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Spencer deals with heated fallout from resignation of town manager

By Samuel Motley

Samuel.motley@salisburypost.com

SPENCER — As Spencer deals with the fallout from the resignation of former Town Manager Terrance Arrington, the town board received its first look at the 2020 fiscal year budget on Tuesday.

During the meeting, John Sofley, a former assistant city manager for Salisbury, presented the budget to the board, saying this year’s proposed budget is “balanced.” Sofley has been temporarily hired to help with the budget.

This year’s budget will have three main focuses, Sofley said. It will look at downtown revitalization, employee retention and community engagement.

Downtown revitalization includes the development of Park Plaza for a new municipal complex.

Discussion about employee retention was particularly pungent as well. The Spencer Police Department has seen a 50% turnover in officers in the previous two years, Sofley said.

The proposed tax rate has been set at 62 cents per $100 of property valuation. This is 0.1 cent more than the revenue-neutral rate of 61.9 cents per $100 of valuation. But the proposed number also represents a decline in the tax rate, which is currently 65.5 cents per $100 per of valuation.

Despite deliberation by the board, it voted to hold a public hearing on the budget at its next regularly scheduled meeting, June 11. The board also voted to hold a budget workshop on June 18.

But the budget presentation marked only one of two special meetings that took place Tuesday in Spencer. The first dealt almost exclusively with the proposed budget and budget amendments. The second originally focused on how to go forward with an interim manager, as Arrington resigned May 6 and received a $32,500 severance payment. The interim manager discussion, however, was tabled.

At that time, Finance Manager Tatia Seward stood up to make a presentation about a failed payment to Centric Technology. Details of why the payments failed were unclear Tuesday night.

Mayor Jim Gobbel quoted an N.C. statute, saying making the payment without a second signature would put the board and the town staff in violation and possibly subject to a fine. And this led to a back-and-forth debate between Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Hovis and Gobbel.

Hovis accused Gobbel of being inconsistent when trying to apply the statute. She asked why this hadn’t been taken into account for the bills that were paid earlier without two signatures. The board shouldn’t interpret laws differently; it needs to be consistent, Hovis said.

Tensions remained after the meeting as Gobbel and representatives of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP squared off in a heated debate while leaving the Spencer Municipal Building.

While walking outside the Spencer Municipality Building, Gobbel called Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black a “grasshopper.” Black responded to the comment and called Gobbel a “joke.”

Gobbel should resign, Black said in the back-and-forth.

Contact reporter Samuel Motley at 704-797-4264. 

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