Council gives stamp of approval to budget

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Town Council must be heaving a collective sigh of relief after Monday night’s meeting — not only because the 24-item, 90-minute meeting saw so much accomplished, but also because one of the items checked off of the to-do list was the passing of the fiscal year 2016-17 budget.

The approved budget — which totals $6,181,911 — allocates $4,493,311 for the general fund, $1,395,838 of which will go to the police department, $639,965 of which will be utilized by the fire department, and $572,204 of which will go to administration.

The utility fund is allocated $1,688,600, including $717,495 for water, $754,540 for sewer and $216,565 for capital reserve transfer.

While no tax increase is reflected in the budget, a 2.5 percent increase will be seen in waste fees, which, Public Works Director Pat Devane said, the town is simply passing along from the waste collection company, who raised their rates to cover inflation. As revealed at the town’s budget planning retreat earlier this year, water and sewer rates are being increased in order for the town to continue to qualify for grants. If, Devane said, the town did not qualify for grants, the department would have to raise rates anyway in order to obtain the money previously covered by grants.

Later during the evening, the council approved a budget amendment that reflected a move of roughly $400,000 from the 2015-16 budget to the 2016-17 budget due to the delay of the arrival of a new fire truck.

In other business the council:

— Heard from Cecil Marsh, who requested the town add 10 additional handicapped parking spaces to each side of the downtown section of West Broad Street. The board took no action, but Elizabethtown Mayor Sylvia Campbell told Marsh the council would take his request into consideration. At the noon planning session, Councilman Ricky Leinwand asked for and received confirmation that the town is in compliance with regard to the number of spots available.

— Presented the Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy a plaque in recognition of its outstanding performance since opening two years ago. Headmaster Roland McKoy accepted the plaque on behalf of the Academy.

— Held a public hearing for and approved a citizen participation plan for the rewriting of the town’s zoning ordinance. No public input was received at the hearing.

— Held a public hearing for a rezone request from Anne Purdie and Maceo Purdie for a 12-acre parcel of land at Mercer Mill Brown Marsh Road near Big Blue on Hwy. 87 from residential/agricultural to bypass commercial. At the planning session, Town Manager Eddie Madden informed the board that, after informing adjoining property owners of the request, the town had received several complaints and protests.

Gray Vick appeared on behalf of the Purdies and informed the board that he was present because he wanted to put two billboards on the property.

The council was given two pages of possible uses that a bypass commercial zone would allow for, including such establishments as restaurants, kennels, warehouses and transformer stations.

Lily Martin, Thomas Martin, Jr. and Nathan Swindell were all present to speak against the request. Emma Jean Swindell, who said that she was against the request because it would make her taxes increase, also informed the board that property owners Daniel and Jamal Lewis, who acquired property adjoining the property in question after the death of their parents, had not been notified of Monday’s public hearing.

Town attorney Goldston Womble affirmed that the town had practiced due diligence with regard to notification and that the oversight was entirely possible because the tax office used to obtain property owners’ names had no way of knowing that the property owners had passed away. The board members, however, willingly assented that they wanted input from everyone concerned and, for that reason, tabled the matter until a future public hearing.

— Approved a contract for inmate labor with the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

— Appointed Wayne Edge to the Elizabethtown ABC Commission, along with David Clark and Lee Green to the Airport Commission.

— Approved an agreement with Sage Design for design services for Tory Hole Park and for preparation of a grant application for Green’s Lake and Conservation Park.

— Amended the contract with Waste Industries to cease its lawn and leaf collection in Elizabethtown, which, Madden said, will be contracted with inmate labor.

— Amended the Utilities Department’s Customer Service Policy to, among other things, require a $200 deposit, asses a $30 late fee and charge a $75 reconnect fee and a $100 after-hours connection fee.

Next month’s Town Council meeting will be held on July 11 at 7 p.m.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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