Town of Spencer will ask voters whether to extend mayor, aldermen terms

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 11, 2021

SPENCER — The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday approved putting longer terms for the board’s members and the mayor on November ballots for a community vote.

The board held a public hearing Monday on the issue as required by statute. Then during its regular meeting on Tuesday, it approved the specifics and the procedure to place the measure on ballots this year. The board is not required by statute to pose a change to the town’s charter in a ballot referendum, but it opted to voluntarily put the issue up for a public vote.

The change would increase terms for the mayor and board members from two years to four and stagger the terms. Currently, the mayor and board serve two years and all come up for election at the same time. The change would not affect the current terms of board members or their next terms because the change would not go into effect until 2023.

If the measure passes, the three highest vote-getting candidates in the 2023 election will serve four-year terms, with the remaining three serving two-year terms. When the three remaining seats are up for election in 2025, the winners will receive four-year terms instead of two. The result is, after 2025, every member and the mayor will serve four years, with half the board coming up for election every two years.

There will be separate questions on the ballot for increasing the term of the mayor and board members on the ballot.

Mayor Jonathan Williams said the measures are intended to provide some consistency between boards to avoid a steep learning curve for an entirely new board that could derail town projects. With the exception of Sharon Hovis, all current board members and Williams were first elected in 2019.

In other news from the meeting:

• The town accepted a check from the nonprofit Friends of Rowan for $250,000 to fund development of a trailhead on the Rowan County side of the Yadkin River. The organization announced it secured pledges for the funding last month, and Ronnie Smith presented the promised check to Town Manager Peter Franzese at the Tuesday meeting.

The injection of more private funding to the more than $100,000 the town has on hand for the project should fund the development of a trail and amenities for the park such as trees and benches. The trails will fall at the intersection of several regional trail systems.

Smith told the board he knows the project will improve the quality of life of the people that live here.

• The board approved a change order to the town hall project at Park Plaza for structural repairs and power conveyance. The change order used about half of the remaining contingency funds for the project and left the town with about $24,000 left in the fund. Franzese noted sheetrock is now going up inside the building.

• The town updated its facade grant program, renaming it the Salisbury Avenue Corridor Improvement Grant. The amount of the grant was increased from $500 to $2,000, with the goal of more creative improvements. The town has $10,000 allocated for the program.

The town has applied for a Duke Energy grant that would add $20,000 to the program if awarded.

• The town received an update from the Police Chief’s Citizen Advisory Board. Member Magali Langhorne walked the board through the board’s goals and asked the board for their approval to start work on programs,

Langhorne broke down a framework with four “work streams” — community outreach, local education outreach, recruitment and endorsement by elected officials.

Included in those pieces is designing community outreach events, presentations for local youth to discuss law enforcement, reviewing recruitment processes to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, and designing outreach to work with elected officials.

• The board received an update from the town’s event committee, including the intention to bring more holiday events to Spencer to coincide with the N.C. Transportation Museum’s annual Polar Express event to give families visiting the museum more to do in town and also cater to the people that live there.

• The town’s fire department has completed its regular ISO certification process and expects to receive news on its updated rating in 60 to 90 days.