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Granite Quarry board hears calls for an employee pay study

By Mark Wineka

GRANITE QUARRY — As town of Granite Quarry department heads went over some of their goals and capital needs for the next fiscal year Friday, Town Manager Justin Price included the possibility of an employee pay study.

Fire Chief Dale Brown offered good evidence to proceed with a study when he told the Board of Aldermen that Granite Quarry’s paid firemen are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to their annual income.

The town has three paid full-time positions to supplement their volunteer roster. The two most veteran firemen are making  $29,480 a year, Brown said, and he judged that each man is roughly $4,500 behind market value.

Brown asked the town board to consider putting an extra $6,000 to $10,000 in the upcoming 2015-2016 budget to bring the firemen’s salaries more in line with other departments.

“I’m potentially going to lose all of them,” Brown said of keeping the full-timers from bolting for more pay elsewhere.

Brown spoke during the Board of Aldermen’s annual retreat, which also is considered a budget workshop. The retreat, held at Town Hall, continues at 9 a.m. today and expects to wind up in the early afternoon.

Aldermen heard departmental reports from Brown, Price,  Police Chief Mark Cook, and Maintenance Director Kim Cress.

In the all-day workshop at Town Hall, aldermen also had morning presentations from Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Elaine Spalding, RowanWorks Executive Director Robert Van Geons and Tourism Development Authority Director James Meachum.

Afternoon presentations came from  Craig Lamb and Ann Morris of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Michelle Nance and Emily Parker of Centralina Council of Governments and Mike West of Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.

Brown, the fire chief, said his recommendation for pay increases for the full-time firemen comes after he surveyed salaries of  Landis, Rockwell, Locke and Salisbury firefighters.

Brown said he would like to keep the experience and local knowledge his firefighters bring to their jobs with the department.

Police Chief Cook said he would also support a pay study that included his department.

In another request, Brown asked the board to set aside $30,000 for capital equipment needs such as a thermal imager and replacement of certain, hoses, nozzles, turnout gear and air packs.

Brown suggested the $30,000 figure because the N.C. Department of Insurance offers a 50-50 matching grant up to $30,000. That is, if the town spent $30,000 toward some of its equipment needs, the DOI would match it with another $30,000.

As long as the DOI has its grant program in place, Brown said, the town should allocate money to the “F.D. Grants” line item in the budget to take advantage of the matching funds, so the department can phase in and replace equipment as needed.

Brown predicted the only other year he sees his department maxing out its request at $30,000 would be the year when all of its air packs have to be replaced.

The town’s new fire truck, whose delivery has long been delayed, is now set to arrive in early May, Brown reported. The fire engine’s specifications have been revised, making it “more functional for firefighting duties,” Brown said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers suggested that when the truck arrives the town should conduct an open house at the Fire Department or have some kind of christening for the new apparatus.

Police Chief Cook has asked the board to consider the lease or purchase of two new patrol cars for the coming fiscal year. They would have a total price tag of about $78,000 if purchased outright.

Mayor Bill Feather said he wasn’t opposed to buying the cars, but it might be to the town’s advantage — and Cook agreed — to lease three and spread the costs out over the town’s budget for three years.

“There’s a lot to think about,” Feather said. “… That’s a pretty big hit — two cars in one year.”

The police authority has generally tried to follow a policy of replacing one vehicle a year. It added two new cars in 2013 but none in 2014.

Cook’s other capital requests are $4,200 to replace two radar units and $2,000 for respirators — multi-functional masks that eight full-time officers could wear in case of chemical spills, during riot control situations or around meth labs.

Cress, the maintenance director, presented many big-ticket capital needs for the town that could be addressed now or later.

“Basically, these items have been asked for for years,” Cress said.

Several relate to Town Hall, which dates back to 1976. Capital needs include $12,000 to $25,000 for heating and air-conditioning improvements, $17,295 for lighting, $4,000 to $6,000 for better wiring and $80,000 to $100,000 for a new roof.

The present roof is 20 years old.

Other capital needs listed by Cress include $20,000 for a Leaf Vac system, $15,000 for street repairs and $5,000 for new street signs, which will need to be in place by 2018.

Cress also noted for aldermen that the town’s contract with Waste Management for garbage collection is up for renewal, and aldermen may want to consider the possibility of having Waste Management handle solid waste, recycling and leaf collection altogether.

“It’s worth looking at,” Cress said.

Price, the town manager, said aldermen may have to make a decision on the Waste Management contract as early as March. The town has a year-to-year option with Waste Management, or it could put garbage collection out to bid again.

Price said aldermen may want to discuss a cost-of-living adjustment for employees, and he stressed that would be separate from an employee pay study and adjustments it might recommend.

Part of the pay study would be comparing Granite Quarry to other municipalities of the same size, Price said.

Price also suggested that the town develop a social media policy for the town’s use of Facebook and Twitter.

Aldermen held a brief special meeting Friday afternoon to handle a couple of items.

They approved a revised agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation and Rowan County on the access road which will be built to the back of the Gildan plant off Heilig Road.

The road will be maintained by Granite Quarry, and it also will open up land inside the town limits for development. The revisions approved Friday were changes affecting DOT and the county, not Granite Quarry.

Aldermen also approved the Rowan-Iredell Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is needed in case the town would ever request federal disaster funds.

Rowan Emergency Services Director Frank Thomason said the plan essentially helps to identify hazards in each community and look for ways to reduce or eliminate them.

Having a plan in place also allows communities to apply for federal grant programs. The Rowan-Iredell plan has been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state and county. Thomason said he is now gathering resolutions in support of the plan from municipalities.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.







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