BY DEBBIE PAGE
At its virtual regular meeting on Thursday, the Troutman Town Council recognized the important work of law enforcement through a National Law Enforcement Week proclamation and voted to honor South Iredell High seniors’ graduation in a unique manner.
Council members also approved a resolution supporting a bike and pedestrian planning grant application and discussed the possible purchase of license plate cameras to better protect the community and the addition of interns to help town staff.
LAW ENFORCEMENT WEEK
Mayor Teross Young read a proclamation honoring the 900,000 American law enforcement officers serving their communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, during the week of May 10-16.
Young commended officers for pursuing justice for all individuals, for their fidelity to individuals’ constitutional and civil rights, and for their unyielding service in the face of danger as they defend society from those who seek to do harm.
The proclamation also recognized the dangers that officers face on the front lines every day, including 58,866 assaults in 2019, resulting in 18,005 injuries. Since 1791, more than 22,056 officers have been killed while on duty, including Troutman’s William John Pettit Sr. in 1990.
Flags were lowered to half staff on May 15 on Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of these fallen officers and their families. Eighty-nine officers were killed in the line of duty in 2019, including two in North Carolina. So far in 2020, 61 American officers have made the ultimate sacrifice, with two in North Carolina.
HONORING SIHS SENIORS
Council member Sally Williams proposed placing 10 professionally made, attractive signs along Richardson Greenway on May 20-22 to recognize graduating seniors at South Iredell High School. Williams noted the signs, paid for by a donor, would be the size of political signs and would be placed and removed by SIHS staff. The honor would impose no costs on the town.
The council members agreed that seniors should be recognized in this unique way since they have been denied traditional senior activities such as prom and graduation ceremonies. The proposal passed unanimously.
Planning Director George Berger, appearing remotely, presented a request for a required resolution that supports applying for an NCDOT 2020 Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant. The award would be $25,000 to $35,000, with 10 percent matching costs for the town.
The grant would help staff combine elements of the 2008 Troutman Pedestrian Plan, the 2009 Comprehensive Transportation Plan, the 2018 Strategic Master Plan, and the 2019 Unified Development Ordinance to create a comprehensive strategy for the safe interaction of the growing population of pedestrians and bicyclists with increasing vehicular traffic.
Since the 2012 plan, the town has added the Richardson Greenway, the South Iredell High School Greenway, additional sidewalks constructed by developers, and downtown segments added by the town.
This plan would examine how users of these paths interact with the motor vehicle system and the adjoining land uses, an important study with Troutman’s population doubling since 2008 and more expected growth.
Berger noted the calls for bicycle and pedestrian improvements received in public comments during the U.S. 21 widening project and Southwest Bypass study meetings. As a gateway to Lake Norman State Park, this type of planning becomes even more important.
Berger said both Statesville and Mooresville have updated bike/pedestrian plans.
The grant would help Berger pull together the various currently disconnected planning elements that address bike and pedestrian connectivity into one user-friendly document and allow staff to conduct public outreach to determine what Troutman residents and user groups need and desire for the system in the future.
If Troutman wins the low-cost grant, the work is expected to be completed in six to 10 months.
The council’s unanimous vote to approve the resolution will now allow Berger to submit the grant request for Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRPTO) approval at its June meeting prior to grant submittal to NCDOT before the June 30 deadline.
PLATE READER CAMERAS
Police Chief Tina Fleming and FLOCK representative Alysha Stanton asked council members to consider the purchase of plate reader cameras to cover the major entrance and exit areas of Troutman after a successful two-month trial of the cameras in a high traffic area of the town.
Stanton said that the FLOCK cameras could help council members meet their goal of reducing crime and keeping the community safe.
On the first day that the trial cameras were in operation, Troutman officers received an alert about a stolen car. The alert yielded arrests not only for the stolen vehicle but for drugs and other charges in what is now an FBI investigation.
Stanton also shared the story of Sandy Springs, Ga., FLOCK cameras, along with HOA owned FLOCK cameras, helping to nab a chronic “porch pirate” stealing packages throughout the area. A search of the perpetrator’s apartment located a trove of stolen merchandise and resulted in 23 federal counts since the stolen packages came from a number of other states.
Fleming proposed the purchase of 14 cameras to cover the town’s main gateways a cost of $2,000 each (installation included) to keep the town safer.
The chief added that this camera, which includes a pole and solar panel, is more affordable than other brands and that prices will rise to $2,500 per camera with $250 installation charge after July 1, necessitating a swift decision to catch this savings opportunity.
She said within 20 seconds of spotting an alerted plate the camera notifies officers of the vehicle’s location so officers can respond quickly. Since April 2, Troutman officers have received 18 alerts.
With the cameras’ help, officers have located stolen vehicles, property, and license tags, illegal drugs, people with outstanding warrants, and protective order violators. They also located a vehicle with a suspect that the Mooresville Police Department was seeking.
“Look how much we have been missing,” said Fleming. “We can catch criminals and help other agencies too.”
She noted the cameras can also help police determine the direction a vehicle being sought in a crime left to aid officers in finding the perpetrator.
Interim Town Manager Jim Freeman asked Stanton and Fleming for a specific proposal that council members can consider during budget planning over the next few weeks.
Council member Eddie Nau proposed that the town form partnerships with area colleges to hire interns to work in various departments’ operations, particularly Parks and Recreation. The free or low-cost help would benefit the town as well as provide experience and resume-building benefits for the students.
Freeman suggested adding the idea to Monday’s budget planning meeting since most interns are now paid, usually at $10 per hour or less. He suggested enlisting staff to create job descriptions and pay level before connecting with universities.
Council member Paul Henkel agreed, saying that paying interns results in better applicants. He suggested looking at economic development funds as a possible funding source.
Henkel also said other departments could also use interns’ help, including in creating a more prominent social media presence for Troutman.
♦ The town has contracted with Centralina Council of Governments to perform required UDO updates ($5,000) and Quasi-Judicial Training for the Board of Adjustment ($1,200).
♦ The town should soon receive an unpaid fines lien placed against the short-term rentals once located on the Limelights property after the sale of the property to At Ease Pest Control. Town Attorney Gary Thomas said the Clerk of Court has received the funds, which will soon be forwarded to the town.
♦ Nau and Henkel questioned Freeman about any progress in getting Bizzell Design to complete its wayfinding sign work and to return the sign it removed for updating to reflect the change from the Barium YMCA to Iredell County Recreation Center.
Freeman has reached out to the company numerous times with no response. Thomas and Finance Director Steve Shealy said they will investigate the town’s agreement with Bizzell and seek possible remedies. Shealy assured council that only work completed was paid for.
♦ Council member Paul Bryant shared complaints about the appearance of the vacant first floor windows in the town’s Wagner Street property. He suggested getting window coverings of some sort to create a more presentable appearance.
♦ Bryant also shared hopes of finding a safe, socially distanced way to open the Farmer’s Market and the new ESC Park splash pad in the Phase 2 reopening of North Carolina, hopefully going into effect on May 22.