BY DEBBIE PAGE
After struggling with a difficult decision with three strong nominations, Troutman Town Council members selected Troutman natives Jimmy and Betty Jean Troutman as Citizens of the Year. The council also selected Troutman Fire and Rescue as Organization of the Year.
The recipients will be honored during the May 13 council meeting.
Council member Sally Williams nominated the Troutmans for their many years of service to the town and community.
Jimmy served in various capacities as a town employee for 27 years, including town clerk, treasurer/finance manager, zoning administrator, and public works director. He was also elected to Town Council in 2015, serving for three years before resigning for health reasons. He was a vocal advocate for the sewer upgrades at Mill Village, which are now underway. He also served for many years as a firefighter with the Troutman Fire Department.
Betty Jean served on Town Council from 2006-2015. She was a delegate to Centralina Council of Government, the Community Development Block Grant for Scattered Site Housing, and CONNECT. She was also a vocal advocate for the construction of the greenways and is still a voice for the pedestrian system today.
Other nominees were 96 year-old community volunteer Billie Jo Powell and Sherri Saunders, the Troutman Elementary School child nutrition manager and dedicated servant to the community’s children.
Council members decided to honor Powell and Saunders with recognition certificates for their volunteer efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic at the May meeting as well.
According to nominator Emily Watson, Troutman Fire and Rescue “exemplifies true support, collaboration, integrity, and professionalism within our community through carrying out their commitment to provide fire suppression and prevention, emergency medical services, and minimalization of loss of life and property.”
The department also “serves our town through the sharing of resources and facilities, participation in local events, and maintaining personal and professional relationships with residents and professional partners,” according to Watson.
The organization never hesitates “to serve as a resource or offer a helping hand in any feasible capacity. We appreciate and commitment to the Town of Troutman,” concluded Watson.
J. HOYT HAYES MEMORIAL TROUTMAN LIBRARY REPORT
Branch Manager Kelli Goodwin hopes to expand its current hours of Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to include Saturday hours within the next month as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
Goodwin said the daily door count was about normal, but patrons are making shorter visits to get their materials and then exiting.
Though the library is not offering in-person programming, the staff has created “Take and Make” activities for preschoolers through teens as well as virtual programming through social media.
Planning for the Summer Reading Program is also underway, with more “Take and Make” activities and virtual programming planned. The staff is planning a drive-thru kickoff event with Iredell Parks and Recreation on Grannis Drive and the distribution of one to two kits per week for participants.
The Friends of the Troutman Library meeting will be at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 22, with an adopt-a-street cleanup just prior at 4 p.m.
TROUTMAN FIRE AND RESCUE REPORT
Troutman Fire and Rescue Chief Wesley Morris said the department answered about 2,000 calls in 2020, which was down slightly from the previous year. ECOM reduced dispatches because of COVID-19 precautions, Morris explained.
With restrictions easing, Morris expects numbers to again increase in 2021. The staff is also settled into their new building and looks forward to having an open house to show off the building once COVID-19 restrictions cease. TFD is offering small private tours by appointment to those interested.
The department has two new trucks on order, with a new engine expected for delivery in August and a tanker in June.
Morris is also in the process of hiring nine full-time firefighters to staff Station 2 and Station 3 for 24 hours per day to further decrease department response time. Station 2 will add two firefighters per shift, with Station 3 adding a driver to each shift.
The department’s ISO rating also improved to a 4 from its previous 6, which helps residents’ insurance rates.
The department is conducting routine testing of hydrants and flow testing in outlying areas in April.
After council members praised the department’s assistance during a recent large fire in Statesville, Morris reported that the department’s ladder truck had sustained $15,000 to $20,000 in damage, which has already been repaired.
Morris said the intense fire presented a dangerous situation for all the responders, and he was thankful no one was injured.
TAX RATE CRITICIZED
Citizen Jim McNiff, after pointing out the town’s strong cash and financial situation, questioned when the council was going to reduce the “exorbitant tax rate” that town residents pay. He said council had listened politely to his previous protests but had done nothing.
McNiff asked council members how many signatures they would require to reduce taxes, pledging to go door-to-door to collect signatures. He complained that with property valuations rising, in some cases by 21 percent, council members needed to be more attentive and sensitive to the residents’ tax burdens.
BUDGET WORKSHOP DATE
The council set Tuesday, May 11, at 8:30 a.m. as its first budget workshop date, with a possible second meeting set for Tuesday, May 25, if needed. The all-day meeting will explore budget needs for each department to help Finance Director Steve Shealy construct a proposed budget for council’s approval at its June meeting.
♦ Lt. Darrin Payne is now serving as interim police chief, according to Town Manager Ron Wyatt.
♦ Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel asked Town Attorney Gary Thomas to begin the process to revise and rewrite the Town Charter, which has not been revised since 1981. Thomas suggested that Mayor Teross Young, who was not present for the meeting, appoint a committee to oversee this effort.
Thomas said the revised charter would need approval by the state legislature, which will probably not be possible until the 2023 long session since new legislation is no longer possible this year and the body does not normally address charters in its during its short sessions in even years.
♦ Wyatt reported that federal and state funding resources are coming available to help the town address infrastructure needs. “Hopefully this money will help us avoid major financial impacts on the budget,” he said.
The town manager said letters were sent to local legislative representatives to ask for their help in lobbying for more money, citing a need for several million dollars to address urgent infrastructure needs discussed by Town Engineer Benjie Thomas at the February retreat.
In other business, council members approved:
♦ Financing terms for an $810,000 loan to buy properties at 160 and 170 Wagner Street and four lots at the corner of Scroggs Street and North Avenue beside the current Town Hall facility and a budget amendment to reflect the purchase in the 2020-21 budget.
♦ A $70,340 budget amendment for the Mill Village sewer project loan payment.
♦ A $32,625 budget amendment from fund balance to pay for a concrete walking trail around the multipurpose field at ESC Park.
♦ Re-appointment of Karen Van Vliet (in-town) and Kenneth Reid (in-town) as Planning and Zoning Board members and recommended Mark Taylor (ETJ member) for approval for another term to Iredell County Commissioners.
♦ Appointment of alternate Lori Eberly to fill the unexpired term of resigning Ray Welsh and Frank Burgess to fill Eberly’s inside-alternate position on the Planning and Zoning Board.