Granite Quarry candidates like what town has to offer but see room for improvements

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 10, 2019

GRANITE QUARRY — Talk to Granite Quarry candidates in the upcoming municipal election, and they’ll tell you this Rowan County town of roughly 3,000 people has a lot going for it.

The town has three good parks. The tax rate is among the lowest in the county. It has close proximity to Salisbury and the shopping and entertainment options there.

And growth seems to be on Granite Quarry’s doorstep in new residential development (Village at Granite), commercial development (a new State Employees’ Credit Union) and industrial development (the industrial park off Heilig Road).

But incumbents and challengers alike see room for improvement.

Things on the candidates’ minds include stronger planning for growth, hiring a permanent town manager, street and sidewalk improvements, keeping taxes low, achieving more public involvement, better code enforcement, providing more resources for fire and police, retaining staff and better leadership from the town board.

“For the most part, Granite Quarry enjoys good government,” says Doug Shelton, a candidate for alderman and a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and downtown revitalization team.

“But the present Board of Aldermen seems to have to revisit the same issues over and over. Is this because they can’t agree on a course of action? Or is it something else?”

Another candidate for alderman, Mike Brinkley, also levels criticism at the present board.

“The main reason I am running for the board at this time,” Brinkley says, “is the plain and simple fact that we have members on the current Board of Aldermen that do not have the best interest of the town at heart.”

Brinkley poses these questions:

• “Why have our streets and sidewalks been neglected for so long? Why are there no plans for development of town property for recreational use? Why has our tax rate been raised by as much as 18% for some residents?

• “Why has the search for a new town manager not begun? Why is the board allowing wasteful spending? Why hasn’t a site been found for leaves and limbs? Why do we have a part-time planner that is not in touch with the community?

• “And finally, when is this board planning to go to work for the betterment of Granite Quarry?”

The seats of Aldermen Jim LaFevers and Jim Costantino are up for election Nov. 5. They are running to retain those spots and face opposition from Shelton and Brinkley.

Aldermen serve four-year terms. The seats of Kim Cress and John Linker are not up for election this year.

Granite Quarry went to a separate mayoral race in 2015, and Bill Feather won the office in both 2015 and 2017, running unopposed.

This year, Feather seeks re-election against Andrew Poston, a first-time candidate for town office, although Poston ran unsuccessfully in 2016 for a state House seat in the Republican primary and later that year as a candidate for a district seat on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.

Feather has served on the town board since being elected alderman in 2003. In 2013, his colleagues on the board chose him as mayor at a time when the electorate did not vote on that position, so he has been mayor since then.

Feather declined to comment for this story. The mayoral term is two years.

Poston, 26, says there’s “a noticeable lack of options for younger people here when it comes to activities and housing options.”

“Moving ahead, our biggest challenge is going to be how we mesh an aging population with our goals of bringing younger folks into town,” Poston says. “We must start with bringing taxes down from the current rate.

“Our town did not go revenue-neutral during this past year, which was a revaluation year. People’s taxes have skyrocketed, and one of the first things young folks look for when weighing about whether to buy in town or not, apart from the schools, is the taxes on property.”

Poston says the future of Granite Quarry “is very bright, if we allow it to be.”

“We must look to bringing more folks into Granite to work, shop and live,” he says.

Poston pushes for the town to improve streets and sidewalks. “The folks on Yadkin Street and that area of town deserve better than to have to drive over roots and risk their car in doing so,” he said.

Poston says Faith and Granite Quarry must continue to work cooperatively to strengthen the police authority alliance, and he would like to see more residents volunteering.

“We have a population that cares immensely about the town,” says Poston, who teaches social studies in Stanly County Schools. “I want to see more opportunities for both governmental and nongovernmental volunteerism to allow our citizens to be more involved.”

Poston spends a lot of his free time as a baseball umpire.

“I am a statesman, a skilled negotiator and someone who utilizes diplomacy to solve their issues,” Poston says. “I am also a fierce advocate for Granite Quarry and believe that I would be a great face for the town, even if it isn’t a pretty face.”

Costantino, 69, faced no opposition in 2015. He is a retired agent and owner of an All-State insurance agency.

Costantino says he has a simple approach to town government: “I don’t want my personal agenda involved. I’m not there for me.” He says there will be more business opportunities and development in Granite Quarry’s future, especially when the SECU branch opens.

Costantino also looks for the board to do more with the downtown master plan it paid for a couple of years ago.

“The biggest challenge is, Granite Quarry can’t stay the same,” Costantino says. “We will have to grow, but let’s do it for the better.”

Costantino says he brings to the board new ideas and an ability to listen.

“And not knowing all the ins and outs of politics is a plus,” he adds. “I just wish I could get more people to the meetings on Mondays.”

Costantino says one of Granite Quarry’s biggest needs remains a grocery store. “I want a grocery store so bad,” he says. And overall, Costantino predicts changes will be coming no matter what, “so let’s make the right changes.”

LaFevers, the other incumbent, served as an alderman from 2001 to 2005, then was elected again in 2011 and 2015. His fellow board members chose him as mayor pro tem.

“We are going to have a lot of growth in the residential sector,” says LaFevers, a retired construction manager and general contractor. “I’m hopeful we can get more people involved in our government and all the things we have going on.

“A lot of my friends would like Granite Quarry to stay the way it is, but we do need to accept the challenge of getting growth in our tax base.”

LaFevers says Granite Quarry has areas where it can grow.

“We’re able to use the Salisbury-Rowan Utilities system to our advantage and get utilities to developers,” LaFevers says. “Our growth in residential and growth in industrial will be good for us in the future.”

LaFevers, 82, says he won’t use a lot of buzzwords; he just wants all residents to feel part of the whole. “We really do have an eye on improving things,” LaFevers said, noting some 30 items on the Board of Aldermen’s priority list.

And those include, LaFevers says, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on improvements to Granite Lake; addressing streets, sidewalks and curbs; and securing a design plan for the town square.

LaFevers wants to see the town do more with its downtown master plan.

“We need to get our little town to look like a town,” he says.

LaFevers also pushes for updating ordinances, working hard on events for residents, improving resources for first responders and trying to go to more full-time positions in the police and fire departments.

LaFevers said the town staff at present “is as good as I’ve seen it.”

He thinks his vast experience in construction — he has built a lot of houses in Granite Quarry — coupled with his religious faith are strong assets he brings to the board.

“My wife and I both love Granite Quarry, the way of life and the small-town feel,” LaFevers says. “If I’m elected or not, I’ll continue to work with as many committees as possible to continue improving the town.”

Brinkley, 67, says no one on the current board is a lifelong resident as he is, and his own service to the town began in 1975 when he joined the Fire Department. After stints as captain and assistant chief, he served as fire chief from 1987 to 1995.

In 1990, Brinkley was elected to the Board of Aldermen and served for 14 years. He later was elected in 2013 but lost a bid for re-election in 2017.

Brinkley owns W.F. Brinkley & Son Construction Co., a family business he joined in 1972. “My expertise was in water, sewer, highway, commercial and residential construction,” he says. “It is that experience and how to run a business that I bring to the board.”

Brinkley says Granite Quarry’s future “looks extremely bright, but with that comes challenges.” He predicts growth especially will come once construction on Interstate 85 is finished farther south.

In preparation, Brinkley wants the town to make changes in its planning and zoning department.

“However, our biggest challenge in future growth is how do we keep the small-town feel we have all become accustomed to over the years,” Brinkley says. “At this time, I think Granite Quarry has a great deal to offer for both new residents and industry.”

Brinkley lists those things as a low tax rate, a Class 3 fire department, a “very competent” police department, water, sewer, parks and good schools.

Keeping the small-town feel “can only be done by being grounded in the past but embracing the future,” Brinkley says.

“I know I will work hard to both protect our town and help it grow,” Brinkley says.

Before he retired, Shelton forged a career in management accounting and worked as a plant controller.

“My skills are business processes, cost reduction, budget, strategic planning and information analysis,” Shelton says. “I believe all these have relevance to the Board of Aldermen, since the board’s primary purpose should be leadership — setting policy and goals and prioritizing what can and should be done to keep Granite Quarry the best town it can be.”

Shelton, 71, also ran for alderman in 2017. He says the town’s best features are its neighborhoods and parks.

“Granite Quarry is more than a narrow place on Highway 52,” Shelton adds. “Granite Quarry’s spectrum of neighborhoods makes affordable housing a plus and homeownership a real opportunity.

“Also, Granite has ‘in town’ access to banking, doctors, pharmacy, gas stations and food. This is a lot in a small area.”

But one of the issues Granite Quarry faces is what Shelton considers its “somewhat limited area for expansion in the central business district.”

“Combined with the town’s proximity to Salisbury shopping, new growth in the central business district is a real challenge,” Shelton says. “Short-term, the biggest challenge is prioritizing where present revenue is best spent.”

Shelton thinks the town has to improve its hiring and retention processes because it has had too much turnover in staff. He also pushes for better leadership and planning.

“Items come up during the year that were not discussed at budget time,” Shelton says. “This indicates there is need for improvement. There needs to be a long-term capital plan.”

All the candidates were asked what kinds of things they are looking for in a new town manager. Those answers will be included in the Salisbury Post’s election section Oct. 23.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.