Divided Landis vote authorizes use of thermal imaging drone for fire department

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, February 15, 2022

LANDIS — In a divided vote, town aldermen on Monday authorized the purchase of a thermal imaging drone for the fire department funded partially by a state grant.

Public Safety Director Zachary Lechette told town officials Monday the fire department received $5,000 from the North Carolina League of Municipalities to purchase a thermal imaging drone. Lechette said the grant is intended to reduce workers compensation cases, and the drone allows fire personnel to better assess potential hazards before entering the scene. The drone also could be used during town events and for missing persons cases, he added.

The total cost will be $11,600, but Lechette said sufficient funds in the Public Safety Department’s budget will supplement the remaining cost. Training among personnel is required before the drone can be operated.

“I’ve heard a lot of good about them. I’ve heard a lot of bad about them,” said aldermen Darrell Overcash. “I wish we could use the money for something else.”

Overcash also asked about the recurring cost for the equipment. Lechette said he’s exploring whether it can be bundled with the town’s existing liability insurance policy, but private insurance could cost around $700 to $900 each year.

Alderman Tony Corriher asked about the estimated reduction in workers compensation cases. Lechette said the savings are more theoretical because it eliminates the need to always send in an individual. Corriher said he’s heard complaints elsewhere it’s costly to maintain. Lechette said the grant includes some replacement costs if the equipment needs repair within a certain time period.

Mayor Meredith Smith said it’s important for the town to take advantage of grant funding for such needs. Corriher shook his head in disagreement. Corriher and Overcash voted against the motion. Smith cast the tie-breaking vote. The vote was to allocate the funding from the grant because it’s already been received.

After a closed session, the town board authorized the purchase of a property located in the area proposed for its passive park project, which will be bounded by East Ryder Avenue, North Central, East Garden and North Chapel streets. The property belongs to Mary Frances Akers at 214 East Garden St. The total cost for purchase is $107,500, with half of that paid for with federal American Rescue Plan funds and half from the passive park fund in the general fund of the budget.

Also at Monday’s meeting:

• The town will hold a public hearing at its March 7 meeting to discuss an interlocal boundary agreement with the city of Kannapolis. The purpose of the agreement is to plan for future development in the areas located outside of each municipality’s corporate limits.

• Town aldermen approved a request to rezone tax parcel 133-002 from “commercial Highway 29” to “mixed use 2,” which limits some commercial development but allows single-family residential developments.

• Town aldermen approved spending up to $4,500 to install a message board at the site of the passive park. Ryan Nelms, who chairs the committee that’s working to construct the park, said the town is working with Salisbury architect Bill Burgin, along with members of the D.C. Linn family, to design the park. A groundbreaking ceremony could be in the spring, Nelms said.

• Landis Public Safety welcomed and swore-in officer Melvin Snipes and officer Heather Marlin. Snipes has been assigned to be the school resource officer at South Rowan High School. Marlin is cross-trained to perform both police and fire duties.

• Sgt. Dakota Toms of Landis Public Safety was recognized with an advanced gang specialist certificate for more than 500 hours of training for violent crime reduction.

• Landis Public Safety will receive five new defibrillators thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Norfolk Southern Corporation. Lechette said the Rowan County Health Department has granted the department about $3,600 worth of narcan, a drug overdose reversal medication. Lechette said the department has applied for two other grants that will help the department receive accreditation through the state’s Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

• Landis resident Jade Bittle was appointed to the Planning Board.

• The town approved a revised policy for the waiting period for town employees’ retirement and 401K accounts to begin. Rather than waiting 30 days, employees will begin receiving contributions upon the first day of employment.

• The town approved participation in the North Carolina Transportation Notification System pilot program, which notifies governmental entities when an employee has an infraction or violation on their driving record or driver’s license.

• Town aldermen approved spending $1,200 to provide staffing for the Rowan Bible Association 5K run.

• Town aldermen approved a contract to continue auditing services with Martin Starnes and Associates, which will cost $19,570 and an additional $8,000 to draft financial statements.

• Board members will gather at Town Hall at 5 p.m. on March 7 for a public input session to discuss the town’s use of $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds. The town’s regular meeting will also be moved to March 7 and will begin after the public input session at 6:30 p.m.

• The town’s Finance Department plans to present a proposed 2022-23 budget to town officials on April 11, with budget workshops for board members scheduled for April 25 and 26. May 9 will be the budget hearing, where members of the public can weigh in on the proposed budget. The budget will be finalized no later than June 1, with adoption planned for June 13. The 2022-23 budget will begin on July 1.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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