BY DEBBIE PAGE
debbiepage.iredellfreenews@gmail.com

Troutman Town Council members were dismayed by Town Manager Ron Wyatt’s report that the town’s required state audit has been delayed due to auditing firm personnel changes that caused it to “drop the ball.”

The Petway, Mills, and Pearson representative completed field work in August, at which time the town provided all required documentation to complete the audit. The employee later left the company after misleading the firm and town staff about his work on the audit, according to Wyatt.

When Finance Director Justin Mundy inquired about the audit report not being sent, the firm discovered the audit had not been completed. One of the firm’s partners and staff began the audit review last week, but no further updates have been received.

Mundy said audits usually take two weeks to complete, so he hopes the audit will be complete by the third week of January but noted, “We are at the mercy of the firm.”

Mundy has notified the state about the problems and shared emails and documentation from the past few months to show that the town is not at fault for the delay.

Council member Eddie Nau asked if it was too late to change firms, but Wyatt said the “hard work” was all done by the town and firm in August, so the audit should be completed quickly.

The town has used the auditing firm without incident for several years.

TOWN CHARTER REVISIONS

The council will hold a public hearing on proposed revisions to the town’s charter on Thursday night. Though Town Attorney Gary Thomas said the hearing was not required by the state, he thought the legislature may ask if one was held during its consideration and wanted to be prepared.

In April of last year, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel asked Thomas to begin work revising the charter, which was last approved by the state lawmakers in 1981. Thomas suggested that Mayor Teross Young, who was not present for Monday’s council meeting, appoint a committee to oversee this process.

Council members George Harris and Felina Harris were asked to work with Thomas on the revisions, which Thomas said were mostly updating town positions, titles, and other such clean up.

Thomas estimated that 85 to 90 percent of the charter is unchanged. Most changes were concerning town processes and procedures that have evolved over the past 40 years with different council decisions.

Thomas said he was trying to eliminate discrepancies between those changes and what appears, now incorrectly, in the outdated charter. “We’re trying to join those two things together so the charter says the same thing that the ordinances say,” he explained.

He gave examples of council members being referred to as “aldermen” in the charter and the condemnation language at the end that was no longer appropriate. Thomas changed the language to say that the town “has the power of eminent domain as allowed by the state statutes to make it much more general.”

The document was also updated with gender neutral language.

New council member Jerry Oxsher asked Thomas for a red-lined copy of the changes, which Thomas did not have. He explained that no digital copy of the charter existed, so he typed the revised charter from a paper copy, adding the committee input and necessary legal and ordinance updates.

Oxsher felt uncomfortable being asked to vote on something that he had not had the opportunity to compare in its original form to the proposed document. Thomas said a red-lined version could not be created by Thursday.

“I feel like I’m in the dark, and I’m expected to vote on this in a few days,” added Oxsher.

Thomas offered to meet with Oxsher to go over both versions and share all notes and pertinent information that went into the process, an opportunity which Oxsher accepted. The vote needs to happen Thursday to meet the February legislative deadline for local bills.

Wyatt noted that false rumors about the charter revision were floating around social media, most generated by non-residents. The accusations of land-grabbing and hiding information are unfounded, as evidenced by the public hearing on Thursday, the town manager said.

“People outside the town limits are really taking issue with how we conduct business and do business on a regular basis,” Wyatt said.

Henkel explained the process was simply housekeeping and cleaning up terms, not major changes. “The changes are just clarifying what has been done all along.”

He also noted that the town has always had the power of eminent domain, which it has used “sparingly, but it is there if we need it, under state statute allowances.”

Saying these were minor changes, Henkel had no idea where people got the idea that this charter revision was some kind of “poison pill.”

Henkel added that he sent a proposed charter copy to a concerned constituent, who compared it to the original. The person emailed back a few days later that the two were essentially the same. “People just need to take the time to read it,” said Henkel.

If approved by council, the revised charter will be sent to the legislature for approval. If approved, the council can then ratify the charter.

SIDEWALK OPPORTUNITY

State reps for Iredell County alerted the town to up to $100,000 in available state funds to build sidewalks on the east side of Wagner Street. To get the funds, the town must commit to a 50 percent match of the requested amount, which they will vote on on Thursday night.

Wyatt wanted to make clear to residents that this project was not being pushed ahead of the long-awaited Talley Street sidewalks. That $1.2 million project involves federal funds, which requires different processes and bidding.

“State money is quicker and requires a different process,” he said.

The town also cannot apply the money to the Talley Street project because of existing rules.

The Talley Street project has been moving forward quickly in the past six months, said Wyatt, with meetings scheduled in the next few weeks.

LED LIGHTING PROJECT

The town is changing all indoor lighting in town-owned properties and at the Depot to LED lighting using a Duke Energy offer to pay for $3,000 of the $5,000 project as well as a further discount for paying the town’s portion in one chunk.

The town’s total cost will be $1,291. Duke Energy estimates the town will save $1,520 in the first year, more than offsetting the cost. The bulbs also have a three-year warranty and will be replaced at no cost if they malfunction.

Wyatt plans to ask Duke Energy about the possibility adding outdoor LED lighting, including the greenway lights, to upgrade the lighting and save operational money.

RETREAT DATES

Council set its annual retreat dates for February 28 (8 a.m to noon) and March 8 (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) at Town Hall.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS PLAN UPDATE

Wyatt introduced Ian Tolman, the Western Carolina University summer intern who worked with Wyatt to update the town’s outdated Disaster Preparedness Plan. The plan will be presented to council members after a few graphics are completed.

The detailed plan helps town employees understand their individual roles in a “worst case scenario,” said Wyatt, pointing to recent devastating fires and tornados that hit nearby areas.

Tolman was grateful for the internship opportunity to add to his college experience and career preparation. He is majoring in Emergency and Disaster Management and will be graduating this spring. He has already accepted a supervisory position with UPS to begin his career.

OTHER BUSINESS

Council members chose the boards and committees with which they wish to serve as council liaison.

Henkel will attend Design and Review Board Board meetings, with Oxsher attending Board of Adjustment meetings. Felina Harris will be the Parks and Recreation council rep, with George Harris serving as the Planning and Zoning connection.

The council decided to delay talks about decriminalizing certain town ordinances, per a new state statute, until February’s agenda briefing and plans to vote on the changes at the March meeting since they want to thoroughly review them for all required changes and also correct any other ordinances that may also be appropriate, such as livestock possession in town.

Henkel also asked that George Harris and Felina Harris to continue their ad hoc review committee work, now completed on the Town Charter, and evaluate the guidelines and procedures for all the town’s advisory committees for any needed changes as well.

Other items on Thursday’s agenda include:

♦ Approval of resolutions and presentations in memory of former council members Jennie Lee Moore Clontz and James K. Troutman.

♦ Approval of resolution and presentation in memory of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and in recognition of Martin Luther King Day.

♦ Approval of retirement and sale of K-9 Jackpot to his handler Hunter Riddle.

♦ Business Spotlight: Carson’s Pickles – Carson Lester

♦ ABC Store Quarterly Report

♦ Approval to trade surplus firearms to Lawmen’s Police Supply, with proceeds to purchase four rifles.

♦ Acceptance of donated right-of-way of property fronting the Iredell County Fairgrounds by John D. Goforth.

♦ Approval of Policy #60: “Town of Troutman Street Maintenance Acceptance Policy.”

♦ Introduction of new police officer Sgt. Daniel Stikeleather and recognition of police department promotions for Sgt. Rex Eure and Sgt. Chad Trivette.

♦ Proclamation declaring January 23-29, 2022, as School Choice Week.

♦ Consider resolution for a Code Of Ethics for the Mayor And Town Council and a policy for Ethics and Conflict Of Interest Guidelines for Town Advisory Boards and Committees.

♦ Consider council appointments of a delegate and an alternate delegate to the Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG), an alternate to the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO), and a delegate and an alternate to Lake Norman Regional
Transportation Commission (LNRTC).

MASKS REQUIRED

Wyatt reminds attendees of Thursday night’s council meeting to wear a mask, pointing out high COVID-19 transmission rates in the community and a few cases over the holidays among staff.

“The mask mandate is for the staff’s protection,” he said. “It’s not political. If five employees get it, 20 percent of our workforce is out,” which would negatively affect the town’s ability to operate and serve citizens’ needs.

%d bloggers like this: