Granite Quarry alderman asks, ‘Why can’t anyone answer the phone?’

GRANITE QUARRY — Town department heads shared things on their capital improvements wish list Friday — requests ranging from replacing Tasers to repairing tennis courts to adding more Christmas lights,

But one of the items drawing considerable discussion during the first day of a two-day budget retreat touched on updating Town Hall's telephone system.

“It irritates me every time,” Alderman Jim LaFevers said. “... I guess I'm asking, why can't anyone answer the phone?”

In calling Town Hall at present, a resident automatically listens to a recording, offering department extensions, a directory or, at the end, a general number for speaking to someone.

The caller might get the recording again if that person is on another line or not in the office.

“I'm so irritated with the current phone system that I'll go with anything,” Alderman Mike Brinkley said.

Town Manager Dan Peters said an upgrade of about $5,000 can lead to providing a direct line number for up 20 town employees — more than enough for Town Hall.

The current telephone system is 11 years old, and sometimes when all lines are busy, it might roll callers onto a fax line.

“We need to be user friendly for citizens, more than for us,” LaFevers said.

In another matter, Maintenance Director Kim Cress pushed for $22,388 worth of repairs this year to the three tennis courts at Granite Civic Park.

“We've been kicking this can down the road for three years,” Cress said.

Cress noted he has had to take down a net on one of the courts out of concerns players might hurt themselves on that court.

Mayor Bill Feather supported the repairs. “I think doing it right is the best way to do it,” he said. The courts date back to 1986.

On another request, Police Chief Mark Cook asked the board to consider replacing two Tasers in the coming fiscal year.

After learning that all of the department's Tasers are at least five years old and out of warranty, Feather said the board should maybe consider replacing them all at once.

Also, the older units do not have the newer safety technology.

“I totally agree with replacing all the units,” Cook said.

The department's old Tasers can be used as trade-ins. The Tasers, or stun guns, cost about $1,200 each.

Cook said his top equipment priority is the purchase of in-car camera systems for three cars, including two patrols cars purchased over the past year and an older patrol car with an outdated camera.

The in-car cameras cost about $5,000 each.

Cook also listed a video evidence server and a video interview system to allow investigators and other officers to record interviews in compliance with evidence laws, while maintaining the integrity of evidence.

The server would cost $13,725; the video unit, $5,500.

Cook said he could delay the $35,000 purchase of a replacement patrol vehicle for another year.

In opening the Board of Aldermen's two-day retreat Friday morning, Feather said he told department heads he did not want to hear about the past. Rather, he wanted the employees and the board overall to focus on the future.

Here were some other capital improvements or updates discussed Friday:

• Providing space for a new fire truck, expected to be delivered in the fall, will cost about $10,000. The fire and maintenance departments are working on a proposal to provide the extra room.

• The town's 20 percent match of a $425,296 CMAQ grant for new sidewalks would be $85,059, which would have to come out of the town's fund balance.

For new sidewalks along state-maintained highways such as U.S. 52 and Old N.C. 80, the work would have to include curb and gutters for drainage.

That curb-and-gutter requirement will reduce significantly the number of new sidewalks Granite Quarry can build, Peters said, adding, “it's disheartening.”

• Zoning Administrator and Planning Director Susan Closner will be working this year on streamlining the process for developers so more things can be accomplished faster at the administrative level and through the Technical Review Committee.

“It seems like the way other towns are going,” Closner said. Delays often occur while waiting for the planning boards or board of aldermen to convene for the required hearings.

Peters and Brinkley said the town's development process should be more of a one-stop shop.

“Anything we can do to speed up the process is what (Closner) is working on now,” Peters said.

Brinkley stressed that aldermen should be kept informed on development requests from the beginning of an inquiry.

• Fire Chief Mark Troublefield estimated that outfitting the new fire truck will cost $25,000.

• Troublefield said his department needs three new sets of gear in the coming fiscal year at a total cost of $4,500.

• Maintenance Director Kim Cress said he would like to add eight Christmas lights on the southern end of town for this year's holiday season. The added lights would cost between $8,000 to $10,000.

Cress said the town also must consider making the adequate electrical tie-ins for Christmas lights on 13 to 16 utility poles that Duke Energy recently replaced along U.S. 52.

Without those tie-ins, the town would be missing a lot of Christmas light decorations come late November, Cress said, putting the cost at $15,000 “just to keep what we got.”

• Cress estimated lighting upgrades at Town Hall would cost $17,295, while repairing drains and installing a new roof — a project suggested for fiscal year 2015-2016, would cost $80,000 to $100,000.

• Cress included a figure of $12,000 toward street repair and resurfacing.

The retreat continues at 9 this morning with presentations on downtown revitalization, the Granite Quarry Business Alliance, Rowan Works and a goal-setting exercise at the end.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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