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July 2022 Town Meeting
Employee Inflation Bonus, Tent Camping OK
June 28, 2022

uly’s Town Board Meeting falls on Tuesday, July 5. The Board voted to move it to Thursday, June 23 to avoid the Independence Day holiday and ensure a quorum.

As a result, the meeting was brief.

town hall sign There were 12 members of the public present. Also present were Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioners David White, Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Sandy Winfrey, and Frank Roe. Also present were Town Manager Diane Miller, Deputy Finance Officer Tammy Cox, Planning Board Chair Julie Rahm, and Officer Nick Blayney.

Excavator Purchase Questioned Again
There were no speakers during Public Comments, however a resident asked that his email be read aloud as he would not be in town for the meeting.

David Szerlag emailed members of the Board, the mayor, and Manager Miller about the town’s potential purchase of an excavator.

For several months, Commissioners have debated the purchase of a smaller, used excavator to be utilized by Public Works in the maintenance of ditches, digging and replacement of water lines, and the fact that the smaller piece of machinery would only take one person to use compared to the larger piece of equipment currently owned by the town. The excavator is owned by a local company and it has been used on town projects before.

Proponents say the equipment will be available for use whenever Public Works needs it and will be cost efficient – it would cost around $66k to purchase, the same amount the town spent on renting the equipment for 3 months in 2021.

Opponents say there is no covered place to store the equipment and the cost does not take into account the maintenance and insurance costs. They also argue that Public Works is too busy as it is.

Commissioner Charlie Overcash asks Town Manager Miller a question.

Public Works is down one employee; a Public Works position has been empty for the last two years when a long-time employee left for a higher paying position in another county.

Szerlag’s letter (in the links below) asked what due diligence had been performed in approving the purchase, including a request for documents. He called for a new vote to be taken to overturn the acquisition.

Commissioner Charlie Overcash said he wished to respond publicly to the letter by paraphrasing the reply email he had sent to Szerlag. Overcash said he explained that the documentation was not there because Commissioners were determining whether or not to add a line item to the budget specifically to purchase the equipment.

“If the money is not going to be available for the purchase, then there was no need to do the extra work of gathering the documents,” explained Overcash.

Town Manager Diane Miller clarified that the due diligence had been done on the price – not the equipment. Due diligence on the excavator would come after the money had been set aside.

Miller also said that the excavator may no longer be available – the owner was looking to buy a larger piece of equipment and may have already sold it. Miller said she’d reached out to the owner several times, but had not heard back from him.

Town Staff Compensation
Commissioner Frank Roe made a motion that the Board authorize an immediate, one-time cost of living adjustment for the Town employees, including the town manager. Roe proposed using the merit pay in the upcoming budget cycle to fund the COLA at 3% of each employee’s current salary.

Commissioner Overcash asked if employees would receive another 3% COLA before the end of the year, as provided in the budget.

Roe replied he would “give the COLA now and leave the possibility of merit pay if the economics should warrant before the end of the year.”

“I thought we were talking $500,” Overcash said to Roe. “We had discussed a $500 one-time to employees – except [Town Manager] Diane – and I was blindsided by this today.” Overcash said they’d discussed that the money for the one-time bonus would come out of the Public Works and Police Reserve accounts, instead of future funding.

Roe and Commissioner Allen Price voted for the measure. Commissioners White, Overcash and Winfrey voted against. It did not pass.

Commissioner Overcash made a motion to give employees – except Town Manager Diane Miller – an immediate $500 inflation bonus. Commissioners White, Overcash, Price and Winfrey voted for the measure. Roe voted against. The motion passed.

Commissioner Sandy Winfrey listens while Commissioner Frank Roe pitches his motion.
Tent Camping added, New Planning Board Member Appointed
A Public Hearing was held to add tent camping to the Growth Management Ordinance (GMO). The addition refers to tent camping on private land, not public. For events like Cycle NC and organizations like the Boy Scouts, Commissioners allow camping on public land on a case by case basis.

Language added to the GMO limited the size of the camping site, had a maximum number of campers, defined where camping could occur (no low-lying ground), held that tents could not be used as permanent residences, and tent campers (and likewise RV campers) could not move between tents and RVs as a method of getting around the ordinances.

The addition to the GMO was approved unanimously.

Planning Board Chair Julie Rahm was present to answer any questions.

Commissioners approved the application of Allison DeWeese for the open Planning Board position. The Planing Board did not meet this month due to lack of quorum.

Finances and Budget Amendments
There was no financial report for June as the month was not complete at the time of the meeting. A financial report will be available for both June and July at the August meeting.

The town has signed a contract to retain its current auditor for the coming fiscal year.

One last budget amendment was made to bring the 21-22 budget into balance before the close of this fiscal year at the end of June. The amendment accounted for the increased bank fees, the increase in gasoline prices, an overage in the Parks & Recreation budget, a decrease in Public Works salaries to account for the unfilled position, along with adjustments in several other categories.

Commissioners unanimously approved the amendment.

Commissioners tabled a motion to enact a Capital Reserve Ordinance for the Police and Public Works Reserve funds.

A Capital Reserve Ordinance is required when the budget has a Capital Reserve fund. The Police Reserve has $10k budgeted and the Public Works Reserve has $13,153.52 budgeted.

Once the Reserve Ordinance is enacted, the money earmarked for that reserve cannot be moved out of the fund. Commissioners said they wished to take more time to research and discuss how much money should go into the ordinance as it does not have to list the same amount as is in the fund.

Commissioners will have to reconvene before the end of July to enact the ordinance and will have 48 hours to announce the special meeting.

Hurricane Preparedness Packets at Town Hall
The town has Hurricane Preparedness packets at Town Hall. The packet includes:
• a list of local shelters
• a list of what items and documents to take with you when you leave
• a vehicle recall form – in case you leave your vehicle and emergency personnel know how to contact you
• a housing form – to leave inside your front door if you leave your residence so emergency personnel know how to contact you

“The first 72 hours after the winds come down below 50 mph is on the resident – town workers are out clearing roads, checking water lines, making sure clean water is available, and making sure the infrastructure is intact,” said Manager Miller.

Packets can be picked up at Town Hall.

Recycling – what can and can’t go in the blue bins
At the request of resident Carol Small at a previous meeting, Manager Miller went over a flyer showing what can and cannot be put into the blue recycling bins.

She emphasized no packing peanuts, no plastic bags of any kind, and no shredded paper. The flyer is also linked down below.

Manager’s Report
There is also no police report for this meeting – the June and July reports will be given at the August meeting.

Net House Update The town has been trying for years to restore the net house along Oriental Harbor. At least 10 contractors have declined the project in the last year. Manager Miller said there may finally be a contractor willing to take on the project. He is talking with the County Building Inspector and is submitting a bid to Town Hall soon.

Dog Park tags are renewable on July 1. Prices increase to help offset the cost of the dog bags around town.

Commissioner Comments
• Commissioner Charlie Overcash reported that he’d been approached by Pete Newman who is retiring his tree care business. He has offered to sell the town a wood chipper that can take limbs up to 19 inches.

Overcash said that the Board has not made any moves on this equipment, only that the offer has been made and he wants everyone to be aware of it. By chipping the limbs, the equipment may have the potential to save the town on the current cost of the green waste dumpsters by limiting the number of times they have to be picked up and emptied. It could also serve as a mulch source for the town residents.

Commissioners also noted the potential for a fire hazard. Overcash said he would speak with Newman to ask him how he handled that situation in his business.

• Commissioner Frank Roe asked what happened to any money left over in the Tourism Board budget – they have approximately $1,100 left over this year. Miller replied that money left unspent goes into the Tourism reserve fund that only the Tourism Board could use.

Parks and Recreation Board Chair Bonnie Crosser asked if the power expense could be moved out of Parks and Recreation and into the Tourism Board fund.

Miller replied that Parks and Recreation is the Board that has traditionally paid for that expense.

Dates to Know
Town Hall will be closed all day on June 30 to close out the 21-22 fiscal year books. The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, August 2 at 8a.

Meeting Documents & Related Information
July Agenda
May Meeting Minutes
Budget Amendment
GMO Public Hearing
Sample Capital Reserve
Audit Contract
Planning Board Appointment
Updated Recycling Poster
Manger’s Report
Auxiliary Board Minutes
Letter to Town Board Re: Excavator

Posted Tuesday June 28, 2022 by Allison DeWeese

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