Open house provides opportunity for town officials, staff to receive citizens' input
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Mayor Teross Young, along with Town Council members, Town Manager Justin Longino and town staff hosted an open house on Monday night to educate residents on the responsibilities, accomplishments, and goals of each department.
Staff members also sought to engage with residents and gather their feedback on the challenges and opportunities ahead for Troutman.
Residents rotated through departmental stations to learn how each department serves the town and enjoyed a variety of refreshments. Elected officials from the Town Council and various town boards and committees were also on hand to greet citizens and answer their questions.
After talking with staff, residents had the opportunity to complete a feedback form to give suggestions to improve Troutman itself or the town’s services.
Mayor Young said he is looking forward to 2018.
"The town is growing, but we are staying within our strategy of making sure that we have ample housing and commercial development, with an eye to light industrial, to keep our tax burden low and also grow the heart of our town," he said.
The biggest challenge of the coming years, Young said, is to manage the growth coming to the area from Charlotte while still maintaining Troutman’s unique identity.
The mayor also wants to ensure that residents have the services to meet their needs and desires. He thinks events like this help the residents understand how the town government works and get more invested in the community.
“They can better understand where their tax dollars are going and what services are available to them,” said Young.
Longino said the staff and council has a lot to look at in the coming year, beginning at its annual retreat this Friday at Lake Norman State Park (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
“A big topic for retreat is growth. That’s everything from planning for neighborhoods and commercial growth to planning for infrastructure to planning for staff and facilities and everything that comes along with it,” the town manager said.
Events like the open house are important to let people know more about town government. “If we get people to come in to ask one question and make a connection with us, then they come back when they have other questions," Longino said.
The town mnager and his staff will use feedback from surveys sent out with water bills as well as those completed at the open house and by staff members during retreat discussions as they make plans for Troutman’s future.
Town Planner Erika Martin foresees a continued search for grants to help with infrastructure and planning processes in 2018. She believes that handling growth will continue to be a challenge.
“We may even revisit our whole vision” of growth this year as staff and elected officials complete the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) revision by late spring or early summer, she sad.
Martin is also excited about the installation of the first wayfinding project signs, hopefully occurring in the next 30 days.
Land acquisition is also underway for the Tally Street and downtown sidewalk projects. Martin is also looking forward to finalizing the plans for the improved Highway 21 corridor.
Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson hopes folks will come out on Monday afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m. for the Troutman ESC Park Community Meeting to give their input for revised plans for phase 2 of ESC Park. “We want to get feedback on what kind of amenities they want,” she said.
Watson and Martin will use the community’s comments as they re-apply for a large North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant to help fund the park’s second phase.
Watson is also excited about finishing touches currently underway at the park, including the completion of two volleyball courts and the addition of some amenities for the dog park, which opened in 2017.
Several new events are planned, including a community Easter egg hunt on March 24 and the addition of a third Party in the Park, a highly popular event.
“Our participation numbers have been increasing in 2017, so I’m looking forward to another year of strong programming and good community involvement,” said Watson.
J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library branch manager Rebecca Lopez said her staff is already working on the summer reading program for patrons of all ages, as well as collecting donations of all types of library program supplies for the annual February “Love Your Library” campaign.
In addition to encouraging community members to sign up their preschoolers for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, the library is also offering a raffle for free family passes to Iredell Museums programs to all patrons who check out books or other materials.
The new self-checkout program has been a big hit with library users, especially with kids who can now check out their own books. “Everyone is really supportive because they know we need the staff time for other services,” Lopez said.
Staff are also working to expand adult and other programming with the time gained from this new technology.