Town clean-up is Spencer’s most important goal

Published 12:05 am Friday, March 11, 2016

SPENCER — One of the most important goals for the town of Spencer is to clean up the town, according to documents from the Spencer Board of Aldermen planning retreat.

The board held its planning retreat on Feb. 19 and 20 at the Spencer Fire Department.

Jim Prosser, from Centralina Council of Governments, facilitated the meeting during the second day.

According to Board Clerk Tori Lowe, Prosser reviewed the Strategic Planning Summary Report from last year and asked the newly elected board members what the most important items were for them. They placed a dot next to the categories they thought were most important.

Through the activity, the board determined that cleaning up the town was the most important goal. At Tuesday’s board meeting, Mayor Jim Gobbel said they would achieve that goal by strengthening the town’s ordinances and possibly adding new ordinances.

The board’s other goals were maintaining the Park Plaza property, hiring a land management director, creating a spending plan, addressing infrastructure needs and addressing the former site of the N.C. Finishing Company.

During the Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday, Interim Town Manager Reid Walters said the staff will come up with a “game plan” to accomplish the goals set by the board.

“I think it was a very successful planning retreat, myself,” he said at the meeting.

Board member David Lamanno presented a rough draft of a vision statement for the board’s first goal.

A portion of the statement read:

“Knowing that most of our town’s operating expenses are derived from residential property taxes and recognizing that as a trend, home values are falling and that unkempt, derelict and abandoned houses have a negative impact on the value of all homes in Spencer, we as a board are resolved to enhance and strengthen portions of the town’s code of ordinances relating to housing and public nuisances.”

Lamanno said the board will have to talk to all stakeholders in the town before finalizing any plans.

“This isn’t something that we want to just dump on folks,” he said. “We want to include everyone in this process.”

Mayor Jim Gobbel said getting input from the community was important.

“Citizen engagement goes a long way in telling us what we need to do to be public servants to the citizens of Spencer,” he said.

Gobbel also said the projects may take some time, but he wants to go about things in the right way.

Alderman Mike Boone said working on the first goal may accomplish some of the board’s other goals.

“If we follow through on the mission statement that’s there, then a lot of other factors in the town are going to fall into place also,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Sylvia Chillcott pointed out that Lamanno mentioned the historic district of Spencer in the statement. She said she wanted to ensure all of Spencer was included.

“Let’s not forget the rest of the city limits,” she said.

The board suggested that Lamanno tweak the statement and bring it back before the board at a later meeting.

At the retreat, the board also talked about having a “communication check-in” before each meeting in order to discuss things like ideas and thoughts from the community.

There was also a public comment session during the first day. Ronald Kester spoke about his concern about Park Plaza, specifically the leaking roof. Kester said he talked with the owners of Brewtique, a coffee shop, and felt that they invested too much time and money to be in such poor conditions. He asked the board and town staff to help businesses owners so that they stay in Spencer.

Interim Town Manager Reid Walters said a public nuisance letter was sent to the property owner. He later found out that a holding company in South Carolina holds a lien on the property and they were made aware of the issues.

The board also took action regarding a resolution during the retreat. It unanimously approved a resolution for Spencer’s request for contingency funds for a portion of a long-range phased street and drainage project.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.