Town of Woodland Board Minutes
Date: February 7, 2019
Kenny Manuel – Mayor
David Cooper – Commissioner
Brian Christison - Commissioner
Barbara Outland – Commissioner
Pat Liverman – Commissioner
Donielle McDermott – Town Clerk
Marshall Lassiter – ORC
The Pledge of Allegiance was recited followed by a moment of silent reflection.
Call to Order: The mayor called the meeting to order at 7pm.
Approval of Agenda: The first item of business was the approval or amendment of the agenda. Mayor Manuel made a suggestion to add Mickel Pruden to the agenda at 5a to discuss a grant for the fire department. Commissioner Liverman made a motion to approve the agenda with the change of adding a 5a for Mickel Pruden. Commissioner Outland seconded and the motion carried.
Approval of Minutes: The second item of business was the approval or amendment of the minutes from the Regular Board Meeting dated January 3, 2019, Closed Session Meeting dated January 3, 2019, and the Workshop Meeting for Smoking Ordinance and Commercial Building Ordinance dated January 31, 2019. Mayor Manuel suggested amending the regular minutes dated January 3, 2019 on page 7 to add "At 8:47 pm" in the Closed Session Motion. Commissioner Liverman made the motion to approve all of the minutes with the amendment to the regular meeting on January 3, 2019 added. Commissioner Christison seconded and the motion carried.
Consideration of Bills: The commissioners had a chance before the meeting began to review the bills. Commissioner Cooper asked if the bill for $2,488.30 from Rivers & Associates was only for the past 30 days. He pointed out that there are no dates on the bill. Mayor Manuel said he will call Blaine Humphrey to request dates. Until then, we will withhold funds on this bill. Commissioner Christison made a motion to pay all the bills except for Rivers & Associates and to pay all of the regular bills that come in throughout the month. Commissioner Liverman seconded and the motion carried.
Tim Flanagan: Tim Flanagan could not make the meeting, therefore his wife, Teresa Flanagan spoke on his behalf. Mr. Flanagan would like to have the 3rd Woodland Stock on April 20, 2019, however Mrs. Flanagan realized that is the day before Easter so she is going to suggest to Mr. Flanagan to push the date back a little for warmer weather. She said that her husband would again organize all the vendors and entertainment, but she would like to ask the town to provide the porta potties. Mayor Manuel asked the board if they would support this event and the board all agreed to do so. Mayor Manuel said he spoke to Major Harmon about police help and Major Harmon said they would be glad to help. We would need to send them an email beforehand with the details asking for help.
Mickel Pruden: Mickel Pruden, representing the Woodland Volunteer Fire Department, said they are seeking a grant from the Office of State Fire Marshall. The grant they are applying for is a 50/50 grant where the state pays 50% and the fire department pays 50%. In the last couple of years, the stipulations have changed to where you must be funded for less than $50,000 per year. He claimed they fall into the category for this grant because they have only received $45,000 from the county. They applied for $49,608.73. Included in this grant is 10 sets of turnout gear and 2 extraction tools, all new. Initially, Mr. Pruden thought the grant was for $50,000, but it turns out it's only for $30,000. Therefore they need to come up with the remaining $19,608.73 to go along with the grant in order to purchase the gear and tools. They would like for the town to help pay this amount, but that poses a problem. If the town gives the department money, they will be over the $50,000 income threshold and will cause the fire department to have to pay 50% next spring.
Commissioner Cooper asked Mr. Pruden when the last time was that the department purchased turnout gear. Mickel Pruden said it was in 1984. Commissioner Cooper asked if they size the gear when they buy it, or is it in small, medium, or large sizes. Mr. Pruden replied, yes, they size them. Commissioner Cooper also noted that there are 26 members on the department's roster, but Mr. Pruden said they will choose ten of the men who go into the burning buildings.
Mayor Manuel said that what Mickel Pruden is asking for is financial assistance to purchase the gear, but the problem is that if the town assists them it will show as income and put them over the $50,000 income limit which will affect them for their grant opportunity the following year. This means they will then have to pay 50% of the grant matching responsibility.
Commissioner Cooper asked if it could be worded that if the fire department gets the grant the town will give them half of the $19,608.73, but if they don't get the grant then they will just apply again next year.
Commissioner Outland asked in order to keep the fire department from going over their income limit, could the town buy part of the equipment and donate it to the fire department as a gift? Commissioner Cooper said he believes in safety and the department needs good turnout gear. As far as the extraction tools go, Mickel Pruden said that if they can get eight people trained with the extraction tools, that opens up the door for more grant opportunities. Mr. Pruden should hear by May 15th whether or not they get the grant.
Mayor Manuel asked Mr. Pruden how that would work if the town did decide to purchase some of the equipment and donate it to the fire department in regards to not showing up as income. Mr. Pruden said he was not sure at this time. Mayor Manuel asked him to check into this as he wants to make sure the board and the fire department are doing things on the up and up.
Mickel Pruden said he doesn't believe he can modify the grant as it has already been submitted, so if the town helps them with this grant then they will be put over the $50,000 threshold and they will have to do the 50/50 grant. Commissioner Outland made a motion to financially support the Fire Department by considering purchasing some of the equipment they need. Commissioner Liverman seconded and the motion carried.
William Joyner: William Joyner was on the agenda but could not make the meeting, therefore he submitted a letter. Mayor Manuel said Mr. Joyner is a contractor from Scotland Neck and is willing to demolish dilapidated homes in town for free, and all he asks for in return is the wood. Mr. Joyner says old wood is hard to come by and he uses the wood for furniture. In addition to this, for people with low or moderate income whose houses need to be fixed to meet the minimum housing standards, Mr. Joyner and his company will go in and help homeowners bring their homes up to code at a much cheaper price than most contractors. Inexpensive materials will be used, but it will be more affordable. Commissioner Cooper said he wants to make sure that Mr. Joyner is bonded and insured, with a certificate of insurance.
Joe Dooley and Andrew DeIonna-UCPCOG: Joe Dooley and Andrew DeIonna were representing the Upper Coastal Plains Council of Government. Mr. Dooley said that since his last meeting with us, we have been given a violation letter. Mr. Lassiter, with the help of Mr. Dooley, sent in a reply to this letter. Mr. Dooley explained to Rick Bolluck we were sending a letter in response. Mr. Bolluck said that the state means business. Woodland is one of four towns in this region who received such a letter. Mr. Bolluck suggested in the future to sit down with the state to explain what we, as a town, are trying to do to resolve our problem.
If we do not get this grant then we cannot reapply again until the fall for another CBDG. However, we can apply for a Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant/loan for up to $3 million. The grant/loan is based on what we charge per 5,000 gallons. At this moment we are eligible for a 25% grant/loan based on our current rates. The rates we just raised are still under the rates of other towns in our area. In fact, Mr. Dooley said our rates now are where a lot of towns' rates were before they raised them. We could be eligible for a 50% grant if we raised our sewer rates to between $40-47.00. Anything above $58 would bring us to 100%. Mr. Dooley says he feels certain the state will not give us money unless we have funds coming in to pay for a loan. In fact, Mr. Dooley said the state's policy is if we're going to loan you money, you need to demonstrate by fiscal adroitness that you will not be calling on them to bail you out. He stated that Seaboard raised their rates and have since received over $3 million in grants. He is optimistic that we have a good application for the CBDG, but it is a state wide competition so there are many other applicants. Mr. Dooley asked us to consider how much our town can borrow. A CBDG is good for three years, you cannot receive another CBDG until after three years.
Mr. Dooley urged the town to sit down, look closely at our finances, and determine how much money we can borrow. He stated we easily have $2 million worth of sewer problems. Can we borrow the money, or do we need to raise our rates and try for the grant?
Commissioner Cooper asked what percent we need to raise our sewer rates in order to receive a 50% grant, and the same for a 75% grant. Mr. Dooley previously gave the board a chart with this information. To answer, he said to be at 50% we need to be at $40.25 per 5,000 gallons for sewer only. Or we can go to $47.25 per 5,000 gallons we would be eligible for 75%.
Mr. DeIonna stated that the town of Woodland has a plethora of problems and by raising our rates we will qualify for not only the CBDG but also for the Clean Water Trust Fund. We have a host of problems we will need to address within the next ten years. If we raise our rates we can go after the CBDG for one set of problems and then also go after the Clean Water Trust Fund for the other issues.
Mr. Dooley said that our rates are critical with the Clean Water Trust Fund. He made a suggestion that on the CBDG, if we do not qualify, we can take the areas in town where we would unequivocally qualify, such as low and moderate income areas, and go for the CBDG for those specific areas.
Mayor Manuel responded that the good news is it's only the wastewater rate we need to raise, not both. To confirm, he asked Mr. Dooley again what we need to raise the wastewater rate to in order to qualify for a 100% grant and Mr. Dooley said $58 per 5,000 gallons. Mr. Dooley recommended raising them by April 1, 2019. The rate needs to be in effect when the application is submitted.
Mr. Dooley said the interest rates on the 20 year loans are at 2%. Mayor Manuel said that because we already have a twenty year loan for our new well, we do not need another loan and the 100% grant will be the best answer for us.
Commissioner Cooper asked if we could reconvene and have a workshop to run the numbers. All agreed.
Public Comments: Mickel Pruden recommended a tier charge for the water and sewer rates to the more you use the higher your bill, and the less you use the lower your bill. Mayor Manuel said we could also lower property taxes to help level out the sewer rate increase.
Bobby Mann asked what causes our sewer problems. Mayor Manuel said mainly age.
Hattie Blythe asked what was happening at the old bank. Mayor Manuel told her the new health center was going to be there and they are working on the building.
Mrs. Blythe then asked what is going on with the streets. Mayor Manuel said the state is working on the curbs and fixing the grading of the road.
Patty Deneen asked when the rest of the new meters will be installed. Mr. Lassiter said the new meters have arrived and will be put in as soon as they get a chance.
Fire Department Report: Donielle McDermott stated the balance in the checking account is $47,901.46. Mickel Pruden said they would like to try for a 95/5 grant for a new building which may cost around $1million. Mayor Manuel asked if they will have to tear down the old building and Mr. Pruden said it depends on where they decide to put the new one. Mr. Pruden spoke about their fundraisers of the past year. This past year they took in $5,230 in donations and from primarily the deer tournament they brought in $7,084. Commissioner Cooper thanked Mr. Pruden for the Fire Department dinner we all were invited to.
a. Marshall Lassiter said the Wellhead Protection Program is a done deal. Katie Dunning will probably be at our next town board meeting so we can take action.
b. Water and sewer rate schedule of fees discussion was tabled for later in the meeting.
c. Marshall Lassiter said he has been offered $3 per meter for the 3/4" meters and $12-$12.50 for the 2" meters. We have 75 3/4" meters and two 2" meters. Commissioner Cooper made a motion to sell the meters at that price. Commissioner Christison seconded and the motion carried.
d. Donielle McDermott explained the situation with the gas lines at the Armory. There is a leak in the lines and Ferrell Gas gave us a quote of $1,014.12 to replace the high pressure line from the tank to the building. Mickel Pruden spoke up and suggested asking Diversified to also give us an estimate. The board agreed and suggested Commissioner Outland speak to Andy Daughtry with Diversified. Commissioner Liverman made a motion to get a second estimate from Diversified. Commissioner Outland seconded and the motion carried.
e. Mr. Lassiter said he strongly believes that everyone filling pools should be charged for this. Mayor Manuel said that the board had previously discussed this stating that everyone should be charged and the town should not allow some to hook up to the fire hydrants to fill their pools without being charged. There is also concern of the pressure this puts on the hydrants. Mickel Pruden spoke up and said that years ago the fire department use to use the department's truck to fill Hillcrest Pool, and they looked at it as their reserve if they ever needed extra water. He believes this is why the town never charged Hillcrest Pool. Mr. Pruden said the water on the truck came from the town, but they would use the truck because they could pump it faster. However, recently the pool started doing it themselves using the hydrant. Mayor Manuel said he has been here for five years, he understands the agreement they use to have, but since his five years here there has never been a need to use the pool for extra water and all these years they have been getting their water free. Commissioner Liverman said this agreement has been in place about 65 years.
On behalf of Hillcrest Pool, Inc., Dell Garris was present. She asked the board to consider giving them a break in the water rates. She said if they are not given a break in the water bill, they will have to close. They cannot afford the high water bill since they are working with limited funds.
Barbara Gosney asked if it was Community Pool or Hillcrest Pool. Mrs. Garris confirmed it is Hillcrest Pool. Mrs. Gosney suggested to make sure the minutes include the correct name, Hillcrest Pool, Inc.
Mayor Manuel said we need a contract and we need accountability. It was also mentioned that opening the hydrants puts pressure on the lines causing problems to other parts of our town. Mayor Manuel's concern is if the state finds out we are allowing them the use of our water for free and the free use of the hydrants, we can lose our permit to operate as a utility. Marshall Lassiter asked that someone from Hillcrest Pool let the town know when the pool was about to be filled. Mrs. Garris said that she feels sure the fire department will be glad to use their truck again to fill the pool if that will be better. Mrs. Garris also stated the pool will not be able to open if they have to pay the new increased water rates. Commissioner Christison suggested they table the issue for now.
Mayor Manuel brought up the use of water to our farmers as well. Commissioner Cooper and Commissioner Christison said that since the last time this was brought up we have put a stop to the farmers using our water.
Marshall Lassiter said that one of the tractors the town owns has a problem with the engine. It need to be fixed. He asked if funds are available, could he get the tractor fixed instead of them using the golf cart to get back to the wastewater treatment plant. Commissioner Christison said that we can split the cost between street and sanitation and water and sewer. Mayor Manuel said that having the right tools to do the job makes things much easier therefore he recommends going forward to having it fixed. Commissioner Christison made a motion to take the tractor to Rich Square to have it looked at and to get an estimate, and to use this estimate to decide whether to move forward. Commissioner Outland seconded and the motion carried.
Marshall Lassiter said that Jessica Griffey has a serious problem with shingles and will be out of work for some time.
Mayor Manuel mentioned the water meters stick up a bit and is worried they may get broken easily. He questioned who will be responsible. Mayor Manuel suggested the town will be responsible the first time and then it will become the responsibility of the customer. Marshall Lassiter asked if we can send out a letter or a flyer requesting our customers to be aware of this issue.
b. Commissioner Christison said we need to take action with the meter tampering fee of $100 per occurrence. Commissioner Cooper wants the dates of the rate changes to be moved to the top of the rate schedule. He also would like to see an effective date of when this tampering fee was added. Commissioner Cooper suggested if the maintenance crew spots a meter that is above ground too much to fix the meter to be put in the ground lower. Commissioner Christison made a motion to approve the new water and sewer rates schedule to include a $100 meter tampering fee per occurrence, moving the dates of rate changes to the top, and adding an effective date. Commissioner Liverman seconded and the motion carried.
Mayor Manuel let the public in attendance know that the board reduced the water rates for out of town customers.
Police Report: Commissioner Outland said the sheriff's department is working well for us. They are working around three to four nights a week from about 6pm to 2am. Mayor Manuel reminded the board we may want to consider hiring an officer before summer comes. Commissioner Cooper asked if our curfew hours change with time change, but Mayor Manuel said no, the curfew times remain the same throughout the year.
Clerk Report: Donielle McDermott gave the financial report and this report will be included in the Minute Book. Mayor Manuel pointed out on the budget versus actual that despite the unexpected repairs to the CADA building, we are still in very good shape with what we budgeted for that building.
a. Mrs. McDermott brought to the board's attention the letter from the Northampton County Chamber of Commerce asking for the yearly donation of $400 for the 4th of July celebration. We budgeted for this donation.
b. Mrs. McDermott showed the board the new employment applications she would like to start using. Commissioner Liverman said she would like to see wording added making sure they do not use family as a reference. Mayor Manuel pointed out that we added the question, "Have you ever been charged with a crime? If yes, please explain on a separate sheet listing dates, charges, and outcome of each." Mayor Manuel said he feels it's important for us to know our potential employees' backgrounds.
c. Donielle McDermott told the board that we should have kept some of the money we moved from the Nationwide Building to the Armory Fund in order to cover the cost of the electrical bill. Commissioner Christison made a motion to move $500 from the Armory to the Nationwide Building. Commissioner Cooper seconded and the motion carried.
d. Mrs. McDermott shared some sale flyers with Christmas decorations with the board. She told the board at these sale prices, it will cost the town about $10,000 to purchase new Christmas decorations for our street signs. Commissioner Cooper said to bring this up again at a budget meeting.
e. As a point of reference, Donielle McDermott shared with the board a letter from the Northampton County Board of Elections with information on the municipal filing period and the seats that will be open at our next election. The mayor urged the citizens to think about running for one of the upcoming open seats on our board.
Zoning Report: Mayor Manuel said Raymond Eaton was working on scheduling a planning board meeting.
Comments from the Mayor:
a. The Mayor thanked Mr. Gosney for his recommendation to do a feasibility study on the Armory. The next meeting is scheduled for February 14th at the Town Hall. The Mayor also thanked Patty Deneen for serving as secretary for the Armory Committee.
b. Upper Coastal Plains Council of Government applied for the Brownfields Program. If they get approved then Woodland will be considered for funding with respect to the Armory and abatement of the lead.
c. Mrs. Bennett contacted Mayor Manuel about the vacant lot on the corner of Woodland Avenue and Cherry Street for sale for $3,000, wondering if the town would be interested in purchasing it. The board is not interested.
d. Mayor Manuel said the CADA rent fee is very low. It was low because CADA put in $140,000 to bring the building up to code to be used as a Headstart Building. There is a section in the lease saying we can raise the rates based on the consumer price index. We should, however, keep in mind the recent government shutdown and the businesses this shutdown may have affected, including CADA.
Comments from the Commissioners: Commissioner Cooper said he believes the lot for sale needs to be tagged a flood zone. The Mayor will call the realtor to see if it is being disclosed as a flood zone. Commissioner Cooper said the realtor may not know it is in a flood zone.
Commissioner Cooper also said down by the fire department, he noticed one of the light poles has an LED light. This is the first one in town.
Commissioner Outland said she wants to go ahead and make a decision on the pool. She believes we should give the pool a break this year and charge them the rates they have been paying. The Mayor said in order to do so, we need a written contract. Commissioner Outland asked Mickel Pruden to use the truck to fill the pool. Commissioner Christison made a motion to allow Hillcrest Pool to remain at the rates from 2017-2018 through this summer of 2019 and to be reviewed again next year with a written contract between the town and Hillcrest Pool. We also ask the pool to let the town know when the pool is going to be filled. Commissioner Liverman seconded and the motion carried.
Commissioner Cooper said he would like to save one of the meters to be put down at the water park in order to keep up with how much water is being used there.
Commissioner Liverman said that when we close down a house due to sanitary reasons, it is closed and nothing can be done, but it can be put up for sale for the taxes owed if you can get a lawyer to help. She stated that last Thursday, her and the Mayor rode around and looked at 17 abandoned commercial buildings in the town. Commissioner Christison said he will use the GIS system to find the owners of these buildings so letters can be sent to them.
Commissioner Christison told Donielle McDermott to use the money in 10-420-94, Capital Outlay, to purchase a dehumidifier. Commissioner Christison said that something has to be done with these commercial buildings. He did not realize in how bad of shape some of them were.
Mayor Manuel handed out information on signs we can put up informing the community that we use cameras in town. He stated we have money available in the Downtown Revitalization Grant fund to purchase these, and he would also like to use this fund to purchase punctuation marks for the marquee.
Mayor Manuel asked permission from the board to use the Town Hall for a meeting to address the lack of jobs for the young people in our area.
Public Comments: Bob Gosney said Hillcrest Pool is a private company. He is concerned about the town providing benefits for private stockholders. He also asked if any of the board members are members of the pool. None of the board members are members of Hillcrest Pool. Mayor Manuel said he will reach out to Luther Culpepper to ask if this is legal and ethical.
Mickel Pruden said the fire department has helped the pool, but the pool helps the fire department by allowing them to use the water if the need arises. Discussion went back and forth regarding the town never having to use the water from the pool. Mr. Pruden asked the Mayor why he is against helping the pool. Mayor Manuel said he is not against helping the pool, but he wants to make sure what the town board has decided is legal. Mayor Manuel said a decision has been made and the decision will stand according to what the town attorney says. If by chance this decision is unethical and needs to be changed, the town will try to find another way to help the pool.
Patty Deneen asked if there is a fire, is the pool the only place we have to get water? The answer was no. She said the argument stating the fire department can use the water in the pool in case of an emergency makes is sound as if that is our only source of water for fires.
Mickel Pruden told the board that there will be a CPR training on February 19th and 20th at the Fire Department. This is a free training and it's open to anyone.
Bobby Mann asked why he cannot turn his water off at the meter if he has to do some plumbing work at his house. He said sometimes he needs to turn his water off. He was concerned that it was stated earlier that citizens cannot turn their water off at their meters, instead they need to have the maintenance crew come do it. He finds this inconvenient. Marshall Lassiter said most houses have a cutoff valve at their house and they need to use this. However, if you do not have a cutoff valve then, yes, they would need to call the Town Hall to have it turned off at the meter.
Motion to Adjourn: At 9:42 PM, Commissioner Liverman made a motion to adjourn. Commissioner Outland seconded and the motion carried.