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Council to vote on budget June 21
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City of Morganton

Council to vote on budget June 21

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Morganton residents will get a chance to have their voices heard on the city’s proposed budget in a couple weeks.

The city council called a special meeting at 6 p.m. June 21 in its chambers at City Hall to hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed budget after City Manager Sally Sandy presented it at the regular meeting Monday night.

If the proposed budget is approved, the city’s property tax rate would stay at 57 cents per $100 of property value, with the downtown special tax rate staying at 14 cents per $100 value. The city’s motor vehicle tax rate also would hold steady at $20 per vehicle.

Electric rates would be cut under the budget, with the average household saving about $27 per year from the rate cut.

Water, wastewater and solid waste user fees also would stay the same, along with internet and phone rates through CoMPAS Cable.

The only rate that would see an increase under the budget would be for CoMPAS TV customers, who will see a $5 per month surcharge added to cover the cost of broadcast channels. Sandy said at Monday night’s meeting that the city actually anticipated having to charge customers an extra $10 per month, but since channel contract negotiations went well, the charge ended up being less.

City employees would receive a 1% cost-of-living adjustment under the budget, effective July 3, and a 3% merit raise for eligible full-time employees would be effective Feb. 26.

It’s about 5.5% larger than the current budget, or $4,212,318 more, at $79,281,813, but that’s because of major projects in the water and wastewater funds, Sandy said.

Power substation

One of the city’s electric substations will be getting replaced with a tight deadline for work to be completed.

The city will be discontinuing use of the Rand Street substation, one that’s more than 100 years old, and building a new substation on the campus of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

Council members approved a contract with Carolina Power and Signalization Inc. worth $81,009 to put in a high voltage pole line at the new substation, which will connect it to some Duke Energy equipment that already exists on the property. This was included in the current fiscal budget.

The lowest responsible, responsive bid for construction of the substation came in at nearly $400,000 over budget, Sandy said.

She said that putting the project off wouldn’t alleviate the price the city would have to pay, and work must be completed on the project by the time School of Science and Math is ready to open, which is expected to be late spring 2022, for the city to use the property.

The council awarded Sumter Utilities Inc. the contract for construction of the substation, with the value not to exceed $1,695,447. A budget amendment worth $395,000 also was approved. Sumter was the lowest responsive bidder.

Square renovations

The courthouse square project drew in more private funding, leading the council to approve a budget amendment.

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Some of the extras for the courthouse square renovations that originally were struck from the project now will be possible because of the additional dollars.

Part of that is $29,146 for installation of sod instead of regular seed and grass.

Another $26,000 will go to installation of a Bio Cell, which Sandy described as a bio retention item that will be like a rain garden with an educational component for people to see.

Bethel Park

Council members granted city staffers permission to apply for a grant to help with restoring Bethel Park.

The city will be asking for a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, a program that provides funding for water, air and land quality improvement.

If the city receives the funds, this money will go to help the city alleviate some of the costs of stream restoration and outfitting the park. Sandy told the council that project is looking like it’ll cost around $3 million when all is said and done.

The council also approved:

Rezoning 8.566 acres of property on Stonebridge Drive to high intensity district.

Minutes from the May 3 meeting.

Participation in the 2021-23 Western Piedmont Stormwater Partnership.

A firearms trade with Smokefoot Trade and Pawn.

Ending COVID-19 emergency leave for city employees.

A budget amendment for the water department.

A project budget ordinance amendment for the Community Development Block Grant.

The appointment of a tax collector, and directing her to collect taxes.

Setting filing fees for the 2021 municipal election to $20.

Topping off the council meeting was a closed session, where members heard an update from City Attorney Louis Vinay about an economic development project. No action was taken, City Clerk Kelly Russell said.

The council will meet again at the June 21 special meeting. There will be no council meeting in July.

Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at cmurphy@morganton.com or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.

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