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Albemarle approves vaccine incentives, development

Working through a Tuesday agenda heavy on public hearings, Albemarle City Council approved plans for two subdivisions, a map amendment and an annexation.

In addition, a draft spending plan for American Rescue Project (ARP) funding was approved, as well as an incentive program for city employees to obtain vaccinations against COVID-19.

After approval of the second phase of the Parkwest subdivision on Poplin’s Grove Church Road, council members unanimously approved annexation of a 54-acre tract for the second phase of the Morgan Hills subdivision currently under construction. The annexation led to consideration of a map amendment for zoning of the property, with Windsor Hills resident Kim Faulkner expressing opposition to the proposed action.

“This will be such a mess,” said Faulkner, whose opposition was primarily due to increased traffic the development would create along Marlbrook Drive in Windsor Hills, which would become one of two entrances into the Morgan Hills development.

“This will be overwhelming; it will change the scope of our neighborhood,” she said.

Tonya Jones, speaking for project developer Carolina Development Services, spoke in favor of the project, stating that it “continues the previously applied-for first phase.”

Both the map amendment and the subsequent 168-lot subdivision plan were approved, both by 6-1 votes, with Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall opposed.

Assistant City Manager Nyki Hardy presented a draft of the ARP spending plan to the council, explaining the funding, its purpose and scope, and noting that the draft is for the first portion of the city’s allotment under the federally-funded plan.

“We want to keep in mind our mission and purpose, while being as transparent as possible,” said Hardy, who noted that the plan was developed by a city staff committee chaired by Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Kiser.

Albemarle will receive a total of $5.1 million under the ARP, which was signed into law on March 11,
and is designed to offset the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has received the first half of its funding, with the remainder to be released in 2023.

Hardy noted the interim guidance points for the uses of the funds, including support of public health expenditures, replacement of lost public sector revenue, provision of premium pay for essential workers, addressing negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. Proposed uses of Albemarle’s allotment include provision of free wi-fi for downtown and public housing, downtown business grants, downtown alleyway revitalization, park development in the downtown area, funding of two staff positions related to funding expenditures and compliance, and water/sewer infrastructure at the Albemarle Business Center.

Council unanimously approved the plan.

Hardy, along with Human Resources Director Dana Chaney, requested that a resolution be adopted that would offer an incentive to city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, in addition to providing additional leave for employees adversely impacted by the disease.

“I’m getting calls from the field about how employees’ children are being impacted, and about how some of them find themselves hospitalized, or in other dire circumstances,” said Chaney.

“We have no idea who on our staff is currently vaccinated,” she continued, “and many municipalities across the state are adopting incentives. Our incentive would be to provide two days paid vacation to employees who will provide proof of full vaccination status by the end of October. We would also like to provide additional leave to those on our staff who are impacted. Fifteen percent of our employees have exhausted their two weeks of allotted time and are facing having to use their sick time. We would like to provide them with an additional week.”

When asked by Councilman Benton Dry how many employees were already fully vaccinated, Chaney replied that information had not been sought.

“We have no idea how many employees are currently vaccinated,” she said, “but we do need that information for quarantine guidance.”

The resolution was passed unanimously.

In other matters, the council:

● Approved abandonment of the former Leonard Avenue right of way;

● Approved the renaming of Rebel Road to Unity Drive;

● Set public hearings for annexations of land off City Lake Drive and U.S. Highway 52; and

● Approved staff recommendations for sidewalk on West Main Street and curb and gutter assessment on Heritage Court.

Following a closed session to consider personnel matters and prevention of disclosure of privileged or confidential information, Council recessed until 6 p.m. Sept. 8.