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Mayor casts deciding vote to restore code enforcement position in Spencer

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SPENCER — By a split vote, Spencer aldermen voted Tuesday to restore a code enforcement position for the town.
Mayor Jody Everhart broke a 3-3 tie to pass a motion directing Town Manager Larry Smith to find money in next year’s budget to hire a part-time code enforcement officer. The new fiscal year starts July 1.
The board eliminated the full-time officer this year to balance the budget.
Alderman Kevin Jones moved to reinstate a part-time officer. He had the votes of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Gobbel and Alderman Reid Walters.
Opposing the motion were aldermen Scott Benfield, Jeff Morris and David Smith.
Smith needs to find about $15,000 in the budget for the position. Aldermen voted unanimously to keep the property tax rate the same at 62.8 cents per $100 of valuation.
When aldermen cut the full-time code officer position, the town switched to complaint-driven enforcement. The change has been unpopular, and Gobbel said it’s not working.
Everhart told the Post Wednesday that people feel like they are telling on their neighbors.
“I don’t like complaint-driven code enforcement,” he said.
Walters suggested the Spencer Fire Department could handle code enforcement duties, like in Landis, and said repeat offenders cause many of the code violations. But the vote went the other way.
Aldermen again discussed outsourcing land management services to Rowan County, which would result in cutting another town employee. China Grove made the switch a few years ago.
But Rowan County Planning Director Ed Muire told the town earlier that his department cannot meet Spencer’s needs.
Morris has said Spencer’s land management and code enforcement needs were not accurately communicated by Smith. Morris on Tuesday wanted to resubmit to the county a proposal he had written himself.
His motion died for lack of a second.
Everhart broke another 3-3 tie by voting to keep the grass height for code enforcement at eight inches, the shortest in the county. When grass reaches this height, property owners are violating the town ordinance.
Benfield wanted to raise the height to 12 inches. He had support from Morris and Smith.
Opposing the change were Gobbel, Jones and Walters.
With the restoration of a code enforcement officer, Everhart told the Post he feels “better about the direction of the town.”
Although the board was divided on several issues, the two-hour meeting was productive, Everhart said. “We gave the town manager direction and a goal, and I’ve got all kinds of confidence that he will find it.”
Smith said he expects to publish his budget message Friday. The public hearing on the budget is set for 7 p.m. June 12.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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