BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council recognized employees and community members for exceptional service and heard community members express a variety of growth concerns on Thursday night.
Former Councilman George Harris was recognized for his four years of service on the council, during which he served as the town’s delegate to the Centralina Council of Governments for two years and as the alternate delegate to the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization for one year.
Harris also served on the Land Use Plan Advisory Committee and served as council liaison to the Planning and Zoning Board, on which he previously served for four years prior to being elected to council in 2019.
During his tenure, Harris encouraged growth, capital improvement projects, downtown redevelopment, infrastructure improvement, and transportation initiatives. He was also deeply engaged in budget processes, including advocating to secure additional state funding for the town.
The resolution thanked Harris for his “thoughtful service, leadership, and expertise” that he “unselfishly provided” to the Troutman community.
Council member Paul Henkel also presented Harris with a paddle with the town’s logo and his name plate from his council service.
Harris thanked the town for the recognition.
“I’ve been honored to serve the on the Town Council and Planning Board for the last seven years. I love Troutman. Even though I was not born here, I have a connection because I was at Barium Springs as a child,” he said.
Harris returned to Troutman to be near his children and their families.
“I’m tied to Troutman. I love it. I hope that somewhere in the future there will be a spot where the town needs me to help serve because I believe that you serve your community to make it better.”
Henkel said that Harris has been “diligent in his duties. This town has been his first thought in the morning and his last thought at night,” he said.
Troutman police Sgt. Cameron Jones was belatedly recognized as Troutman Employee of the Month for November after a duty conflict last month. Chief Josh Watson noted that Jones was actually nominated by another department head who noticed how hard Jones worked.
In November Jones handled the investigation of the homicide that occurred.
“The investigation required numerous interviews, gathering of statements, and analyzing evidence, and data,” Watson said. “While doing these tasks, which took a lot of effort and time, he still performed a myriad of duties that are essential to department operation.”
In addition to administrative tasks, Cameron also assisted officers with other investigations as well.
“I speak not just for myself as the chief but for the entire department when I say that we are proud of Sgt. Jones and consider it a privilege to have him as a partner.”
In accepting the recognition, Jones said he loves working in Troutman.
Parks and Recreation employee Darin Yoder was honored as the Troutman Employee of the Month for December. He joined the department in April as a maintenance technician.
Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson said that “from day one, he’s been a tremendous asset to our department and not just to our department but to the entire town. He is always seeks to be helpful, contribute, find a solution, produce quality work, and make things better for everyone.”
“He is consistent, reliable, skilled and has a high quality standard of performance for himself and others. He promotes teamwork amongst his peers, accepts the challenges as they present themselves, and is resourceful, cooperative, and adaptable,” she added.
Watson said that in December particularly he accepted a number of challenges not in his job description, including building new shelving for the police evidence room renovation project.
Other department chairs recognized Yoder’s helpful attitude and strong work ethic.
Finance Director Justin Mundy was honored as Troutman Employee of the Year as his family entered the chamber to witness the presentation.
Town Manager Ron Wyatt said the CPA, who’s been with the town two years, has been an “extraordinary” employee.
“He made sure we were sound financially since the day he got here,” Wyatt said. “Justin has worked tirelessly and long hours to make sure we were modernized” so that financial records can be accessed quickly through digital scans, which increases staff efficiency and frees up precious physical record storage space.
Mundy also supervises the administrative staff that serves his department and is responsive and exact when responding to other departments’ financial and budget queries. An auditing firm has given the town clean audits since Mundy’s arrival because of his hard work, added Wyatt.
Mundy expressed his gratitude for the honor.
“I feel unworthy because all these employees do an incredible job. All the department heads do an incredible job. They make my job so much easier because they keep track of their budgets, and I don’t have to worry about them not knowing what money they spent or where it is going,” he said. “They’re on top of it.”
After vandals tore down decorations on the northern end of the town’s greenway some time early Christmas Day, Town Manager Ron Wyatt said the Antrican-Smith family, who walks the greenway often, repaired the damage before the town had the opportunity to execute repairs.
“They thought it would be a great opportunity to teach their children one of the gifts of Christmas — giving back to those around them.” They fetched zip ties from their garage and returned to put the decorations back up on the fences.
Watson said, “It meant so much to us that on Christmas Day they spent a number of hours, money, time, energy and effort.”
“They have huge hearts and always want to make Troutman better.”
Tyler Antrican accepted on behalf of his family. “We walk this trail every day. I’m a big Christmas fan, and it broke my heart to see it. We just appreciate the town, the display, and everything the town has offered us.”
Christine Clontz expressed her dismay at the damage to Hampton’s Cove Road and the danger posed by construction vehicles involved in Falls Cove construction. A dump truck barreling down the road killed an 85-year-old veteran’s dog.
Though Hampton’s Cove is not a town-controlled road, Clontz appealed for any help the town could give in appealing to NCDOT and law enforcement and to developers who are ignoring their impact. “We went from living on a quiet country road to something one would imagine by I-77.”
Wyatt responded during staff comments that he had reached out NCDOT and learned that the road is required to be repaved by the developer after construction is complete. They will also ask for speed control measures to be installed. Though the road is not in the town’s jurisdiction, Wyatt is helping advocate for the residents.
Gene Reece, Jessica Williams, and Douglas Haneline spoke out against the Future Land Use Map designating the Murdock Road area for industrial development, saying that was “incompatible with quality of life there,” said Reece. “Don’t make the mistakes of Mooresville.”
Williams asked that people in the ETJ areas get notifications and calls as town residents do for public input opportunities on issues that affect them.
In his staff comment, Wyatt noted that the town cannot control who wants to sell their land and that the recently updated Future Land Use Map, a process with multiple opportunities for public input, helps guide development.
Wyatt also said that he has hired an attorney to address behavior and defamatory statements made by some residents in the Murdock Road area that occurred last month. “There will be consequences,” he said.
Glen Gaither also advocated for those in ETJ areas to be given the right to vote in town elections since they have no representation on Town Council. In the staff comments, Wyatt explained that the state controls voting areas, not the town.
Mayor Teross Young said that the council has growth and zoning top of mind and may address these issues in upcoming council planning retreats. He also noted that many areas of the state are stagnant and would welcome the growth Troutman is experiencing.
“Hopefully, we can do it in a responsible way.”
County commissioner candidate Richard Coleman claims that over six weeks, 67 of his campaign signs have gone missing. He admitted some “missteps” in sign placement but said signs were removed from private property, where they are allowed, on four different occasions.
Coleman complained about receiving no warnings or notifications before his signs were removed.
Wyatt said Coleman’s version of events differed from the town’s. “He left a whole bunch of facts out that point to a whole different version of what actually happened.”
After Coleman’s complaints, Wyatt said he sent several emails to department heads to ask if anyone was removing signs, with all replying negatively. He later discovered that the code enforcement had picked the signs up, after which he called the property owner from where they were taken and said that they would be put back up.
Wyatt explained to the property owner that the new employee had taken them, but that the signs were in the state right of way, not on the private property bounds, but that the employee had misinterpreted the state statute about signs in the right of way to include private property.
Wyatt said that citizens complain about the “trashy signs” littering Troutman and other areas. He also said calling all sign owners is impossible for employees to do and get their other duties down. Wyatt also recounted taking Council member Nick Jaroszynski around in the past to show him where signs could be legally placed, which he is glad to do for anyone.
Wyatt shared a statement given to the press by the code enforcement officer: “It is certainly wrong in this day and time when people who claim to be Christians are attacking others and accusing somebody else of wrong-doing and they demand blood and vengeance instead of understanding and forgiveness.”
Wyatt added, “Sometimes humans simply make an error. If it’s corrected and we move forward – great.”
Wyatt also said that some employees felt Coleman was “antagonizing” them and one “ felt threatened verbally, and he decided to file a police report.”
Wyatt said Coleman “verbally accosted” the code enforcement officer the next morning when he returned the signs, an incident which was filmed.
Wyatt said he knows nothing about other signs that Coleman claims are missing.
The council also approved:
♦ An agreement with DebtBook for financial and accounting services for a two-year period at a cost of $9000 the first year and $11,000 for the second.
♦ Granted an easement to Duke Energy Corporation (DEC) to run power to the Houston Road industrial project.
♦ Set public hearings for annexation requests for February 8 for nearly 10 acres at 1250 Charlotte Highway by CZC Land Development, nearly 8 acres at 1270 Charlotte Highway by the Town of Troutman ABC Board, and 19.5 acres off Byers Road by BBC Rocky Creek, LLC.