City Council prioritizes goals for 2020 at end of planning retreat

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 6, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — In wrapping up their annual planning retreat Tuesday, the city council agreed that creating an inclusive, creative, well-run, equitable government should be the their main priority.

They decided that was an all-inclusive priority — covering public safety, infrastructure, human capital, community partnerships, economic prosperity and mobility as well special projects.

The council asked to be updated every six months about special projects, which include an ongoing overhaul of the Land Development Ordinance, Hotwire and the city’s fiber-optic network, recycling, the Empire Hotel, Fire Station No. 3, Kesler Mill, the  Farmers Market, streetscaping and the city’s transit system. 

“It gives council an opportunity to review and decide whether or not we need to add it to the budget or we need to seek grants for certain things depending on what comes to the floor,” Mayor Karen Alexander said about the six-month update schedule.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins said in these presentations city staff should be able to demonstrate how projects connect to the city’s priority.

“There are some core questions that we should be always looking to answer,” Heggins said. “How does this impact our revenue? How does it increase our revenue? How do we begin to get into some of these core concerns that we’ve had when we’re getting these updates?”

After saying it last week during the planning retreat, City Manager Lane Bailey reiterated he is concerned the city’s tax base is not keeping up with expenditures.

With infrastructure and human capital items, the council said it wants to consider how to support and retain employees and keep up with competitiveness. Because of the high employment rate, Bailey said, the city needs to better compensate employees through salary increases or benefits.

“We got to do that to keep a staff,” he said.

The council said partnerships will help progress their goals. Members once again spoke about meeting with the Spencer and East Spencer town leadership to find opportunities for funding the shared transit system.

Economic prosperity and mobility, council members said, included leveraging the city’s assets, creating a vibrant downtown and neighborhoods, working with the Rowan Economic Development Commission and county government on opportunity zones and creating a healthy, active and creative community. The council said it also wants to see opportunities for affordable housing and new development.