NEWLAND — Newland Board of Aldermen began preparing for budget season with a special workshop before its regular meeting on Monday, March 7.
The meeting began with a workshop at 5 p.m., as the board plans to do throughout the budget planning season. Town Administrator Bill Bailey gave the board a rundown on a number of different topics, asking the aldermen to be thinking about specific issues as the town prepares to build and approve the budget.
At 6 p.m., the regular meeting began. During public comment, Alena Stair, a resident of Shady Street, spoke again on the issue of traffic to and from Big Mike’s Creekside RV Resort and Coffee Shop. The main entrance to the property, which is accessed from the highway instead of a residential road, is closed currently and likely will stay closed until a bridge is constructed over the creek. The closure of the main entrance has made traffic much worse, Stair said. Stair requested to put a stop sign back up on Shady Street where it meets Wyatt Street right before crossing into the campground, as she said a sign was posted on a light pole and taken down less than 24 hours later.
Public Works Director Gary Lewis explained that the sign isn’t allowed to be on a light pole, and the town cannot post a sign until Frontier Natural Gas comes to show Lewis where the gas line is. Additionally, Stair questioned why only one speed bump was put on Shady Street, when at the last meeting, it was mentioned that Mike Nelson would install several speed tables on the road. The town is working on getting a price for installing more speed tables and possibly raising the intersection at Shady and Wyatt streets as an additional speed deterrent.
In October, the town received an email from an account posing to be Iron Mountain, requesting a little more than $80,000 as payment for a new grinder for the sewer plant. The email aligned with a timeline for when the grinder was being purchased and installed, and the email was the same as Iron Mountain’s, save for one character difference, so the scam was not immediately recognized by town staff, Bailey explained. The town wire transferred money to the account and quickly received contact from the bank asking if the town was trying to send this amount of money to an overseas account. Staff confirmed it was not, and requested the bank cancel the payment, which it did, Bailey said. The bank told the town that it would receive its money back within a few days, but now, months later, the town has only received around $66,000 back, Bailey and Finance Officer Jessica Buchanan explained. The bank seems to be under the mindset that the town is lucky to get that much back, Bailey said, but due to the fact that the bank stopped the payment, he cannot understand why it has taken so long for the town to get its money back. He and Buchanan are in contact with the bank, trying to work the situation out and get the remainder of the money back.
A representative from Republic Services came to speak to the board about renewing the town’s contract with the company for trash services. The contract ends on June 30 and the town is quickly approaching a time where a decision has to be made. Roberts expressed his frustration that everyone in the town is required to use Republic under this agreement that the town decided to enter into. Republic’s representative explained that a clause like that would have been written in the town’s request for proposal, not by Republic itself. Bailey agreed, stating that this was likely someone that was written in the Request for Proposal by the town when it was sent out to bid. While Republic would prefer to just renew the contract with Newland, it would also bid on services for the town in the event that it puts out a new RFP. Danny Phillips, owner and operator of Appalachian Waste, attended the meeting to answer any questions the board may have about his company, he said.
In other news and notes:
- Mike Tolson, vice president at Mack Gay Associates based out of Rocky Mount, informed the board that it had been awarded a grant that, at no cost to the town, will provide engineering and survey services for the town’s water and sewer system.
- The board discussed once again finding help for Buchanan, as she is currently reconciling years of financial mistakes before her time in the position. With budget season starting, she needs help in order to finish everything from 2021 and 2022 and begin working on the 2023-2024 budget. The board approved at its last meeting hiring a part-time employee to assist her until she is caught up, but no one has been hired yet. Roberts asked that someone be hired for the position sooner rather than later.
- Creekside Electronics donated four new security cameras to the town, which are now installed.
- Newland agreed to enter a $8,500 contract for a Fourth of July fireworks show this year. The show will have to be moved, as where it used to be held is now too close to the RV resort. Additionally, the town’s Fourth of July celebration will be held on Saturday, July 1.
- Newland Board of Aldermen’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, with a workshop beforehand at 5 p.m. to discuss the budget.
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