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Norwood Council receives audit report, names finance officer

Norwood Town Commissioners heard an audit report on the town’s finances for the 2016-17 fiscal year, received updates on a number of projects and named a finance officer for the 2018-19 year during their regular meeting Monday.
Owen Poole, representing Anderson, Smith, and Wike Certified Public Accountants, presented the 2016-17 audit to the commissioners, and thanked town staff for their cooperation in performing the review.
“Management was very cooperative with us,” said Poole, who noted the town’s financial records indicated “nothing crazy or too complex.”
Year-ending statements for the 2016-17 year showed the town’s total assets at $15,994,205 with total net liabilities of $3,535,749, after which Poole presented findings to commissioners and administration which recommended areas of improvement.
“Employee pay rate changes need documentation of management approval of such,” said Poole.
He also recommended “more segregation of duties” within the town’s finance office.
“We could get written up for that every year,” said Commissioner Robbie Cohen, who, along with Town Manager John Mullis, countered that the town’s small staff size makes such segregation of duties nearly impossible.
“We work with a lot of small towns,” said Poole, “and we realize there is only so much you can do.”
Commissioners thanked Poole for a “very thorough” job in performing the audit.
In his report to town commissioners, Mullis announced his intent to apply for a total of $300,000 in grants to perform an asset inventory of water and sewer infrastructure, as well as plans to apply for a Community Development Block Grant of up to $2 million to replace aging water and sewer lines in the Mill Hill area near the former Collins and Aikman plant.
The block grant would, however, require a survey of household income in the affected area, said Mullis, “because eligibility for this type of grant requires that 75 percent of the area’s residents be low-income.”
“We would need to go door-to-door to get this information,” he said.
Mullis announced that he had met with contractors to get estimates on renovations to the Norwood Community Building to allow it to accommodate the recently-approved food pantry to be operated by Stanly Community Christian Ministry. He also presented a design to commissioners of signs to be placed at the town limits noting Norwood’s partnership as a sister community with Jouarre, France.
Police Chief James Wilson reported funding for a $25,000 grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission had recently been released, and that Norwood would use the grant funds to purchase tasers for its officers, and that Capt. Chris Thompson would undergo training that would enable him to instruct the members of the police force in their use.
Wilson also introduced Michael Humes, an intern from Liberty University, to the commissioners. Humes presented a report on the department’s recent success in solving a number of breaking and entering incidents and apprehending the suspects and stolen items as well as seizing methamphetamine from them.
Wilson closed by announcing the upcoming Norwood Citizens Police Academy.
“We are taking applications through Aug. 11 and the program will begin on Sept. 11,” he said. “We only take 20 participants, so anyone interested should go ahead and pick up an application at town hall and get it turned back in.”
Construction of an alley between Blalock Street and South Main Street, providing access to the new Center Rural Volunteer Fire Department as well as an adjacent convenience store and the former Milano’s Restaurant, is ongoing, Mullis said.
“The gravel base is being put down now,” he said, “and paving should start later this week.”
Mullis pointed out that a lot adjoining the alley, where trash and recycling trucks make pickups, needs to be paved to prevent rutting and erosion, and noted that Powell Bill funds will not cover this expense.
He recommended the town spend $41,000 from General Fund to perform the paving, and on a motion by Cohen and a second by Commissioner James Lilly, the board voted unanimously to approve the expense.
In addition, Mullis reported on his intent to file a grant application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for improvements to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
As part of a report on attorney reviews of the town’s contract with Utility Metering Services, Mullis requested permission from the commissioners to send out separate requests for proposals for procurement and for financing of the meter system. Cohen moved, seconded by Commissioner Betty O’Neal, to grant permission, and the motion passed by a unanimous vote.
In new business, Cohen moved and Lilly seconded, followed by a unanimous vote, that assistant town clerk Carmen Salmon be appointed the town’s finance officer. Town Clerk Kelly Caudle had previously held both positions, and will remain as town clerk.
In its final actions of the evening, the commission appointed Walter Davis to the town’s planning and zoning board of adjustment, and approved a contract with Anderson, Smith, and Wike for the audit of the town’s 2017-2018 finances.
The next regular meeting of the commission will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 6 at Norwood Town Hall.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.