Spencer board discusses plan for new town office at budget workshop

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2018

SPENCER — The Spencer Board of Aldermen spent more than two hours Tuesday night combing through a proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

It was the town’s first budget workshop of the year.

First on the list for discussion was the plan to turn an empty section of Park Plaza into new municipal offices. The town has entered a $668,000 purchase agreement with the property owners for a 20,000-square-foot portion of the shopping complex.

Renovation costs are expected to run at $1.8 million. With contingencies and other soft costs, Town Manager Reid Walters said the total would likely fall around $2.5 million.

But with a bit of luck, Spencer should be able to secure a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to cover the costs.

“It’s actually set up for small towns like this,” Walters said.

The loan would be paid back over a 40-year period at a fixed interest rate, giving the town the ability to plan out a specific dollar amount each year.

Things are also looking good with Spencer’s application for financing approval with the Local Government Commission, Walters said. In the worst-case scenario, Spencer would need to scale back and build the complex in phases, instead of all at once.

“So there’s not going to be a scenario where you won’t be able to do this project,” he said.

After hammering out further details, the board moved on to departmental requests and needs.

The Spencer Police Department hopes to get new weapons this year thanks to a $20,000 grant.

The board also discussed the possibility of equipping officers with body cameras. While the town has received a gift to cover the cost of the cameras themselves, Walters said he had found the cost of data storage prohibitive.

Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Hovis, who also is police chief for East Spencer, recommended a cost-effective storage option used by her department and suggested that the town go ahead and buy as many cameras as it can afford to prevent liability issues.

The board also discussed consolidating the town’s four payrolls or signing up with a payroll management service such as ADP.

The board agreed that town departments should put a larger focus on filling potholes — even over slimming down the budget for the upcoming year.

Mayor Jim Gobbel said that when it comes down to it, potholes are a quality-of-life issue, and the board was elected to improve residents’ quality of life.

The board plans to hold further budget workshops but did not set a date for the next one.

In other business, the board went into closed session and Walters submitted his resignation. The board accepted is.

Walters’ resignation is effective May 31. He has accepted a job as town manager in Independence, Virginia — close to a property he owns with his family.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.