Civic

Town Talks Annexation, Gives Pay-raises

Photo by Giorgio Trovato

Weaverville – Highlights of the November Weaverville Town Council on Nov. 23rd included an annexation agreement with Woodfin and a pay increase for town employees, but the town had other business too.

Under the approval of the consent agenda, several items were approved, including the monthly tax report, a date set for a public hearing for a zoning map amendment request for 16 Reems Creek Road (December 21 at 7 pm). There was also a budget amendment for Cops for Kids, COVID relief money, and the ABC funds along with a small change order for the Community Center Project that decreased the project’s cost by $261.54.

Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey then presented her manager’s report, where she covered several topics. She recommended that the election poll be moved next election from the town hall to the new community center at Lake Louise and limited the number of poll workers along with campaign signs. The recommendation comes as she believes there will be more room there. She then announced they received notice that a bike-ped grant should be completed in December and will report to the council on the results in January.

Coffey also said the public works had started putting up Christmas decorations and that a $33,880 grant for police body cameras had been awarded to the town’s police department by the Governor’s Crime Commission. “The cameras are in house now and we are beginning training…we are reviewing the policy on how the cameras are to be used,” she said. Coffey told the council that she was preparing to dispose of police service weapons as they were replaced this year. She ended her report with the report of a public wi-fi project starting at Lake Louise Park.

Councilman and Vice Mayor Doug Jackson asked what determined when a service weapon needed to be retired. Coffey turned the question over to Chief Ron Davis, who said there were a number of factors, including wear, type of ammunition and ease of use.

Next, Travis Keever of Gould Killian gave the town its report on the annual audit. “We issued an unmodified opinion…which is what you want,” said Keever. The town ended their fiscal year with a fund balance of $7.5 million, he said, which was about 90 percent of the town’s annual revenue. State law requires eight percent of the annual revenue be maintained.

Rob Chason, Weaverville ABC Board Chairman, then presented the results from their audit, which showed the assets of the board exceeded its liabilities at the close of the fiscal year by $423,519. It also showed a total gross sales increased of $533,308, a 16.2% increase over the prior year. The board’s total net position decreased by $31,807, primarily due to increased profit distributions to the Town of Weaverville totaling $298,780. “The store continues to do very well. We are probably on track to do four million dollars or better this year,” Chason told the board. Total sales were a little over $3.8 million for the year.

The council members then heard from Mayor Al Root on an issue that has not come up for a while – annexation. Root presented an agreement between the Town of Woodfin and Weaverville where their would be an understanding that each town would only annex certain areas located between the two towns. The agreement has not been in effect since 2012 since the state legislature discontinued involuntary annexation. “I think it’s important to note that no one in either town is getting ready to mount an annexation campaign. I mean no one could do an involuntary annexation even if we wanted to,” said Root. After some more discussion, the council decided to look at the agreement and the old area closer before moving forward and the matter was tabled (See article on page 6 for more details).

Coffey then presented an item to offer a pay increase for employees. During the fiscal year’s budget deliberations earlier this year, the council decided to reconsider across-the-board pay increases and merit bonuses until after receiving sales tax revenue for the first months of the new fiscal year, which began in July of this year. She then reviewed some other area towns and what they did for employees, most of which gave some type of pay increases.

After some discussion, Jackson and Councilman Patrick Fitzsimmons favored merit raise and cost of living increases while Councilman Andrew Nagle said, “There’s people going out of business. There’s people losing their jobs…We have a captive audience…We have a huge responsibility to the taxpayers…To give raises during what we’re going thru…the taxpayer has no say other than next November.” Root argued that during the COVID, we still require our employees to show up for work. Councilman Jeff McKenna added since the employees were working for the town, they have job security. He also had some concerns about raises at this time.

After some more discussion, Jackson made a motion for a one and a half percent cost of living with a two percent merit to begin at the first of the year, which was seconded by Councilwoman Dottie Sherrill. The motion pasted with Nagle and McKenna voting against the raises.

The last action item on the agenda was presented by Dale Pennell, Weaverville’s public works director, and Water Treatment Supervisor Trent Duncan. They explained the process they conducted in selecting the engineering firm to do the expansion of the water treatment plant. The public works selected Withers-Ravenel and the board approved negotiations with them for the project. After hearing reports from the fire department and police department, the council adjourned for the night.