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East Spencer talks budget, clean up of Dunbar Center

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER — Although no decisions were made Monday night, the town board did discuss where they stood with the proposed 2016 budget that came in 1.9 percent lower than last year’s budget.

The board held a public hearing to discuss the more than $1.2 million general fund budget. No one spoke during the public hearing and the board made no decisions on the proposed budget.

Town administrator Macon Sammons Jr. said the town did not expect to change the tax rates or user fees. He said all town services will continue and there will be an expansion and/or improvements made at facilities through grants the town has acquired in the coming year.

The town should be able to “carry forward” $83,366 from the 2015 fiscal year after lower than expected projections and that amount will help balance the 2016 budget.

Part of the reason for a balanced budget includes the water/sewer fund, which has been striving to be self-sufficient for several years. However, in recent months, the town had to overcome a few challenges including water loss within its system. The town retained NC Rural Water Association to conduct a system-wide audit of the water losses.

Throughout the process, the town, along with NC Rural Water, identified 20 leaks within the system. In October, the board voted to raise water and sewer rates by 8 percent and three months later was awarded a $2.4 million grant to upgrade its system.

The water/sewer fund expects to bring in $836,120 based on a monthly projected revenue of $35,000 for water and $29,200 for sewer.

The town was able to save $14,000 for its waste collection services by switching to a 5-year agreement. Sammons said a field audit conducted under the supervision of alderman Curtis Cowan, who helped contribute to the savings.

The board also discussed what to do with the Dunbar Center, a property which the town does not own. The property is owned by Shady Grove Baptist Church. A fire occurred Dec. 30, destroying the historical structure.

Fire investigators later determined it was intentionally set but could not determine whether someone started it to keep warm or to deliberately burn the building.

The town hopes to apply for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program, which is designed to work with towns and states to assess sites.

The town doesn’t have to own the property in order to request it be assessed. Once assessed, the site could then safely be cleaned up and redeveloped.

There are grant funds available for the work that will go into the assessment of the property. The town could receive up to $200,000 in grant funds. It would take much of the year to go through the grant application stages and the grant would not be awarded until late 2016.

Initially a motion to proceed with the brownfields program died for lack of a second, but later after some discussion the board approved to proceed with one dissenting vote by Alderwoman Tammy Corpening. She said earlier during the meeting she disagreed because the town didn’t own the Dunbar Center. However, Public Works Director F.E. Isenhour said the town didn’t have to own it to request and complete the process for an assessment.
Mayor Barbara Mallett said the purpose of moving forward with the assessment is to figure out what potential hazards exist on the site, clean the site and make it more marketable for future development.
“It’s more than just the Dunbar Center,” Sammons said. “We hope this project can open the way for more projects.”
“It has community-wide benefits,” he said.
The board recessed the meeting until its 6:30 p.m. budget work session on June 17, which will be held at town hall, 105 S. Long St.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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