Landis dumps meeting pay

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

LANDIS — Landis hammered the final nail in the coffin of high spending by town aldermen. Starting Monday evening, Landis elected officials will no longer receive special meeting pay.

The move comes after recent scrutiny of the previous board’s spending. In January, Alderman Dorland Abernathy revealed that the town did not have a travel policy for elected officials, and the previous board had engaged in high spending at a three day ElectriCities conference in August 2015, where the board spent approximately $17,000 — more than half its yearly travel budget.

Reimbursement for meetings became an issue after a March request for records showed that between July 2014 and the end of his term in fall 2015, former mayor James Furr requested reimbursement for more than 90 meetings, including events like the town’s 5K run to benefit cancer and a funeral.

“I believe if we approve this, we can put this all behind us,” Mayor Mike Mahaley said on Monday.

In February, the new board approved a travel policy for elected officials; in June it slashed its travel budget by $23,000; and in July announced that it would not be attending the 2016 conference, to be held in Concord.

During board discussion, Alderman Seth Moore said that the practice of paying aldermen $50 for a special or called meeting began during the era of former mayor Fred Steen, who served from 1995 to 2002. Moore said that, after speaking with Steen, he determined the town began offering reimbursement during a time when Landis had no town manager, and an alderman — appointed as town administrator — had to serve in that capacity.

“The special pay for $50 at this time seems a little outdated,” Moore said.

Mahaley said it was only fair, and referenced Landis’s slim budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which among other things trimmed two police officers and six part-time firefighter positions from the town.

“We’re asking other people, and we have to do our part,” he said.

Alderman Tommy Garver made the motion, which was seconded by Alderman Dennis Brown. The measure was unanimously approved. Alderman will still receive a yearly stipend of $1,500 for service to the town. The mayor receives a $2,400 yearly stipend.

In other business the board:

  • Denied a rezoning request on the corner of West Garden Street and North Zion Street. The owner of the property, Walter Kepley, Jr., requested that the property be changed from commercial to general residential. During Monday’s public hearing residents of West Garden Street spoke out against the requested zoning, asking the board to keep the lot as a commercial property.

“There’s no one come up and spoke for it,” Mahaley said. “. . . That’s their neighborhood, they’re gonna have to live with it.”

  • Approved a plan to redesign the layout of an intersection at South Main Street, West First Street and South Highland Avenue. Merrell’s Family Dentistry requested the design change earlier this year. The plans will be taken to the N.C. Department of Transportation.
  • Appointed David Sells to the town planning board.
  • Heard the Landis Fire Department will conduct a live burn of two structures in the 200 block of South Meriah, at the intersection of West Ridge Avenue on Aug. 5 and 6.
  • Heard several streets in Landis and China Grove will be closed temporarily due to ongoing construction on the railroad tracks. Thom Street in China Grove will be closed from Aug. 5 through Aug. 17, Centerview Street in China Grove will be closed between Aug. 18 and Oct. 18, Ryder Avenue in Landis will be closed temporarily on Aug. 15 and North Central Avenue will close permanently on Friday.
  • Heard that on Aug. 27 the town will host a community pool day from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Pool members will be eligible for free food.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.