Chief Darrin Payne (front row, right) introduced Officers Rex Eure, Clark Dotson, Jordan Roy, and Hunter Riddle to Town Council members on Thursday night. Second row: Council members Eddie Nau, Sally Williams, Mayor Teross Young, George Harris, Felina Harris, Paul Henkel.
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Citing cyber intrusions in nearby Mecklenburg County and eight other North Carolina municipalities, Town Manager Ron Wyatt urged Troutman Town Council members to contract with CORVID, a Mooresville-based cyber security firm, to protect the finances and data of the town and police department.
Though some think small towns are not targets, Wyatt said it was actually quite the opposite since most do not have the resources or the will to build firewalls against hackers. He said the town frequently receives emails trying to trick staff into changing employee deposit information or to click on links that will open up their computers to intrusion.
The town has a part-time IT professional who has identified software weaknesses and out-of-date equipment, including one 12-year-old computer.
If hackers do get in, Wyatt noted the expense of protection is small compared to the cost of the town’s information being held hostage and having to pay a ransom. The town could lose all of its online records, billing information, payroll capabilities, and other data.
CORVID offers 24/7 protection of networks, secure workstations and servers, malware prevention, email security, detection and monitoring, routine threat scanning, staff training, and complete system back-up.
In the event of an attack or hack, Wyatt said CORVID would have town staff back in operation in a few hours.
The cost for 34 users is $1,241 per month (or $14,892 per year), with a $1,241 one-time onboarding fee. The cost is an average of $36.50 per user each month. Additional users can be added as the town staff expands over the years, with price per user reductions beginning at 50 users.
The company will have the town under full protection within 30 days of the contract execution.
Council member Felina Harris, an IT professional, was pleased to see the town being proactive about ever-increasing cybersecurity dangers.
“You don’t see the importance of it until something happens,” she said.
Council member Eddie Nau agreed, saying the protection was like an insurance policy for the town, its employees, and the millions of taxpayer dollars for which the town is responsible. Noting the relatively low cost, Nau said, “This is great to have.”
With just one hack, this cost will be minuscule in comparison to the cost of the damage to the town, added council member Paul Henkel. “If you don’t have it, tragedy can hit. And we are already getting problems.”
The council voted 5-0 to engage with CORVID.
GOAT AND LIVESTOCK ORDINANCE REJECTED
In a surprise move, council members rejected the second reading of the proposed goat and livestock text amendment ordinance by a vote of 4-1 after passing it 3-2 last month. Because council votes require a four or five majority to pass, the ordinance and text amendment had to be reconsidered this month.
Council members Paul Henkel and Felina Harris, after receiving numerous calls opposing goats and specified livestock in town limits even under strict conditions, joined George Harris and Nau in opposing the measures.
Council member Sally Williams, who supported the text amendment and ordinance, noted they only restored what was in effect from 2006 until January 2019 under the previous Unified Code of Development and was supposed to have been added back in then.
Before the vote, Harris said that he would not want goats next door, so “I’m not going to do that to someone else.”
TROUTMAN BUSINESS COUNCIL DISBANDED
Wyatt asked the council to disband the Troutman Business Council by dissolving its bylaws and connection to out-of-town entities so it can reimagine itself as a purely Troutman business organization.
Wyatt noted that most previous members were outside of Troutman, and few actually assisted with TBC sponsored events such as Party in the Park, leaving most of the work on the taxpayer-paid town staff.
The money raised at events then went to the TBC nonprofit umbrella, the Greater Statesville Chamber of Commerce, rather than staying in Troutman. The mostly inactive group’s death knell came with the pandemic and the shrinking of chamber staff.
Wyatt advocated for dissolving the group and creating a truly local organization that is tailored to town businesses.
Henkel agreed, noting that the Troutman Business Network meeting at a nearby coffee house was “thriving” and could be a positive partner. He felt it was time to “cut bait and reimagine this and start over to build something bigger and better.”
Nau expressed concern about how alcohol sales at Party in the Park, now under the Statesville Chamber authority, would be affected. Wyatt said after the new TBC group was properly organized with appropriate nonprofit status, it would be able to sponsor sales at such events.
Wyatt said the Troutman Business Network was an active organization that wanted to host events, promote area businesses, and bring the community together. He wants to partner with a business group to promote the town but remove the burden from paid staff, many of whom may still choose to volunteer.
Before the unanimous vote to disband the TBC, Mayor Teross Young noted that the group was at one time actively engaged but that the group has dwindled over time.
“I appreciate their time and engagement in the past and look forward to partnership with a new group to move our town forward,” he said.
Wyatt added that the dissolution in no way reflected badly on the Statesville Chamber but instead was just moving the effort to a Troutman-centered organization.
TROUTMAN ABC STORE REPORT
Though sales tapered off slightly fourth quarter as people returned to work as the pandemic waned, ABC Board Chairman Layton Getsinger reported a strong 2020-21 fiscal year performance.
After projecting $1,743,000 in sales for the year in the store’s budget, Getsinger said the store actually reached $2,534,000 in sales, a $790,585 increase and 31 percent over budget predictions. The store topped its previous year’s gross sales record by $391,000, or 18 percent over 2019-20.
For this past year, the store had $176,026 in profit after distributions of $95,929 to the town and its designated entities as well as accumulating its full $414,071 of allowed working capital, which includes liquor inventory value and cash on hand in store accounts.
Getsinger said after the slow fourth quarter, this fiscal year beginning in July is once again at a record-setting pace. Sales were up 9.3 percent in July and about 10 percent over last August so far this month. He predicts $2.7 million in sales in the current year’s budget.
After paying cash for a $210,000 warehouse addition out of savings last year, Getsinger and the board are eyeing further expansion plans. They are looking at two pieces of property as possible sites for a second store and hope to announce the new site next month.
Getsinger said the funds will come from its capital improvement fund recently approved by the council. He is currently researching the area and creating a business plan, wanting to ensure that the new store does not pull business from the current location.
Getsinger hopes to build the new store without accruing additional debt by using their savings in the working capital and capital improvement funds. He noted that the board is also making extra payments on the first store’s loan to further lower its debt.
When the new store opens in the coming years, he anticipates the board will hire a part-time finance person and another store manager, as well as store clerks, to accommodate the growth and increased demand.
Noting that the store will celebrate its fifth anniversary on December 1, Getsinger said that so far it has earned $743,254 in profits, has given $154,583 to the town and its designated entities, has distributed $23,457 to law enforcement, and presented $32,840 to the Drug-Alcohol Coalition of Iredell for alcohol education efforts.
Wyatt called the store is “the gift that keeps on giving to the town.”
NEW STAFF INTRODUCTIONS
Wyatt introduced Town Planner Lynne Hair, who started on the job last Monday after a 15-year stint as a planner in Stallings. Wyatt said her extensive background offers a lot to Troutman’s growing community.
“There’s a lot of development happening here,” said Hair. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Assistant Planner Andrew Ventresca also has a lot to offer to the community with his experience with greenways, bike/pedestrian projects, and parks. An active member of the biking community, Ventresca will be visible riding his orange bike to work, added Wyatt.
“I look forward to growing with the town, and hopefully my improvements make a mark,” said Ventresca.
Interim Police Chief Darrin Payne also introduced four officers who recently joined the TPD.
Officer Hunter Riddle, who holds an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice, began his career in 2019 with the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office. He began as a part-time officer with Troutman in May and moved to full time in July.
Officer Rex Eure began his law enforcement career in 2018 at St. Augustine College, also working for the Four Oak Police Department and N.C. Central University. He joined the TPD in July after moving to this area.
Officer Jordan Roy began his career with the Statesville Police Department in 2017 and worked part-time with the Taylorsville Police Department. In 2018, he joined the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office, where he earned the rank of corporal and became a supervisor, field training officer, and sniper on the Special Emergency Response Team.
Officer Clark Dotson, a welder and fabricator, decided to switch careers and completed his basic law enforcement training in May and then joined the TPD last week.
♦ The council voted unanimously to pass the revised Public Records Request Policy #52 and amended outdated language in the greenway signage ordinance.
♦ Council members thanked Interim Planner Jonathan Wells for his work over the past year. Nau said that Wells “cared and was “committed to the job, and it really showed.”
Mayor Young echoed the sentiments, saying, “The town really appreciates the work you did to step in and support us.”
Wells will continue to work alongside Hair and Ventresca for the next few weeks as he completes a few projects and hands off others to them.