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East Spencer to use federal COVID-19 funds for vehicle purchases, bonus pay, home and business repairs

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER — Town aldermen on Monday voted to use $247,150 in federal American Rescue Plan funds for home and business revitalization, to purchase vehicles for the police and public works departments and provide bonus pay for employees.

Town Administrator Michael Douglas presented board members with three options for use of the town’s share of ARP funds, which have been funneled down by the federal government to provide financial relief for COVID-19-related expenses. All options included the purchase of additional vehicles for the police and public works departments and premium pay for employees with funds leftover, but the third option also allocates funding for fire department equipment and the revitalization of local businesses and homes.

Douglas and aldermen said approving the third option allows them to “give the town what it needs.”

A total of $104,400 will be used to purchase three police vehicles and equipment, $72,000 for two public works vehicles and equipment, $30,000 for fire department equipment, $17,000 for bonus pay and $23,750 for community redevelopment. Full-time town employees will receive a one-time bonus of $1,000, while part-time employees will receive $500. All employees except fire personnel will receive the bonus pay since the fire department received a wage increase in the 2021-22 budget, which began July 1.

Additionally, Douglas said he will return to the board with conditions and criteria for the community redevelopment projects. A report of how the funds will be spent must be submitted in October.

Also at the meeting, aldermen tabled a request to voluntarily annex a nearly 21-acre lot near the intersection of McCanless and Choate roads. The request was approved by the Planning Board, and the area is zoned for residential development. Douglas said the town is not certain of the plans for the land, but he anticipates the possibility of a housing development since the owner wants connection to the town’s water and sewer.

Several residents who live on McCanless Road spoke in opposition of the request. William “Dustin” Hughes said he was concerned with sewage on the property and how it may affect his property and “our way of living.” Hughes said he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct a horse barn with stables that may eventually face a subdivision of homes.

“I don’t think this is the right thing to do,” Hughes said.

Tim Weaver, a resident who lives across from the property in the request, said the town currently can’t keep traffic or crime under control and worries a potential development would make those problems worse.

“Why do we need that many more houses in Rowan County?” Weaver said. “It only benefits the town and no one else.”

Douglas clarified that the town will not move forward with constructing an on-ramp to Interstate 85 on McCanless Road like previously planned, which was another concern voiced at the meeting. Additionally, he clarified that the town’s land use plan states a developer would be responsible for ensuring there is no impact to neighboring properties with a development.

“The town has to grow,” Douglas said. “And in order for us to grow, we have to look at these voluntary annexations and see what’s best for the town.”

Board member Dwayne Holmes requested the item be tabled until the October meeting because not all board members were present. Albert Smith arrived to the meeting late, while John Noble was absent.

In other items at the meeting:

• Town aldermen voted in support of Ordinance 21-03, which regulates and requires chickens and roosters to be placed inside chicken coops rather than being free to roam across the streets, as Douglas said he’s witnessed. The ordinance will be enforced by the town’s zoning department and penalties include $50 fines for violation.

• Town aldermen approved a contract to pay Salisbury-based Memory Bank, Inc. $612 each month for the town’s IT services. Previously, the town contracted with Centrix.

• Town aldermen approved an ordinance requiring authorization from the board before Douglas can surplus any of the town’s real or personal property worth more than $30,000. Real property surplus sales must go before the town board to begin the 10-day upset bid process required by law.

• The board approved the abatement, or clean-up, of five properties in violation of the town’s code: 122 and 123 East Henderson St., 231 Hall St., 306 Adams St. and 401 S. Long St. Douglas said $15,000 is allocated in the 2021-22 budget for demolitions, so the town may need to clean up the properties and place a lien on them. He estimates bringing each property out of dilapidated state will range from $5,000 to $18,000 per property.

• Douglas said he is hosting a “Meet the Administrator” session on Wednesday for residents to stop by and ask questions. The first session will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Town Hall on South Long Street.

• The town’s Southern Soul Music Festival, which began in 2019, will be postponed due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Rowan County.

• The town will host a community cleanup event on Friday and Saturday. Residents can visit Town Hall to shred documents on Friday from 1-4 p.m. A maximum of two medium boxes is allowed. Residents can visit Town Hall from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday for a town clean-up.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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