City sets its goals for 2021 to build on commitment to inclusive, well-run government

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 14, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As city council members wrapped up their planning retreat Thursday, they agreed to build on a 2020 commitment to an inclusive, creative, well-run, equitable government for 2021.

Within that overarching priority are specific goals set for economic prosperity and mobility, infrastructure and human capital, public safety and community partnerships. Warren Miller facilitated the city council’s planning retreat and used virtual sticky notes this year to gather council members’ thoughts on goals and priorities for 2021.

Council member David Post said the KIVA micro-loan program, which is expected to launch this spring, addresses the goal of economic prosperity and mobility. KIVA is a national loan program that provides women and minorities zero-interest and zero-fee micro-loans to help jumpstart their business endeavors. He added that the city has invested $80,000 into the program to date.

Mayor Karen Alexander said the city should focus on completing the new fire station on Mahaley Avenue that will replace the existing Fire Station No. 3 at 1604 W. Innes St. The project has been designed, but it will need another bid since some time has elapsed, she added.

In addition to the impact it will have on the city, Alexander said it could create the opportunity for a better ISO rating, which would lower insurance rates for businesses and citizens due to the increased coverage in the area.

Alexander also noted the redevelopment of the Empire Hotel would add to the city’s economic goals. A task force is currently working to make a final decision between two proposals.

Council members agreed investing in public safety and public works needs are important. Both departments during the retreat requested salary increases for employees in an effort to recruit and retain employees as both report numerous vacant positions.

Council member Brian Miller hesitated to add his thoughts to the discussion, saying he was more concerned with the potential for a property tax increase to address City Manager Lane Bailey’s concerns for operating expenses in the 2022-23 budget.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins told Miller there are some goals for 2021 that don’t cost the city anything. One of her desires, for example, is to ensure more Black and brown people are appointed to boards and commissions that directly make decisions with the city’s money. She also wants to prioritize improving the city’s biking and walking accommodations and focusing on the proposed Downtown Main Street plan.

Council member Tamara Sheffield said an important goal for the city’s statement of commitment to an inclusive, creative, well-run and equitable government includes nondiscrimination ordinances that show the city is truly committed and not just creating them as “a show of good faith.” The ordinances should benefit the city and have “some teeth in it,” she said, rather than “feel-good” messaging.

Heggins said the city needs to continue its commitment to being active partners in achieving racial equality and inclusion. She added that the city should focus on implementing a fair housing ordinance now that the city has created a Fair Housing Committee. Post said it’s important to ensure locals are treated fairly once the federal eviction moratorium is lifted.

For community partnerships, Sheffield said the city should focus on how it can support the creation of a 501(c)(3) foundation for the Salisbury Police Department. Chief Jerry Stokes told council members Thursday that the department is currently working to create the foundation to further support the department’s operations.

Though Post pointed out that more than 2,000 children visit the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA, Sheffield said she wants to see the city work with its community partnerships to create more fun things for children to enjoy. She suggested more recreational sports fields, for example.

Though she recognizes it’s a financial challenge, Heggins said it’s important for the city to continue supporting transit services for neighboring communities like Spencer and East Spencer.

Alexander said the goals and priorities council members set are leading to the city’s function as “a well-oiled machine.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.