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Granite Quarry board casts eye on numerous spending requests

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — With a full day set aside to discuss many items, the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen did just that last Friday, touching on things as varied as monitor screens in the board room to the purchase of vehicles and a dump trailer.

The town board held its annual retreat Friday and spent considerable time going over some capital requests that could end up in the 2019-2020 fiscal year’s budget.

A proposal to buy two new 70-inch monitors for the Town Hall meeting room received strong support. They would help the aldermen and audience better follow visual presentations, which are now shown on a pull-down movie screen and sometimes difficult to see.

Cost of the two monitors is estimated at $1,500.

Maintenance Director Jason Hord’s wish list includes a new F-350 Ford truck to replace his department’s 1988 Chevrolet model. Hord said the new truck also could have a snow-plow attachment, which would ease the burden on the town’s dump truck after winter storms.

Cost of the new truck: $40,000.

Hord also is asking for a $10,000 “dump trailer,” again to supplement the dump truck. It could assist in hauling some of the town’s equipment, too, Hord reported.

Aldermen fully supported another request from the maintenance department — building concrete steps at Granite Lake Park to replace the railroad ties and gravel steps existing now.

Town officials worry those present steps going from the shelter to the asphalt trail are a fall hazard. They also spoke for the addition of a handrail. Estimated cost of concrete steps is $2,000.

Several aldermen spoke in favor of creating a three- to five-year capital improvements plan for town parks.

“I think that’s a detriment to the town if we don’t keep them up,” Alderman John Linker said.

Alderman Kim Cress, a former maintenance director for the town, said Granite Lake Park and Granite Civic Park are two of the bigger draws.

“Everybody talks about our parks,” Cress said. “… The biggest concern I have is updating (them) — keeping up what we have.”

Aldermen learned Friday the tennis courts at Civic Park need to be resurfaced.

“There are cracks in there you could put your hand in,” Linker said. Aldermen heard a cost estimate of $27,500 to repair, clean and resurface the courts — something that was done eight years ago.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers pushed for a larger budget for the parks and events committee overall, especially to go toward expanding the annual Granite Fun Fest.

“We would like to put a little more professionalism into our fall event,” said LaFevers, encouraging his fellow board members to consider adding $3,000 to the events budget.

Cress said the fall festival used to draw a lot of residents and visitors to the town.

“It made Granite stand out,” he said.

Alderman Jim Costantino agreed, saying the budget for the Fun Fest should be increased. “In the past, it was a wonderful event,” he said.

In the Fire Department, for which Hord also serves as chief, the big capital request is $50,000 to go toward refurbishing both of the town’s 1994 Pierce fire trucks.

As of now, one of the trucks is kept in reserve, but Hord said both pass their pump tests. Granite Quarry also has a 2014 ladder truck.

Aldermen talked for a considerable time Friday about possible landscaping improvements at what most residents consider the town square — the intersection of Salisbury Avenue and Bank Street.

Each of the corners presently has a planter. The Revitalization Committee has recommended taking out those planters and providing new landscaping, possibly with water features.

The corners also would have lights, and crosswalks would be painted. A scheduled resurfacing of U.S. 52 (Salisbury Avenue) probably makes stamping a crosswalk or installing brick crosswalks impractical, according to the committee.

Each corner could cost $3,000 to $10,000, depending on some of the options under consideration. Linker said if the improvements at the square included mast poles to hold traffic lights, the costs would increase by $60,000.

Mayor Bill Feather said he wasn’t opposed to improvements at the square but thought they should be timed to the installation of new sidewalks.

Cress said the planters in place now were installed in the late 1990s, and “all kinds of people have tended to them” — from town employees to private citizens. But they proved tough to maintain, Cress said, because they are raised planters with no shade.

Whatever plants or flowers were put in the planters cooked, unless they were watered twice a day, he said.

“I think it needs to be dressed up, but it needs upkeep (too),” Cress said.

Aldermen also discussed buying an electronic informational insert for the town marquee. Estimates have ranged from $18,000 to $37,000 for the electronic message sign.

The board stressed the marquee outside Town Hall would not lose its base structure, paid for by Granite Quarry Civitans.

Linker recommended the town should check with churches and fire departments which might have experience with buying electronic signs.

In another matter, Town Planner Steve Blount recommended that the board consider merging the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Aldermen have had trouble finding people willing to serve on each of those boards. Cress said when he has asked prospective residents, the excuses he often hears include someone saying they are too tired when they get home at the end of a day or that they’re retired now and don’t want a new commitment.

Costantino said he hears the same kinds of things, but on the matter of merging the boards, “I’m staying neutral,” he said.

Feather spoke for keeping the boards separate and said the town board members should make more of an effort to find residents to fill the vacancies.

Linker said he has always favored two boards because it increases citizen participation in town government.

“(But) I don’t have the opposition I did before,” Linker said.

Blount said the Zoning Board of Adjustment had met only twice in his 16 months as planner. “This is a waste of talented people,” he said.

Blount added the ZBA, if it were merged with the Planning Board, would not be hearing appeals of Planning Board actions. It hears only three types of cases: appeals of actions by the planner or town manager on land-use issues, requests for conditional permits and the granting of variances.

No decision for or against the merger was made.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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