Norwood, lobbyists discuss legislative priorities

Published 9:13 am Thursday, January 18, 2024

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Members of Norwood Town Council met on Wednesday with representatives of McGuire-Woods Consulting to discuss legislative priorities and goals for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

The town had unanimously approved contracting with the firm for state legislative services at its Jan. 2 meeting.

Vice President Dylan Reel and Assistant Vice President Dylan Frick represented McGuire-Woods, with Reel providing an overview of the firm’s composition and services, and noting that providing lobbying services for towns and cities is a key function for he and Frick.

“We do a ton of municipal work, as our practice continues to grow,” he said. “We are going from town to town right now doing these exact meetings.”

“It’s important to have relationships on both sides of the aisle,” Reel continued, noting that the McGuire-Woods staff is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and because despite the Republican supermajority in the legislature, the executive branch is headed by a Democratic governor.

A list of potential projects which could be funded through legislative appropriations was then considered and discussed. Four of these projects involved water and sewer renovations and improvements, which Reel noted had been a primary focus for the legislature during the previous fiscal year.

“In 2022-23, the big focus was on water and sewer. I anticipate there will be more money spent on water and sewer in 2023-24, but I don’t think it will be at that level,” he said.

In addition, a number of projects falling under general fund expenditures were discussed. These included construction of a new police station, improvements to the town’s community center, installation of a playground to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and construction of a greenway connecting Darrell Almond Park to town property on Indian Mound Road where a canoe launch could be developed.

Frick noted that Parks and Recreation projects are likely to be well-funded during the coming fiscal year.

“Parks and Recreation things are hot right now,” he said. “A lot of capital funds are sitting out there that are being used for this sort of thing. I think every politician is seeing that these are things their communities really want to see.”

Public Safety funding also is being viewed in a positive light by legislators, according to Frick.

“We’re seeing things such as bulletproof vests and information technology modernization for police departments being funded also,” he noted.

Further discussion explored the feasibility of projects including installation of underground electrical service along Campbell Street, ways to decrease water and sewer rates and installation of a commercial kitchen in a town-owned building on Campbell Street.

City Manager Ray Allen noted that the water and sewer projects that were identified are highly needed.

“These are things that the town, at some point in the future, is going to have to do,” he said, noting that existing cement water lines on Allenton Street and two-inch water lines in the “Mill Hill” area are obsolete and need to be replaced with 6-inch PVC lines.

“The more of these we can get grants for in the future, the more it should keep our (water and sewer) rates from having to increase,” Allen added.

“Can you give us ideas as to what we should ask for first?” asked Mayor Pro-Tem James Lilly.

“Water and sewer of course,” replied Reel.

“The more you can justify it, the better off you are,” he added, noting that ADA compliance for the town’s community center is also a strong justification, based on potential liability.

Prior to adjournment, the council identified its top four priorities, and will plan to meet with NC House District 67 Rep. Wayne Sasser to discuss these before providing finalized priorities to Reel and Frick by mid-February.

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