Council OKs Pay Hike, To Opt Out Of County Fire Tax – Brevard, NC

 

October 31, 2019



Last week’s Brevard City Council meeting saw its members approve a pay increase for themselves and the mayor, decide to “opt out” of a countywide fire tax, if one is approved, and hear parting remarks from a councilman at his last meeting.

During their regular meeting, council approved an increase from $9,158.27 a year to $10,500 for the mayoral position, while council increased its pay from $4,861.20 to $6,700, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Councilwoman Maureen Copelof said the city’s Finance Department and Human Resources subcommittee have reviewed data, such as the average compensation for the city’s of Black Mountain, Hendersonville, Fletcher, Forest City, Shelby and Waynesville.

“It’s been a number of years since it was really looked at and, in fact, the last increase was a cost-of-living increase at 1 percent five years ago, but the actual base salary has not increased,” she said. “What we found was the City of Brevard, actually both for the mayor and the governing board, that compensation was lower than the average or the median for all of these different cities.”


Councilman Charlie Landreth later said it was “not below the average but the lowest.”

Transylvania County commissioners are paid $12, 125.88 annually, while the commission chairman receives $15, 864.94.

In Rosman, the mayor is paid $425, the mayor pro tem receives $275 and aldermen receive $200 a month.

Fire Tax

Transylvania County is considering replacing the various fire tax districts in the county with one single tax district. Brevard Fire Chief Bobby Cooper rec-ommended to council the city not take part.

“If the city elected to go with the flat tax, then city residents would pay not only their portion of the city property tax that goes toward fire protection and the city, they would also pay the fire tax that the county residents pay as well, and that would be, in essence, more than double the tax,” Cooper said.


In response to the question of any benefit for “opting in” as posed by Copelof, Cooper said, as an example, Rosman opted in because it has a nonprofit, volunteer fire department that contracts with the county to provide fire protection for the Rosman area.

Copelof said that since the city budgets for a municipal fire department, opting in for the county fire tax “would make no sense.”

Landreth’s Final Remarks

Last week’s meeting was Councilman Charlie Landreth’s last.

He decided earlier this year not to run for another term. Landreth has served on council since 2011.

Landreth began his closing remarks by recognizing Public Works Director David Lutz.

“He has consistently been restating our strategic direction in every staff report, in categorizing the work he does for economic development, for safe family friendly community and infrastructure,” Landreth said. “All these things we’ve expressed as our values, he acknowledges once a month in our staff report. It’s been a while since we did this work. I think it was 2011 or 2012, but these strategic directions are really important. I just want to lift that up and say, ‘Thank you for it.’ And to just remind staff that we need to keep in mind why we are doing what we are doing. I appreciate David remembering that when he is documenting potholes and water taps and street signs and the events and the recycling. If you want to see the work the city does, read about the 30 or 40 pages of public works.”


He then acknowledged the speakers who addressed council on the Tannery Skate Park during public participation, which was reported on in the previous issue.

“I have just been reflecting on the flow of work in the city government,” he said. “When I came on in 2011, all you heard about for the previous three or four years was how the city had screwed up Transylvania County with its development ordinance. That was the prominent story in The Transylvania Times about the city’s role in the community – how the development ordinance was keeping good things from happening.”

Those times, he said, are gone.

“We are making really good changes in our development ordinances, continually,” he said. “We dug into it, sometimes a word, number, or chapter at a time. We had found that the more we tried to bite off, the harder it was, and the smaller incremental changes are sometimes very important to people who are trying to live and work in the community. So, it’s in that framework that a lot of good work has happened. We had on our pedestrian plan the number one priority for several years after I was first elected – and I don’t take any credit for this – I’m just reflecting.”

The sidewalk on Probart Street, he said, was a million-dollar project when council estimated the “schematics” of the plan.

“We didn’t know how to pay for it, and we weren’t really sure how to construct it,” he said. “We weren’t sure how to get from Railroad Avenue to the Music Center, and we put our heads together. I don’t know how long it was on the capital improvement plan before I came along, but I know after 2011 it was four years or so before we built that. There was a constant dialogue between the citizens of Probart Street, the Music Center constituents, and the city and N.C. Department of Transportation, who are an important partner with the city because they make these things work. That was a project that got a lot of focus over a long period of time.”

The Railroad Depot, he said, is a different kind of project.

“It’s gotten a lot of focus over a short period of time,” he said. “It’s going to be less than two years from conception to completion, so that’s happening right now.”

Landreth said he apologizes for how the city has handled the skate park.

“It’s not the way I try to handle a project in my business,” he said. “I either say I’m going to do it or say I’m not going to do it. I don’t say I’m going do it, but I can’t tell you when I’m going to finish. It’s not the way I want to do business and it’s not the way I want the city to do business. I just want to encourage the city to be honest with itself and with its citizens about what it’s going to get behind and what it’s not going to get behind. If there is a lot of excitement about it on the part of the community but we don’t know how to do it or don’t want to do it, we need to say ‘No.’ Or, we need to say we aren’t doing it that way, we are doing it this way.”

With his business, 35 Degrees North Landscaping Services, he said “one of the lessons (he’s) learned over and over is when to say no,” whether to a client who asks for something that “should not be done,” or if “you don’t know how to do it.”

“I think we got ourselves in that situation,” he said. “I don’t think we managed it carefully along the way.”

Landreth said that “over the years,” he’s seen the city’s planning office “carry a heavy burden for the citizens of Brevard.”

“Everything that happens construction-wise, and a lot of the legal land issues we deal with, comes through the planning department,” he said. “Of all the shovel work you see in the public works office, there is just as much of that paper and legal work in the planning office. We need to continually be aware that there is a limit to what four or five professionals can do in that planning office. And because it looks like a good idea or because we have a lot of citizen input, we really have to ask ourselves, how do we get this done if it matters to us? I think that’s the question we didn’t really ask from my perspective.”


In closing, he said not running again was “a difficult decision.”

“I had to make it early because I knew the longer I waited the less likely I would be not to run again,” he said. “I really enjoy this work. I enjoy meeting people and hearing about your issues and concerns about the community. I knew in February that my family is changing. My daughter finished high school.

“I knew that 35 Degrees North was in its seventh year, out of its start-up phase, and it needed a lot more attention than I have been able to give it, and, so, I put family and my business first and decided I needed to take a break. I am grateful for everybody here, and I believe that the city is in good shape and on a good path.”

Roundabout Beautification

Council approved an addendum to the existing contract with Mosaic Civic Studio.

As previously reported in August, council had discussed the beautification and landscaping of the two proposed roundabouts at the intersections of U.S. 64, U.S. 276 and U.S. 280 at the forest intersection and the Forest Gate Shopping Center entrance.

Council approved a motion to hire Mosaic Civic Studio to design a landscaping plan and signage for submittal to the N.C. Department of Transportation. Mosaic Civic Studio is a landscape architecture firm from Boone that previously worked with the city on designing the Clemson Park landscaping plan.

An estimated cost for the design work is $16,880.

“The addendum to the existing contract would help identify the steps needed to create a vision for the entire corridor enhancements,” according to the staff report. “Mosaic will capture aerial footage via drone flight over the study corridor to provide aerial views of the public right-of-way along Asheville Highway from the Forest Gate Shopping Center near the intersection of Asheville Highway and Deavor Road to Caldwell Street in downtown Brevard. A conceptual plan will identify strategic connections to the Estatoe Trail along the highway corridor.”

The estimated cost for this work is at $7,000.

Rezoning

Council approved a rezoning from corridor mixed use to general industrial for property at 1242 Ecusta Road.

The application was submitted by Builders First Source, Inc., to request a zoning map amendment for multiple parcels of land in the city’s corporate limits.

“Basically, where Ecusta Road and the railroad tracks intersect is where Builders First Source is,” said Aaron Bland, planner and assistant zoning administrator. “The request for rezoning would turn it into general industrial, which would (allow) the business to construct additional storage buildings and would also (allow) them some flexibility from the building and architectural standards chapter of the UDO.”

Public Participation

During public participation, Susan Sunflower discussed how local government could respond to climate change issues.

She asked council to set up a review committee that would include citizen representatives, Transylvania County and Rosman governments to educate and review laws and policies.


“The youth of the world are asking adults to support them in their work on a changing climate, and that includes probably some of the skate park kids, too, if not now definitely in a few years,” she said, suggesting local governments need to enact laws and policies to address the issue.

Food waste management is one area in which local government can have a positive impact, she said.

“There are lots of spin offs, and we have evidence of that right here in Transylvania County,” Sunflower said. “Moving to Conservers for the last two years has facilitated compost sites. There was a use of food scraps essay contest that was covered in The Transylvania Times and ways to implement those suggestions are underway. Rise & Shine does a Zero-Waste Motown Dance, which you may have participated in those, or you will get another chance this year. There are other local projects in local areas as well, such as in transportation, agriculture, home and landscapes, but we lack one of the components, and that’s the local government component.”

Closing Remarks

During council members’ closing remarks, Copelof mentioned an exhibit called “Women in the Military” at The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas, where she will be speaking on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 2 p.m.

“I will be giving an overview of the contributions that women have made to our military from the American Revolution up to the present, and so if that’s something that interests you please come,” she said. “We will also have two other women veterans speaking later in the month, including one who was a nurse in World War II who provided service to POWs coming back from that conflict. That museum is such a benefit to our community, and I’m so proud of it and proud that they are honoring our women veterans.”

Copelof went on to discuss her visit to the N.C. State Institute for Emerging Issues conference, which focused on workforce development.

“In 10 years, North Carolina is going to have about 200,000 more jobs than they have qualified people for the job, so it was a lot of different municipalities, counties and educational institutions, all of them coming together to look at what we are doing, what we could do and just share ideas in terms of workforce development from the future,” she said. “Gov. Cooper spoke there…He mentioned the importance of having a program for re-entry… for individuals when they are coming out of jail or prison, and really getting them to re-enter and be a part of society and be productive members of the workforce.”

Copelof said a re-entry initiative has been started in Brevard.

 
 

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