New police vehicles, body cameras among the wishes for East Spencer’s upcoming budget

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

EAST SPENCER — Town officials are planning to purchase new police vehicles and body cameras along with equipment for the Public Works Department in its upcoming fiscal year budget.

The town board met in for a budget planning work session in late February to discuss needs and wishes for the upcoming fiscal year budget, which must be adopted in June and begins July 1. Mayor Barbara Mallett said once upon a time, the town could only fulfill the bare necessities, but the town is in better standing now.

“We are at a good point now where we can fulfill some wishes,” Mallett said. “We used to could only do needs but now we can fulfill some wishes.”

In September, the town board voted to use $247,150 of its federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for business revitalization, new police and public works vehicles and bonus pay for employees. A total of $104,400 was 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.

The police are now requesting the purchase of two additional vehicles and seven Axon body cameras, which total about $125,800 that can be spread across five years, Mallett said.

The Public Works Department has requested a mini excavator, which would help staff with digging, trenching, backfilling, leveling and drilling. Additionally, the department requests another zero-turn lawn mower, a tailgate spreader and a salt spreader to attach to existing equipment. The equipment requests total about $50,000, with about $40,000 of that spent on the excavator.

The Planning and Zoning Department has a more modest request: more funding to accommodate the increased cost of demolition. The department’s budget was just short of $39,500 for the current fiscal year, but the department requests about $57,000 to continue its code enforcement and property abatement costs.

Mallett said demolitions of buildings are currently underway as the town works to sell vacant lots and attract further development.

The town is slated for more than $23 million from the state budget to help replace its aging water and sewer infrastructure. The town has contracted with Withers Ravenel to lead those efforts, and the firm must first come to the town and conduct a survey, Mallett said. The city of Salisbury is currently contracted with the same firm for its analysis of the Jump and Run Branch Watershed.

Those funds will help extend the town’s water and sewer pipes to the extraterritorial jurisdiction, which the town is eyeing for future development. Additionally, the town can replace its water tower and pay off its debt. The town is currently on a watchlist with the Local Government Commission due to past financial issues like debt within its water/sewer fund.

Mallett said the town is also working with local colleges, particularly Livingstone College, to begin an internship program. A student versed in administrative and financial responsibilities can help fill an open utility clerk position for the town.

The town is also looking ahead to future projects. One is a new municipal building to house administrative, fire and police personnel under one roof. Mallett said board members are meeting this month to review some architectural renderings, but no cost has been estimated.

The municipal building could solve a problem for the fire department, which has requested a facility to house its operations.

Mallett said “everybody knows we need a fire station,” but the town wants to “get the best bang for our buck” and see how financing could work for a new fire station.

The town’s current budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year is $5.46 million, which was also aided with nearly $2.7 million in federal funding for the Community Block Development Grant program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A total of $5.09 million was adopted for the general fund for 2020-21.

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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