Albemarle votes 6-1 in favor of sales tax referendum

Published 8:58 am Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Hurricane damage to city parks, timing of insurance payments and adoption of a resolution of support for the upcoming quarter-cent sales tax referendum were the primary topics of discussion at Monday’s meeting of Albemarle City Council.

Following approval of minutes of the Oct. 1 meeting, Wayne Sasser presented a request that the council support the sales tax referendum, with funds raised from the tax earmarked for school safety and security.

“It is important that we provide funding to make our schools as safe and secure as possible,” said N.C. House District 67 candidate Sasser, citing events at schools nationwide.

He also noted that other municipalities in Stanly County have also adopted resolutions of support.

“The tax would add 25 cents per $100 to purchases,” Sasser said, noting that the tax would not apply to automobiles, prescriptions or groceries.

Mayor Ronnie Michael noted the city has supported this referendum in its previous times on the ballot.

“We’ve supported this each time, and hopefully will see it succeed this time,” he said.

Councilman Chris Bramlett, however, voiced his opposition to the tax.

“I can’t support this,” said Bramlett, “because Stanly County Schools is not doing all it can to be the best it can be. There is no assurance that this tax will increase the quality of education that SCS provides.”

Bramlett cited the inequality of course offerings among the county’s high schools as being a primary factor.

“It is not right for a student to have to get in a car and travel to another high school to take a course because it is not offered at his or her district’s high school,” said Bramlett. “We cannot provide the best education possible to the students here as long as we are operating four high schools.

“I would support this sales tax if it assured improvement of the quality of Stanly County Schools,” he add.

Mayor Pro-tem Martha Sue Hall then read the resolution, which passed by a 6-1 vote, with Bramlett dissenting.

Following approval of four items on the consent agenda, City Manager Michael Ferris reported on a cleanup in the area of Richardson Street, and recognized retired city employee and neighborhood resident Howard Spencer for his involvement.

“A great deal of growth and litter was removed,” said Ferris, who noted much of the litter was a result of illegal dumping in the area.

“We encourage anyone who observes such illegal dumping to report it immediately,” he said.

Ferris also noted low hanging limbs and branches were trimmed back, and that the utility right of way was trimmed to Tree City USA guidelines.

Spencer thanked city crews for responding quickly.

“The area looks much better, and I plan to work with neighbors to keep the community looking good,” he said, emphasizing that he would keep an eye out for illegal dumping.

“I will report dumping right away if I see it,” said Spencer.

Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Kiser presented a report on storm damage to city parks from Hurricane Florence, noting that necessary repairs to athletic fields at Don Montgomery Park, Optimist Park and Rock Creek Park is time sensitive.

“We need to replace infield dirt and plant grass seed by early November if we are going to be ready for Albemarle High School and youth baseball and softball teams to get on the field this spring,” said Kiser, who reported she had met with an insurance adjuster from the North Carolina League of Municipalities soon after the flood.

Kiser also noted that the extent of damage to the lighting and electrical systems at the fields is not yet clear.

“We are meeting with an electrician this week to test the lights,” she said.

Ferris noted that waiting on the League of Municipalities to respond to the insurance claim is placing the city in a tight situation time-wise.

“The response from the insurance company will determine if we need to apply to FEMA for funding as well,” he said.

“We have lots of stakeholders,” said Kiser, “and we need to let them know the status of the parks as soon as we can.”

The mayor suggested that no action be taken for “the next meeting or two” to allow the League of Municipalities time to respond, however, he encouraged Kiser to begin getting bids for repairs during the interim.

In closing comments, all council members commented positively on the response of city crews as Hurricane Michael passed over the city last week.

In other business, the council:

• Unanimously passed a change in policy to allow city staff to make adjustments for up to two months when utility bills are increased as a result of a break or leak;

• Approved a policy change to the Parks and Recreation Youth Programming refund policy;

• Approved a preliminary plat for a four-lot subdivision;

• Approved ordinance 18-37 to amend the city budget;

• Approved a contract with Chambers Engineering;

• Entered a closed session to discuss personnel matters.

The next meeting of Albemarle City Council be at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at Albemarle City Hall.

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