Weaverville – In a last effort to tweak the 2022-2023 budget before the June monthly meeting of the Weaverville Town Council, where it will be voted on, the council met for a workshop on Tuesday, June 21. All council members were present for the workshop except for Councilman Andrew Nagle, and no one from the public showed up for the meeting.
Before looking at the budget, the council approved excepting $20,000 from the NC Department of Transportation for a permanent and temporary easement to be used to replace the I-26 bridges over Quarry Road. The council had earlier rejected the state offer of $15,000 and countered with $25,000, which the state countered with $20,000. The state receives a temporary construction easement (0.062 acre – shown in yellow on Plan Sheet 6); a permanent drainage easement (0.075 acre – shown in dark pink on Plan Sheet 6); a permanent right-of-way (0.325 acre – shown in green on Plan Sheet 6); and a right of entry providing access to NCDOT and its contractors along Quarry Road with conditions requiring security of the firing range, a vehicle turnaround area, road repair, and maintenance.
The council also approved a $349,000 contract with T.P. Howard Plumbing Company to do a water line replacement project. Weaverville Public Works Director Dale Pennell had estimated back in February that the cost of the project would be about $150,000. However, rising material costs had pushed the price up to $349,000, the lowest bid of the four contractors who bid on the project.
Vice-Mayor Jeff McKenna asked if there was no alternative to replacing the line. Councilwoman Catherine Cordell said she was seeing the same thing in her job that some quotes she was getting were only good for days. Pennell expressed that the line needed to be replaced and that it was better to do it sooner rather than wait for the price of materials to continue to rise.
The council also got an overview of changes in fees to be approved during the June monthly meeting before hearing the last-minute tweaks to the budget, which included about $312,000 in additional spending in the general budget and about $29,000 in the water fund budget.
During discussions, two budget items that were requested by Cordell to be added were rejected. One was $125,000 for an additional officer and police vehicle for the police department. Cordell argued a police report study cited that the department actually needed another three officers to be at the level recommended by the study. Cordell, who said she had met with Weaverville Police Chief Ron Davis about the matter, also pointed to the fact that Davis said that one business made up over 50 percent of the department’s calls. Walmart at Monticello Commons is the business.
Both Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons and McKenna said they were going to have a talk with the business’s manager about hiring their own security guard to help with the load. During the discussion, Fitzsimmons said, “If that doesn’t work, we tell them we’re not going to respond to shoplifting.” As Cordell pointed out, such a move would just encourage more shoplifting when people hear that the police will not be responding to those crimes.
It was pointed out that if it didn’t work out with the Walmart management getting their own security guard, the matter could be revisited during the year.
Cordell also asked for another human resource assistant to share responsibility with the community center manager and other duties, for an additional $66,250 with salary and benefits. That item was also rejected.
The remaining approximately $120,000 increase was supported, including a 50% increase ($20,000) for fuel costs, hiring bonuses for four firefighter positions ($10,000), a change from a 28-day cycle for overtime for the fire department to a 14-day cycle for overtime ($10,000), a town clerk who would also handle social media, the e-newsletter, and website updates ($66,250), and a grant to the Weaverville Center for Creative and Healthy Living ($5,000). The water fund increases were also approved, which included an additional $4,000 for fuel increases. The budget will be voted on at the June regular monthly meeting.