Troutman Council opposes sales tax distribution bill
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Following the lead of Iredell County commissioners, Troutman Town Council members voted Monday to oppose N.C. Senate Bill 126, which would redistribute some of the county's sales tax revenue to other counties.
If passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor, SB 126 would reduce Iredell County’s sales tax revenue by $834,000 in 2018, according to county officials. Troutman officials estimate the bill would cost the town about $9,000 in sales tax revenue.
Troutman officials could be forced to increase the local tax rate or reduce town services if this bill becomes law. State Sen. Harry Brown, who represents Jones and Onslow counties, sponsored the bill.
Projections show that 36 counties across the state would receive less tax revenue under the formula proposed in the bill.
Council member Paul Henkel personally “hopes it never makes it. It’s redistribution of wealth. The people who earn it -- it’s taken away and given to those who haven’t. I believe in helping all counties, but this should come from the state level, not taken from the local level.”
“Then we have to raise property tax levels and we get blamed for it,” continued Henkel, “while the state says ‘We didn’t raise taxes.’ It’s just like the school board situation -- we’re going to mandate you have to lower class size and hire more teachers, but we aren’t going to give you the money to do that. There, again, that’s a state responsibility.”
“Iredell is still working very hard to continue to develop and has efficient government at all levels. It hurts us, and it does not make sense to me,” Henkel added.
The council voted unanimously to send a letter to State Sen. David Curtis, who represents Lincoln and Iredell counties, asking him to vote against the bill, which would be detrimental to both counties’ budgets.
Following a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Committee, the council also unanimously approved rules for the Iredell County Humane Dog Park, expected to open at ESC Park in May.
Parks and Recreation Coordinator Emily Watson explained that the dog park, which will be open dusk to dawn, would require that dogs display rabies vaccination tags on their collars at all times. Adults can have a maximum of two dogs at the park, and any dog exhibiting aggressive behavior must be immediately removed.
Owners are responsible for any injury caused by their dogs. If a bite occurs, the owner is required to give his or her name and phone number to the victim. The bite must also be reported to the Troutman Police Department and the Troutman Parks and Recreation Department as soon as possible.
Owners must dispose of any waste in designated containers. Food (animal or human), littering, smoking, and dogs under six months of age are prohibited. Owners must repair holes or damage caused by their pets. They must also keep dogs leashed until they are inside the fenced area, which is divided into areas for large and small dogs.
Town Manager Justin Longino also told council members that he recently got bids to help the council plan for future construction of the Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk from the ESC Park pavilion to the new dog park entrance.
For now, Longino said that the town is only required to place a concrete pad at the entrance gate to gain approval to open the park. The Public Works Department will construct the pad prior to the dog park’s opening next month.
Longino revealed that only one bid was received for a short section of sidewalk in front of the ABC store, which the town agreed to provide across the Highway 21 frontage of the property from the corner of Goodman Road to Walgreens and down the Goodman Road side of the site
The $121,000 bid from Bell Construction was much more than expected. Longino explained that the project requires builders to tear up some parts of the two businesses’ entrances and also to reconfigure of some of the concrete and pavement already there.
Town Planner Erika Martin also cited grading and drainage issues that added to the cost.
When construction slows down this fall, bids could be lower. Since the council promised no time frame for constructing the sidewalks, Longino said they could wait until the ABC store is generating enough revenue to return required distributions of profits to the town, which could then use those monies to build the sidewalk.
Mayor Teross Young pointed out that not much foot traffic exists there now. Council member Paul Bryant also mentioned the ample parking on all sides of store, which also cuts down on foot traffic. Additionally, Martin pointed out that Goodman has a low volume of traffic, so the road is less dangerous for pedestrians.
“When looking at the necessity of that sidewalk right now, I don’t think it’s greatly needed,” Henkel said.
Young also pointed out a greater need for sidewalks on other heavily traveled town streets, especially Talley Road, at the current time. Council members agreed to put this project on the future sidewalk needs list and consider it at a later date.
Henkel brought up a business request for directional signage off Highway 21 to its Lytton Street location. Armstrong Marine representatives said customers had difficulty finding the business without direction signs, which are prohibited in Troutman except on the business’s own property.
“If we say that we are going to be business friendly, we need to back that up,” said Henkel. “We want to show the owners that we are hearing them and willing to help then in any way that we reasonably can.”
Henkel sought council input on what the town could do.
Martin pointed out that complying with this request would “open that can to everyone. Past councils have said that if we let one business have an off-site sign, then we have to let other businesses.”
New federal laws are also tightening up sign regulations, said Martin, who offered no solutions to the request at this time.
Longino showed council members signage from the Arboretum that listed all shopping area’s businesses with directional arrows. Such a sign might possibly co-mingle well with upcoming wayfinding signage, said Longino.
Henkel suggested that the matter be taken to Troutman Business Council for discussion to come up with a possible stream-lined solution without increasing sign clutter in the town.
ADDITIONAL MEETING DATES
• The council voted unanimously to set two additional meeting dates to discuss the town budget and other issues.
• The council will have a special meeting at Town Hall on April 24 at 2 p.m. to discuss annexations, the mayoral term, possible Town Hall expansion, and code enforcement and to evaluate the Public Works Department’s trial of a new work order system.
They will also have a Town Hall mini-retreat to discuss priorities for next fiscal year’s budget priorities on May 5 from 8 to 11 a.m.
The council voted unanimously:
• To name the the multi-use path currently being built along Old Mountain Road to South Iredell the “South Iredell High School Greenway.”
• To extend the Massey Street property listing with Royal Properties for another six months.
• To approve an 2017 state-required annual audit contract with Martin Starnes and Associates at a cost of $20,000. Council members also discussed bidding this service out for 2018 to possibly lower costs.
• To accept Home Improvement Street in front of Iredell Charter Academy as a town street.
THURSDAY MEETING AGENDA
At Thursday night’s regular council meeting, the council will:
• Select the Citizen and Organization of the Year, which will be presented to recipients at May’s regular council meeting.
• Recognize local business Elegant Monograming and hear a presentation by Police Chief Matthew Selves about recent equipment donations to the department.
• Consider a non-contiguous annexation application for 71 acres off Crosstie Road at Exit 42 and a 205 Wagner Street rezoning request.
• Vote on text amendments (previously approved by the Planning and Zoning Board) to the Unified Development Ordinance on the number of apartment units per row or building, on industrial design standard changes to allow metal industrial buildings, and on mixed residential setbacks.
• Consider forming a Revert Rezoning Amendment Task Force (at the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Board) made up of two Town Council members and two Planning and Zoning Board members.
• Appoint a Wayfinding Committee member to fill a vacant seat.