranted.
To encourage all customers to make utility payments online at www.troutmannc.gov, the $3 online service charge is now waived.
The Town also suspended utility cutoffs during this 60-day period for non-payment but encourages the customers to call Town Hall ((704) 528-7600) to arrange a bill payment plan.
The late payment fee of 10 percent of bill will also be suspended during this period. If there should be a utility reconnect, the $50 charge will be waived during this period.
Council members voted 5-0 to officially approve the mayor’s order.
CHA SEWER EXTENSION LOAN APPROVED
Council members voted unanimously to approve acceptance of an $856,000 sewer extension loan, for which it received approval from the NC Department of Environmental Quality in March of 2019.
This loan will cover the costs of providing the extension of public sewer service to the Children’s Hope Alliance campus and eliminate the facility’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System discharge.
Freeman said the loan, at an interest rate of 1.13 percent, is for a 20-year term. The town would also be responsible for $17,120 in closing costs. He said that the town could drop the loan without penalty unless it solicited bids and then dropped the project, which would trigger a penalty.
Town Engineer Benjamin Thomas informed Freeman by letter that surveying and design are currently under way, but the project may be delayed because of the uncertainty of CHA’s private sewer system inflow and infiltration volumes, which will need to be addressed.
Interest on the loan does not begin until completion of construction, and the town can still decline the loan offer without penalty prior to starting construction if the project falls through.
Freeman noted that in 2018, projections indicated the collected utility fees would cover the cost of the project. However, with the additional sewer problems recently discovered at CHA, that projection may now be incorrect.
Freeman plans to meet with CHA and Iredell County representatives to discuss a possible partnership to relocate the line to serve the needs of both entities and share costs to provide sewer service to both CHA and the Iredell County Fairgrounds.
This line relocation solution would not resolve all inflow and infiltration issues but would address most, according to Freeman. The project would also need to be redesigned, adding some additional costs.
Mayor Young liked the partnership idea, saying the relocation of the line could be a “starting point of help” in collaborating with the county to improve the fairgrounds.
Councilman Paul Henkel agreed, saying this project could start a relationship with the county to share costs and participate in the county’s recreation facility as well as the fairgrounds. “Let’s see if we can negotiate a deal in which we can all share and participate.”
♦ The council also unanimously approved two budget amendments, including $38,000 for additional engineering services required to plan sewer and water projects and improvements and boundary analysis with Statesville and $233,220 from the Capital Reserve Fund to purchase additional sewer capacity from Mooresville.
♦ Troutman has a 51.7 percent completion rate of the U.S. Census thus far. The national rate is only 45 percent. Young urged citizens to use this time at home to complete the census online or through a paper copy.
“Do something good for the community and be counted,” he said.
♦ Freeman said some surprise costs have emerged with the Street Improvement Project that he will share with the board when he gets further details. The contractor has encountered poor soil conditions, which leads to an unstable foundation, on the Georgie Street section. The contractor is pricing geogrid fabric to stabilize the soil. In good news, the Elliot Drive section was not as bad as projected, so this savings may offset additional costs on Georgie Street.
♦Town Attorney Gary Thomas said the new N.C. 160D statute will require some “tweaks” to the Unified Development Ordinance and recommended using Centralina Council of Governments to do the revisions prior to the January 1, 2021, deadline.