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Spencer passes budget at quiet board meeting

SPENCER — With no comment from the public, and no further debate among members, the Spencer Board of Aldermen passed the 2013-14 budget on a 5-0 vote at Tuesday’s meeting.
Alderman Scott Benfield was absent from the meeting.
The balanced budget maintains the current property tax rate of 62.8 cents per $100 of value, and the current monthly garbage collection fees — $15 for residents and $25 for business.
The budget includes an appropriation of $28,000 from the city’s savings to balance the budget. The funds will cover part of the one-time cost of $50,000 for a strategic study of town parks and facilities.
After opening the public hearing, and waiting a long, silent 45 seconds for anyone in the audience to rise and speak, Mayor Jody Everhart gaveled the public hearing closed.
The only comments from the board during Tuesday’s meeting were praise for Town Manager Larry Smith and the city staff’s preparation of the budget.
After the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Gobbel said the town’s ability to maintain the current tax rate and fees was “a credit to the town staff, the Police Department and the Fire Department.”
“Right now, we have a town staff that’s very frugal,” Gobbel said. “They’re doing more with less.”
Looking ahead to next year, Smith said it was difficult to know whether the 2014-15 budget would be simple to prepare.
There are a number of legislative issues in Raleigh, Smith said, that might affect the town’s finances.
“It’s the combination of all the different issues that are being discussed,” Smith said. “There’s no single one that jumps out too, too much.”
In his covering letter to the board, Smith described the new budget’s continued emphasis on economic development, particularly the Small Town Main Street program.
In separate votes during Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted 5-0 to support continued participation in the program, and also voted 5-0 to come up with a process “to ensure that any events being planned within the adopted downtown are are reviewed by, and coordinated with, town staff and the Small Town Main Street program.”
Smith said support for Spencer’s participation in Small Town Main Street “is still growing.”
“We’re getting a little more input from business ownes than when we originally started,” Smith said.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Alderman Reid Walters brought forward an issue regarding mailboxes in the city’s historic neighborhoods.
Older homes, particularly in those historic neighborhoods, have mailboxes on the front porch or adjacent to the front door of the residence.
Recently, the U.S. Postal Service has been requesting that residents install curbside mailboxes.
Walters described situations when mail had been held at the local post office, including prescription medications, “without notice,” because the mailbox had not been relocated to the curb.
“Which just isn’t right, you know,” Walters told the board. “You know it’s medicine because it’s packaged as medicine.”
Walters said U.S. Postal Service officials had declined to set up a meeting with the town to discuss the regulations.
Spencer town ordinances do not allow mailboxes to be placed at the curb in these historic districts, Walters said.
Also, from the information currently available, it was unclear whether the Postal Service has the authority to force residents’ mailboxes to be moved to the curb, if they are properly installed elsewhere.
Nonetheless, he said, the policy has caused confusion among property owners. Some have installed curbside mailboxes while others have not.
Walters said he had been told that the change in policy was due to incidents in which letter carriers had been bitten by dogs.
Asked whether he was familiar with such incidents, Smith said he was not aware of any.
The board voted 5-0 to ask Smith to contact Congressman Mel Watt’s office on behalf of the town for assistance in clarifying Postal Service policies.
In other business before the Spencer Board of Aldermen:
• David Treme addressed the board on behalf of the United Way of Rowan County, requesting their support for the agency’s annual fundraising campaign and the 15 member agencies it supports.
• The board voted 5-0 to appoint Patsy Duncan to the town’s Community Appearance Commission.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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