BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council passed several time-sensitive items and discussed already approved purchases as well as staffing needs, including replacing Town Planner George Berger, during the council’s pre-agenda meeting on Monday afternoon,
Berger, who took the Troutman job in May of 2019, recently resigned to take a position with the City of Statesville.
New Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck, who began in July, has contacted N-Focus to seek an experienced interim town planner to work 3 to 5 days a week. He hopes to have that person in before Berger’s departure on August 24 to achieve a smooth transition of planning services.
Gruesbeck also asked for council’s blessing to proceed with making the part-time Park Maintenance and Facilities Technician position full time, which was budgeted for in this fiscal year.
Gruesbeck and Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson recommended that Paxton Hix, who currently works part-time and has a wide range of skills, continue in new full-time position.
Watson noted that the town is planning to amend its agreement with the county to maintain the extensive ESC Park property, so the full time position is a necessity with the added mowing, seeding, fertilizing, and general maintenance the park requires.
WATER/SEWER CUTOFF EXTENSION TO BUSINESSES
Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order prohibiting utility cutoffs and penalties for residential customers ended on July 29. The order directed municipalities to offer residents a minimum of six months to repay past-due balances.
However, this same protection was not offered to business customers. Finance Director Steve Shealy told council that 10 local businesses, some of which are still not allowed to reopen, have past-due balances of nearly $6,000.
Shealy asked council to consider offering the same repayment grace period to these businesses, which have paid their bills on time in the past. The council voted 5-0 to extend this courtesy to the businesses.
Council member Paul Bryant said the town needed to show compassion to these struggling business owners.
The council also extended the waiver of the $3 online payment processing fee for water and sewer bills until the end of Phase 2 COVID-19 restrictions.
As part of the Mill Village sewer improvement project, Town Engineer Benjie Thomas asked council to approve additional funds for the replacement of controls at the Rimmer Farm Road and Iredell Avenue pump stations and approve the addition of a generator at the Iredell station, which covers a large, high usage area.
Thomas estimated the pump station improvements would cost between $100,000 and $200,000.
The Mill Village project has a projected cost of $729,801, which is lower than the approved $1.1 million loan proposal already approved by the state. The council previously discussed adding these two pump station upgrades to the project if the costs were under the loan amount.
Thomas warned that if the council did not move on officially bidding the project and locking down the available state loan funds, available at a 1.82 percent interest rate, the money could go to other projects and leave the town unable to continue the project.
Council members unanimously approved adding $150,000 to the project costs to complete the additional upgrades.
FIRE STATION CONTRACT
Troutman Fire and Rescue Chief Wesley Morris asked council members to approve a new fire service contract with the department to prepare for a state ISO rating inspection on Monday. The current contract had not been updated since 2002 and did not reflect the changes in funding from a district fire tax to the new countywide fire tax.
Morris noted the department has upgraded equipment and training as well as entered into a new mutual aid agreement to provide additional fire protection for lakefront properties. He hopes that the current rating of 6 will be further lowered to help reduce the area’s insurance rates.
Council members approved the contract 4-0. (Member Eddie Nau was late to the meeting and missed this vote.)
Watson asked council members for a decision on new Christmas decorations approved in this year’s budget. With the input of community members and staff, Watson narrowed the choices to two winter-themed options that would allow the town to continue to display the decorations through the winter months.
After discussing the snowman or lighted deer options, the council favored the deer option. The new decor also includes an 18-foot, pre-lit and decorated tree, warm winter lights for trees along the greenway, and new large bows.
Watson plans to create a Downtown Beautification Committee of volunteers, with the help of public works and town staff, to do the decorating the first week of December. The new tree will be placed in front of Town Hall rather than at ESC Park for better visibility, 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 lighted garland at the Depot, lighted garland and wreathes on the light poles, lighted trees along the greenway, the large wreath on Town Hall and the 18-foot 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 wreathes at the town signs on Highway 21 and Old Mountain Road.
Gruesbeck is seeking bids to upgrade the sound quality of council meetings, which was poor during Monday’s meeting, according to texts received by council members.
Gruesbeck said the first bid came in higher than anticipated but noted that COVID-19 funds the town has received could be used to help fund the audio-visual costs to help town residents stay connected to town government functions during the COVID-19 gathering restrictions.
UPCOMING THURSDAY NIGHT
The council has a busy agenda Thursday night, including:
♦ Recognition of the Citizen of the Year Danyel Miller and Organization of the Year Troutman Baptist Church.
♦ Consideration of a UDO amendment to allow Land Clearing and Inert Debris (LCID) landfills in Troutman
♦ Consideration of a wastewater agreement with Iredell County and Children’s Hope Alliance and an associated amendment to the engineering contract on the project.
♦ Consideration of relief from a zoning administrator decision requested by Dallas Norman.
♦ Re-appointment of Wes Edmiston and Ron Wyatt to the ABC Board and Lori Eberly to the Planning and Zoning Board.
♦ Setting public hearings on September 10 for Smith Village (69 acres on Highway 21 near Iredell Charter Academy) and 46 acres at 735 Perth Road (part of the already approved Calvin Creek subdivision).
♦ Approval of budget amendments for grant money received to replace police department tasers and to allocate recently received COVID-19 relief funds.