Budget, Development Fees Take Center Stage at Meeting - TribPapers

Budget, Development Fees Take Center Stage at Meeting

A chart presented by Darryl Parker shows the current development fees and what his company determine to be more in line with reality. Chart courtesy of Town of Weaverville.

Weaverville – The May meeting of the Weaverville Town Council (Monday, May 22nd) got underway with a public hearing on the FY2024 $9,527 million budget. While no member of the public spoke during the hearing, Councilman Andrew Nagle spoke against pay raises for the council. 

“I’ve been against them [pay raises for council]. I don’t know how the council feels about them,” said Nagle. He was joined by Vice Mayor Jeff McKenna, who responded, “I’m not very positive on them either. I appreciate the comparison you gave last time,” he told Town Manager Selena Coffey, “A lot of us look at this as volunteer work.”

Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons asked if any other council members wished to comment on the budget. Councilwoman Catherine Cordell took the opportunity to comment on the budget but changed the subject to the three new police officers and an evidence custodian, which were said to add about $650,000 to the budget. Fitzsimmons added a question about how the town’s police staff compared to other towns.

Coffey responded that they were pulling that information and would have it for them at the next meeting. Police Chief Ron Davis addressed the council about the matter, saying that the officers would be used to add a third officer to the night shift along with help with vacations, training, and time off. “It’s problematic when you run a 24-hour shift because you have to sleep before you come in, and then you have to recruit from that shift.”

The conversation devolved into a discussion on the difficulties in getting police personnel and the actual cost of the additional officers, which was determined to be in the $400,000 range rather than the $650,000 number that Cordell led the conversation with. McKenna talked about the fees that were coming in, and some of the fees were for unfunded mandates from the state. With no additional comments, Fitzsimmons said if any council member believes another meeting about the budget was needed, to contact him, and it would be scheduled during July.

The meeting moved on to a public hearing on Water Shortage Response Plan Amendments. No one spoke at the hearing, and it was closed.

The council then moved on to pass the consent agenda, where Coffey explained each item, including “the monthly tax report, a budget amendment of $15,470 for an insurance claim on a totaled town-owned vehicle, an audit contract of $25,000, and an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Award Grant Project Ordinance to “provide for the proper accounting of the revenues received and qualified expenditures made.”

In her manager’s report, Coffey first told the council about a “plan in order to use the Eller Cove Watershed property for passive recreation.” The plan was submitted by Mark Endries, a resident and Planning Board member, who has modified the Rough Creek, Canton management plan to fit Eller Cove Watershed. To that end, “staff from the Southern Appalachian Conservancy submitted a $2,500 grant for signage and exclusion fencing to protect the portions of the watershed that include the reservoir, which is not included in the conservation area.”

She also updated the board about the “final plans for the recreation complex to be completed by the end of May. Once plans are complete, the project will go to bid. Once bids are received and approved by council (hopefully in June),” the project can start. 

Coffey told the council members about the updated town website, which she says has made “significant improvements.” She then said she is working with the staff of Congressman Chuck Edwards to obtain $10 million for the water treatment plant expansion. She also said there would be speakers at the June meeting to discuss short-term rentals.

Under discussion and action items, the board first heard a presentation by Darryl Parker with Willdan Financial Services about the water system development fee study. Parker said the purpose of the one-time fee is to allow new development to pay for the growth needed for the additional expansion rather than making existing customers bear the burden. Parker explained the three different methods (buy-in, incremental, and combined) used to arrive at a fee cost. The least expensive increase in the fee rates comes with the buy-in method, and the most dramatic increase comes with the incremental method.

Nagle wanted to go with the maximum amount allowed ($5,430 for a 5/8 or 3/4 connection), and the council settled on $5,000.

The board then approved a local water supply plan and water shortage response plans. They also voted to renew a commitment for 9 Pleasant Grove Road, a townhouse development of initially 54 units. The project has been reduced to 40 units and is now contiguous to the town limits. Public Works Director Dale Pennell suggested making the renewal contingent on the annexation of the development. The council voted unanimously on the motion.

Before the department reports, Councilwoman Catherine Cordell spoke on the council’s core values, leading to a lengthy discussion.