Councilman: ‘I’m sorry. Hamlet’s old’

Hamlet officials crunch numbers in mid-year budget review
Unfunded mandates, unexpected expenses are going to cost

By Kevin Spradlin

HAMLET — City Councilman Johnathan Buie said what no one wanted to say, but what everybody gathered around the table already knew.

“The money we’re spending,” Buie said, “is all to improve things that are tearing up. It’s not just spending money to have fun. I’m sorry. Hamlet’s old. Everything’s old. And we try to buy used.”

The city of Hamlet will spend roughly $29,000 to map its water and sewer lines.

The city of Hamlet will spend roughly $29,000 to map its water and sewer lines.

The comment came towards the end of a 46-minute mid-year budget review on Thursday at City Hall. The meeting was open to the public. Buie’s comment came on the heels of Robert Brown, water superintendent, explaining to city officials that the process to replace a dated and malfunctioning valve on an outdated water tank.

Because of the valve’s condition, “it takes two men 45 minutes to open and close,” Brown said. “The tank was bought used.  We actually don’t even know the date of manufacture. The valve in it (is) over 50 years old. These valves are what controls the water going in and out of the tank. It’s getting to the point it’s all we can do to operate the valves.”

Brown said the tank and value were purchased before the city owned and operated the water system beginning in 1970.

“We got what (the old company) had done,” Brown said, which included odd-sized piping in East Rockingham, among other issues.

City Manager Marcus Abernethy noted that “the age of the system has just caused the value to more or less get locked up. We’re still able to use it as of now.”

A contractor from Scotland County is expected in town next week. The city hopes the fix is less than the budgeted $15,000.

In another item under this fiscal year’s Enterprise Fund, city officials expressed surprise when a replacement generator came in at $22,700 higher than budgeted for a total of $85,700. Abernethy said city staff received a quote from the vendor but “did not include the installation price.”

Buie expressed concern about the city taking the full brunt of the difference.

The company, he said, “should have eaten it. That’s a lot of money. That’s another vehicle.”

Abernethy noted additional projects that could be pushed back to the FY 2015-16 budget, which begins July 1. The list includes a mandated emergency action plan in case of a dam breach, in both City Lake and Water Lake. Abernethy said after the coal ash spill caused by Duke Energy operational errors, state lawmakers passed legislation that required the owners of each dam to develop an approved emergency action plan. Plans are required to be submitted beginning “March 1 or after.”

The plan must be approved by an engineer, Abernethy said. A map of Water Lake needs updated and a map for City Lake will need to be created from scratch. Abernethy said the whole project should cost “$10,000 to $12,000.”

“We think we can move some money around several line items in the water plant (budget)” to prevent dipping into the fund balance, Abernethy said.

It was noted the cost

A planning and utility mapping of the city’s water and sewer lines is another project that will cost, said Abernethy, who met with Council of Governments representative Jim Perry about a program the COG is doing with smaller municipalities. The COG would let the city make payments for the estimated $29,000 project in multiple fiscal years in order to limit the effect in a single budget.

Abernethy said the city could benefit from the project because much of the knowledge of what lines are placed where lies within the heads of a few senior employees. If they retire, the city loses their experience and knowledge. Locally, the project would be led by former Richmond County planning director Jamie Armstrong, Abernethy said. Armstrong retired last year from county government and relocated to Massachusetts. However, he continues to provide consultation services to the county on an as-needed basis and supports county planner Tracie Parris in monthly public meetings.

Councilman Tony Clewis said the mapping project could prove invaluable when it comes to forecasting maintenance.

“Our paper maps are only as good as when they are printed,” Abernethy said.

An unexpected expense that could be pushed to next year’s fiscal budget — or beyond — is the replacement of a patrol car with the Hamlet Police Department. As Officer James Hooks was responding to a report of a suspect with a gun at Steve’s Pizza on East Hamlet Avenue, his patrol car collided with a private sedan and an enclosed — but empty — sand truck from Wadesboro-based Lisk Trucking. Hooks sustained minor injuries in the incident.

The car, however, was totaled. City officials said Thursday that insurance paid the city $3,800. An amount for a new patrol car was not provided.

“Patrol cars can be replaced,” Abernethy said. “Our officers can not. I’m glad Officer Hooks (was not more seriously injured) and able to return to work.”

“It may be where you have to hold off” for another year, City Councilman Jesse McQueen told Police Chief Scott Waters. “There are several things for thousands of dollars.”

Overall, the mid-year budget report appeared favorable. There was not a single category that was too far off the 50 percent  mark without a satisfactory explanation. McQueen said that appeared to reflect well on the effort of elected officials and city staff on putting together the budget.

FY 2015-16 budget process

City officials approved a tentative schedule for meetings, work sessions and the annual budget retreat. Each date is open to the public. The schedule approved Thursday is:

March 6 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March budget retreat
March 7 — 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March budget retreat
April 2 — 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. work session
April 30 — 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. work session
May 12 — 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. City Council meeting (possible budget adoption)
May 28 — 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. work session
June 9 — 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. City Council meeting (possible budget adoption)




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  • The Master

    “tank and value?”

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