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Spencer board sworn in, dives into town issues

SPENCER — The town board will need to refocus its plans for Park Plaza, says Manager Dave Treme.

Treme said the town of Spencer two months ago received bids for its redevelopment of the shopping complex, which will serve as offices for its staff. The best bid was roughly twice what Spencer had planned to spend. Treme said he was unable to provide exact figures Tuesday night but asked town clerk Brittany Skye Aitken to provide those number to the Post.

Town staff members “have certainly not given up on the project,” Treme said. In the next 30 days, Treme said he plans to have a meeting in which he hopes board members would consider breaking the project into stages.

Treme’s statement came during a meeting in which new town board members were sworn in, asked about the status of ongoing projects and as Treme presented a $16,707 budget amendment to use contingency funds to pay for expenses during the Park Plaza bidding process.

After a year in which disagreements with former Town Manager Terence Arrington bubbled to a boil and resulted in his departure, Sharon Hovis was the lone returning member of the board Tuesday. Mayor Jonathan Williams was sworn in as mayor, taking a seat most recently held by Jim Gobbel, who chose not to seek re-election. Patti Secreast finished atop the field of Spencer town board candidates in November and was named mayor pro tem on Tuesday.

In addition to Hovis and Secreast, board members include Pat Sledge, Bob Bish, Steve Miller and Sam Morgan.

They were joined for Monday’s meeting by a standing-room-only crowd of onlookers. District Judge Marshall Bickett gave the oath of office. Board members gathered in a semi-circle and put their hands on a bible for their swearing in. Williams was sworn in separately by his son Ashton.

For his part, Williams encouraged the many in attendance to get involved, saying he hoped people would volunteer to serve on the town’s planning and historic preservation boards. Williams said he hoped that people in Spencer would also become “community representatives” and accompany town board members as they go to meetings.

Secreast on Tuesday night said she only had one comment: that she was glad to be on the board and that good things were coming for the town of Spencer.

Sledge said the Spencer residents are her customers now and that she was looking forward to helping them.

Morgan said it’s critical that the town works to change its perception, accusing local realtors of taking prospective home buyers with “deep pockets” elsewhere instead of Spencer.

Meanwhile, Miller took a lead role in pressing for answers about the status of Spencer’s Fourth Street, which has been the subject of a long-delayed repaving project that’s still without a final completion date.

During the department updates portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Public Works Director Joel Taylor said contractors were waiting on temperatures to be in the upper 50s or low 60s before starting paving. But Miller said it’s unlikely Spencer would see 60-degree weather during winter months, asking whether his church, Central United Methodist, should plan to close its doors because of the inconvenience caused by unpaved streets.

Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Director Jim Behmer said design problems were one cause of long delays in Fourth Street’s repaving. It originally started as a stormwater project, but Salisbury-Rowan Utilities was working on a water line project in the area, too. When the town’s engineer made “drastic” changes to the stormwater project, it made SRU’s plans “null and void,” Behmer said.

At one point, the town didn’t receive enough bids for construction on a part of the project and had to request more.

“It’s been a comedy of errors,” Miller said.

Morgan said the town board wants “true accountability” from contractors on the project. After further discussion, the town board asked that Spencer staff receive weekly updates from the contractor about work on the project.

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