BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night to approve a $7,851,950 budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 while holding the tax rate at 52 cents per $100 and instituting no water or sewer rate increases.
Town Manager Ron Wyatt praised Finance Director Steve Shealy, department leaders, and the town staff for their hard work in creating the budget, which represents a 9.12 percent increase in spending over the current fiscal year without dipping into fund balance.
Wyatt said his budget view reflected the philosophy of former U.S Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, who said, “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.”
Each department head looked at the past and present as well as the future needs of the town when making budget considerations, with an eye on the goal of improving the quality of life for Troutman citizens, with investments in parking, greenways, and additional staff to meet their needs.
Wyatt added that no hidden items exist in the budget, which was discussed at public meetings broadcast to the community to enhance transparency.
Since the town only spent 95 percent of last year’s budgeted funds, Wyatt noted that they were able to accomplish extra projects like the paving of the crumbling Town Hall parking lot.
The budget includes nearly $1.5 million for the police department, which will add two cost-effective F150 Ford trucks and an additional SRO at Troutman Elementary. The Planning and Zoning Department is slated to get $449,003 to cope with active development demands and to add additional personnel and improved equipment to meet customers’ needs.
Parks and Recreation will receive $262,103 to continue development of the ESC Park Master Plan, which includes building a concession stand and bathrooms for the new baseball complex and possible additional picnic structures if funds allow.
Streetscape improvements, more holiday decor, and acquisition and development of properties to meet future road needs and Town Hall expansion are also included in next year’s budget.
The estimated revenue in the separate water and sewer fund next year is $2,762,540, with an additional $133,412 taken from that fund’s savings, to meet the town’s budget plan of $2,875,952 for utility operations and improving infrastructure.
Most of the increase results from the necessary acquisition of a piece of equipment required to maintain the town’s sewer system. The Public Works Department requested a $286,550 jetting machine to replace its 1999 model that barely operates.
The machine performs the state-required annual sewer clean out of at least 10 percent of the town’s lines, though Director Adam Lippard typically achieves 20 percent.
Council member George Harris praised Wyatt and the staff, seeing “great improvements in every department.” He noted that the budget shows growth in every department area but keeps the tax base the same.
The council recognized two citizens for their outstanding service to the Troutman community, 96-year-old Troutman native Billie Jo Matheson Powell, wife of former Mayor Loren Powell, and Sherri Saunders, child nutrition manager at Troutman Elementary School.
Powell, who was born in 1924, watched Troutman grow from a sleepy small town to the bustling community it is today. “She is a walking history book of her town,” according to her daughter, Jo Powell Boggs.
Over the years, Powell worked at several area businesses, sang in the First United Methodist Church choir for the past 80 years, and taught preschool Sunday School for many decades.
For the 30 years that her husband was mayor, Powell supported him at town events, worried as he answered fire calls, and acted as his sounding board.
Today, neighbors still see Powell serving her community, delivering meals to the homebound and checking in on neighbors and friends to encourage them during the past 15 months of the pandemic.
Her daughter added that Powell only lived outside of Troutman once when she and Loren moved for his service during WWII. “She is the face of Troutman,” she said.
Mayor Teross Young presented Powell with a certificate honoring her devotion and service to what she calls “the best small town in the world.”
Saunders supports the youth of Troutman not only through her job but through local scouting groups and athletic organizations.
During the pandemic, she and her staff were on the frontlines, delivering meals and food on buses to the community’s children to ensure their nutritional needs were met. Saunders recalled that she was at a planning meeting one day and delivering meals the next with her team at Troutman Elementary.
Saunders publicized the feeding program and encouraged parents and organizations to spread the word so children could take advantage of the program. Her husband, Chuck Saunders, said, “She works directly with the students of the school to make each child feels recognized and valued so that they get a sense of -self-worth.”
Saunders also creates contests and extra-curricular activities and makes sure kids without resources get special treats by paying for them out of her own pocket.
In applauding her efforts, Young presented Saunders with a certificate of recognition. After accepting the honor, Saunders praised the “fantastic ladies” with whom she works each day.
NEW POLICE OFFICERS
Interim Police Chief Darrin Payne introduced Detective Cameron Jones, who recently joined the department. Before joining the Troutman team, Jones was most recently an investigator with Mocksville Police Department, where he served since 2019.
Jones started with the Wilkesboro Police Department after basic law enforcement training before joining the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, where he rose to the Criminal Investigative Division, working with the homicide team and conducting hostage negotiations. He is married to wife Jessica and has three children.
Payne also informed council about new patrol officer Chad Trivitte, who also joins the staff from the Mocksville Police Department. He previously served six years with the Davie County Sheriff’s Department and seven years with the Jefferson Police Department. He is married to wife Christy and has one stepson.
The board also voted unanimously to:
♦ Approve an amendment to town policy to allow police officers who live 25 miles or less from Troutman to take their squad car home. Wyatt asked for this change from a 15-mile limit to “uncuff our hands” in recruiting officers to fill open positions.
Surrounding agencies’ policies vary from 20 to 25 mile limits, requiring chief or town manager approval to take a police car home, or lack a policy at all, according to Wyatt.
♦ Approve a two-year extension of the interlocal agreement to extend its participation in the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission with Iredell County, Statesville, Mooresville, and Davidson.
♦ Approve a budget amendment to complete this year’s budget as the end of the year approaches, adding in increased revenues, transfers between funds, and paying for additional items with surplus funds.
♦ Approve the annexation of 3.68 acres of the Walmart Fulfillment Services site at 336 Murdock Road to bring the entire property into Troutman’s jurisdiction.
♦ Approve rezoning of .63 acres on South Eastway Drive from heavy industrial to highway business for an expansion of Dakota Lineberger’s business.
♦ Hold a closed session to discuss property acquisition, after which no action was taken.
Photos courtesy of Emily Watson.