Troutman council members hear from candidates for vacant seat
BY DEBBIE PAGE
During their pre-agenda meeting on Monday afternoon, Troutman Town Council members heard brief presentations from two candidates for the seat vacated by the resigning Jim Troutman.
Jan Huffman and Matthew Weber both made their case for selection to the position, which expires in December.
“Like Jim, I’ve spent 40 years working in government. Since moving to Troutman in 2011, I have been actively involved in our community, and I’d like to be more involved as we implement this Strategic Master Plan and revised UDO,” said Huffman, who participated in the Stantec charrette and in focus groups as the plan was created.
“I’m excited about the recommendations and strategies in the strategic plan,” Huffman continued. “Some strategies will be challenging, but we can take pride in thinking of what the outcome will be.”
“With my career in government and my active participation in the town, I feel that I have skills and experience that will be beneficial and complement the background of other council members and staff,” she added.
Huffman, who is retired but actively engaged in the community, believes her master’s degree in public administration, her background in personnel and her N.C. School of Government training give her a unique knowledge of government and its function, financing and authority granted by the statutes. She also has extensive knowledge of various resources available to municipalities.
Huffman has served on the Board of Adjustment for three years, acting as chair for the past 18 months. She also said that she could provide expertise in the current rewriting process of the town’s personnel policy and the implementation of a proposed public records policy to be voted on Thursday night as well as in the efficient storage of records.
Council member Paul Bryant, in a question session after Huffman spoke, noted that council seats are non-partisan and that members represent all town citizens, not a district. He asked her, as he did Weber later, if there was any reason that she could not represent all citizens in an unbiased, impartial way.
Huffman answered that she could, noting that as a personnel manager she sometimes had to implement policies that were not helpful for her own personal benefit but were best for everyone in the county as a whole.
When asked by Mayor Teross Young about a particular area on which she might like to focus, Huffman chose traffic-related recommendations in the Strategic Master Plan. “I think if you ask anyone who lives here, one of the first things they complain about is the traffic,” she said.
Though challenging strategies to implement, Huffman feels the suggested traffic improvements would be much appreciated by citizens, noting particularly the congestion when South Iredell High School dismisses each weekday.
In response to a query by Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel, Huffman said she supports business development and commercial/industrial growth.
“You have to have a mix of different types of businesses. I’m not against large industry coming in, but we have to look at where they are located. I certainly understand the rural preservation effort and trying to maintain the small town atmosphere.”
“But in order to support infrastructure and businesses, you have to have rooftops for people to move into to attract those businesses,” she added. “Those businesses want places for their employees to live.”
Huffman also favors mixed-use areas that have condos and other temporary housing along with commercial uses.
“You have to maintain your tax base, and you can’t do that with all residential,” Huffman added.
Weber, who moved to Troutman in 2012, touted his international work experience with Halliburton, but he said, “The best memories that I can recall are right here in Troutman.” He noted such pleasant experiences as sledding behind the middle school and Police Chief Matthew Selves pinning a junior officer badge on his daughter at Trails and Treats.
“I hope my daughter has opportunities to make memories in a great community like I have,” added Weber.
Observing that most council members are retired from their careers and are now serving their community, Weber believes having an actively working member will add some diversity to the council “that more closely represents the fabric of this community and opening a door to community outreach that may not be available to the current council.”
Weber also noted that his wife, an educator, works closely with the community every day. He believes that input from the school system that he receives through her will also be a valuable asset.
“I will bring this input to council to help make better, more informed decisions,” said Weber, who pointed out that he lives in a neighborhood that closely resembles that represented by Jim Troutman.
“I think it’s important that our council is made up of people spread throughout the community so they can make their decisions based not only on what directly impacts them but also on feedback they get from their friends and neighbors.”
Weber promised to be accessible, open and approachable to community members at town events. “What I lack in government experience, I will make up for in Troutman’s core vales: communication, leadership, safety, teamwork and trust.”
Weber looked forward to gaining from the current council’s wisdom and experience, but he believes the governing body could benefit from a more varying age range. “If you move forward with only that philosophy, to only pick candidates with the most experience, then you will always have boards and committees with limited outlooks based on their age.”
In response to Bryant’s query, Weber said he could represent all citizens fairly.
Council member Judy Jablonski asked Weber when he began attending various town meetings. Weber stated that his attendance began this past September once he went off night shift at his job at as a plant engineer at Charter Communications.
In response to Young’s question about his interest area, Weber also named traffic concerns, particularly the Lytton Street connector solution. “I’d also like to see more outreach with the education community.”
Henkel also asked about Weber’s feelings about growth, both residential and commercial. In response, Weber cited the need for “an array of all those zones available,” with higher density in town or lower density further out.
Weber also favored recruiting large and medium businesses to the town, but he believes the traffic infrastructure needs to improve before adding more industrial development, noting that the Highway 21 improvements on the horizon will be key.
The mayor outlined the process for selection, saying that council members should individually deliberate and be ready to discuss and vote on Troutman’s replacement on Thursday night.
Initially, the council planned to hold the swearing-in at its February meeting, but they later decided to hold a brief ceremony just after the Thursday vote so that the new member could participate in the first part of the annual retreat on February 1 and the pre-agenda meeting on February 11.
A ceremonial swearing-in is planned for the February 14 regular meeting.
PUBLIC RECORDS POLICY
The council decided to place option one of the public records policy, which spells out the state statute on custom services, on the consent agenda on Thursday night. The council discussed this policy in detail last month.
Using a request management program was not recommended at this time because the “burden of pulling records (such as emails) from a server, reviewing them, and disseminating them” will still exist for staff, according to Town Manager Justin Longino.
“The number of requests is still something that can be tracked with a simple form or spreadsheet and save the town $4,000,” said Longino.
ADDITIONAL SOUTH IREDELL SRO
Police Chief Matthew Selves asked council members their feelings on funding half of an SRO position at South Iredell High School, which currently only has one officer on campus. He plans to approach the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education next week about funding the rest of the cost.
Selves pointed out the larger, sprawling campus, a large and increasing student population, increased incidents, high traffic volume and traffic direction, and the pulling of patrol officers to assist at SIHS as justification for the additional officer.
Though members generally agreed that another SRO was needed, they felt the funding should come through the Iredell County Board of Commissioners since only an estimated 200 students at the school live in the Town of Troutman.
The mayor suggested Selves reach out to the county commissioners for funding and the I-SS board to help find a solution, also offering his assistance in the endeavor.
MASSEY STREET PROPERTY
Council members unanimously voted to drop the asking price for a Massey Street property that it is trying to sell from $40,000 to $35,000 after real estate agent Mike Todd said no offers had been received after months on the market.
The council set Friday, February 1, from 8 a.m. to noon as its first annual retreat date, with another half-day session to follow in late February or early March. The first retreat is tentatively scheduled at the Lake Norman State Park Visitors Center meeting room, pending availability.
UPCOMING THURSDAY NIGHT
► A public hearing for and possible adoption of the revised Unified Development Ordinance;
► A rezoning request from Hoover, Perry and Murdock Road property owners to change their tracts to a Rural Preservation District;
► Consideration of amendments to the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee Rules of Procedure, which will condense the size of the committee and streamline decision-making. The Parks and Recreation Coordinator said that three eliminated members with time still remaining on their committee terms have agreed to head a park “friends” group that will coordinate volunteers and projects at ECS Park;
► Consideration of the 2019 town’s special events calendar;
► ABC store quarterly report; and
► Education Spotlight on the Career Academy and Technology School (CATS)