CCTA WATCHDOG REPORT FOR NEW BERN BOARD OF ALDERMEN
REGULAR MEETING OF 13 MAY 2013
Mayor pro tem Sabrina Bengel opened the meeting and gave the prayer.
All were present except for Mayor Bettis, who had notified the City Mgr of his absence on 5-10-13.
Prior to embarking on the agenda, Mayor pro tem Bengel said she would make some comments. She hoped all would keep Mayor Bettis and his family in their thoughts and prayers. She stated she was aware of the work ahead and she and the Board were ready to roll up their sleeves and tackle the work to be done. She said the Board would move forward in its work with the knowledge that we had a good city staff and the leadership of the other aldermen. As a result of the events of the past week, she said that she understood Alderman Outlaw had made a request to add an item to tonight's agenda to discuss the Mayor and his recent controversies as well as his resignation. Mayor pro tem Bengel allowed Alderman Outlaw to make that motion and Alderman Taylor seconded. She asked for any discussion. There being none, she called for the roll call vote. The vote to add the agenda item for discussing the recent controversies surrounding Mayor Bettis as well as his resignation was: Alderman Bucher, Mayor pro tem Bengel, Alderman Kinsey, and Alderman White voted "No"; Alderman Taylor and Alderman Outlaw voted "Yes". Therefore, the motion failed and the Mayor pro tem moved on to the next agenda item.
**Reporters Notes: Salary per year for Mayor = $12,039
Mayor Pro Tem = $ 8,976
Alderman = $ 8,099
(Confirmed to me by HR Dir. Sonya Hayes on 5-15-13)
Additionally, according to City Clerk Veronica Mattocks, in my phone call to her on 5-15-13, each elected official is allocated a discretionary sum of $1,000 p/yr.
The taxpayers pay Verizon for cell phone services for Aldermen Taylor, White, and Kinsey, and for Mayor Bettis a sum that varies per month and is based on usage, NTE (hopefully) $7,500. The taxpayers also fund internet service for Aldermen Taylor, White and Bucher at rate of $74.95 per month.
Per the FY2012/13 approved budget, that is posted to the City website under the Finance Dept heading, the Mayor is allotted $4,104 of taxpayer funds for yearly travel and the aldermen are allotted $3,000 each for travel . Under the "Governing Board" designation, the taxpayers also pay for a Travel/Training budget of $2K for each elected official, a Food & Provisions budget (includes Clerk) of $2,500 and a Dues/Subscriptions budget of $38,851 (excludes Clerk) for the 7 elected officials.
Agenda Item 3. Request and Petition of Citizens.
This section of the Agenda is titled Requests and Petitions of Citizens. This is an opportunity for public comment, limited to 4 minutes. "Comments will be directed to the full board, not to an individual board member or staff member. Although the board is interested in hearing your comments, speakers should not expect any comments, action or deliberation from the board on any issue raised during the public comment period. In the board's discretion, it may refer issues to the appropriate city officials or staff for further investigation. If an organized group is present to speak on a common issue, please designate one person to present the group's comment, which shall be limited to a maximum of 4 minutes".
a. Stevie Bennett of National Ave made a suggestion for the City to erect a bulletin board in front of the City Hall steps to enable those who are not able to climb those steps to read the public notices that announce the Board meetings. On another subject of the City not executing appropriate or timely adjudications of HPC issues, she suggested the City hire additional part-time personnel to dedicate to the dispensation of those issues. She believes if the Board can handle appropriating $82,000 for a branding campaign, then it should be able to dedicate the same significant funding to resolving these HPC issues because tourism and interest in the charm of the NB historic districts are the biggest industry. Further, Ms. Bennett stated that the City should use newly hired persons and create new positions only after current and overdue workload is attended to. She also asked after the status of the branding campaign and for City staff to brief on what the MPO plan is. She wanted to know if the public transportation services within this MPO plan were for the City or others outside of it and whether there were to be charges for services. (This item was partially addressed in agenda item #5).
b. Tracy Spellman of the Climbers Club eloquently spoke on the history of the club, which is the oldest pubic service club for women of color, having been organized in 1895. She announced and invited all to the open house for the Charlotte Roane Cultural Center on Tues., May 21st from 10am - 1pm and again at5 - 7pm. Location is 608 West St. in historic Dryborough.
Agenda Item 4. Adopt Resolution Authorizing City to be a Co-Applicant with New Bern Housing Authority in the Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant and Authorizing City Manager to Sign Memorandum of Understanding.
"(Ward 1) The New Bern Housing Authority has requested the City partner with them on a Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant. The grant assists with plans for modernization of public housing as well as overall improvements in the surrounding community. The grant will require a dollar-for-dollar cash match over the next two years of an amount not to exceed $30,000. The Resolution authorizes the City to join the Housing Authority as a co-applicant and authorizes the City Manager to sign a Memorandum of Understanding and to approve the expenditures up to $30,000 for the required match." City Manager Epperson stated the maximum grant award is $500,000. He said the primary reason for the City to provide this match and to sign the MOU is to ensure the maximum success in earning the most points toward receiving the grant award. The MOU will be terminated if the grant is not received. The five elements of the HA/City collaboration are as follows: (a) coordinate planning in regard to Housing and Neighborhood improvements elements of the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative transformation planning; (b) work together to align resources to the extent practicable; (c) support the HA's leadership of the planning process and committ to participation throughout the entirety of the Choice Neighborhood Initiatives planning process; (d) participate in the "Housing" and "Neighborhood" planning committees, and will concentrate on plans for the redevelopment of the Greater Five Points area; and (e) The HA will manage and direct the work under an HUD grant funding obtained in connection with this Planning grant, and HA with the City will coordinate in regard to any other funding raised for theses planning purposes (e.g., funds raised for purchasing distressed properties through the Greater Five Points area. This agreement will become effective upon the awarding of this grant. For more information of what this grant consists of, please refer to the Gateway Renaissance Plan on the city website and the BOA minutes of 2-12-12, agenda Item #6.
Ald Taylor spoke out strongly against the MOU and the grant itself. He stated he did not like how this was presented to the Trent Court residents last year and he claimed that "there was lots of underhanded stuff going on with it last year". He continued, saying, "I'm against it, I do not stand for it. Give them something written in a language the residents can understand. I didn't like it last year - don't like it this year. Until the residents of Craven Terrace and Trent Court are happy with it, I'm not in agreement with it". A small audience contingency applauded after he was finished. Ald White asked Mr. Epperson to clarify that "the Board did vote to be co-applicants last year, right?" Mr. Epperson said "yes" and that last year, the first time, the City was the lead applicant. Ald Kinsey asked if New Bern will be going through a similar procedure to what the Wilson Housing Authority outlined to this Board that Wilson went through when it visited WIlson's HA program. Mr. Epperson said 'yes'. He elaborated on his response to Ald Taylor's comments saying there was a bit of misinterpretation and miscommunication when the City embarked on procuring the HUD Choice Neighborhoods Grant. He differentiated between the two types of grants explaining this grant was a planning grant, while last year's grant was an implementation grant. Ald White asked if it was correct that without a plan the HA cannot go forward. Mr. Epperson replied "yes, they can, but they will be more successful if they approach it this way". (Reporter's note: I interviewed NBHA Dir Julian Marsh on 4-11-13 on the topics of both the HUD planning grant and the implement grant. The information within that interview corroborates the information given by Mr. Epperson at this meeting).
Mayor pro tem Bengel wanted to clear up some things for the public so she asked, "so there's no building anything, removing anything, it's just a plan, right?" "Yes" says Mr. Epperson. "There's more success if the City enters into a applicant-co applicant relationship; and it's not just about the housing, but also access to education, pubic health and public transportation resources". Ald Taylor made reference to the HA attendance of HA Dir Julian Marsh to make the presentation at the 4-9-13 BOA meeting. Then he asked as to why an HA spokesperson was not in attendance tonight. He also asked, "why is this grant - is everybody targeting Trent Court?. Craven Terrace is worse". He said the reason he previously remarked that handling of last year's grant activities was underhanded was because a person was taken off the board that was helping with the application for the grant and told the reason for that was because there was no more room on this board. However, the very next day another person was appointed. The motion passed 5 - 1, Ald Taylor voted "no".
Agenda Item 5. Presentation of Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Budget Overview.
City Manager Epperson presented the budget highlight for Fiscal Year 2013-2014.
The great news first: NO TAX INCREASE! But...solid waste collection fee is increasing $3.75 from a current charge of $8.
He stated this fiscal year's budget is a status quo budget, rather flat. There is $100,000 more in this year's budget compared to last year.
* Personnel: will add 2. (1) fill an HR position that has been vacant since Oct 2010. WIll dedicate it administrative needs, for one to address the changes stemming from Obamacare implementation. (2) hire a MPO administrator (decribed in agenda item #16).
*Branding campaign: There's been 75% completion of phase 2 (creative phase). Will need another $75,000, which will make the total tax dollars spent on this venture to be $157,000. However, at the public BOA meeting of 6-12-12, the Board unanimously approved a budget amendment for Phase 1 in the amount of $48,000 and Phase 2 in the amount of $34,000, with Weyerhauser Land Development Co., contributing $2,000 for a total of $82,000 asked of the taxpayers. At that meeting, the board minutes read, "Ald Bucher stated the goal for branding should reflect 'who we are and why would people relocate as well as bring business to New Bern'. New Bern is not well known nationally he has discovered this as he has travelled around the world". This implementation of the additional $75K will allow development of economic development materials, marketing materials, web videos, to name a few.
*Technology improvement: to replace outdated data backup system and unsupported data backup system. $65,000 to go to asset managment and a work order system for Public Works Dept.
*Public Safety: $750,000 to purchase a Quint Fire Truck which is a pump truck/ladder truck combo (takes place of 2 separate vehicles). Also purchase 10 new police cruisers to replace an aging fleet.
*General Fund Revenues: Interfund transfers will increase (he admitted & we could see the charts on this were very faint. It will appear on the city website for public view). City Mgr Epperson stated that as the CIty has begun to use revenue bonds it will need to ensure there are adequate reserves so the revenue bonds will get LGC (Local Gov't Commission) approval. Solid waste collection fees will increase to include leaf & limb and cover the appx $1 million in Gen Fund subsidizing that has thus far been ocurring and to pay for CPI and tipping fee increases. Ald Taylor needed to ask what the current rate is and was told $8.00 residential. The residential rates for all of our neighbor comparison cities are in the $14 - $24 range.
*Although there is no ad valorem tax increase, City Mgr Epperson said it was worth talking about. New Bern's 41 cents p/$100 rate is significantly lower than our neighboring comparison cities (Greenville, Goldsboro, Kinston, wilmington, Havelock, Washington, Wilson).
*June 11, 2013: the budget will be presented to the Board for adoption. Prior to that, there are the 2 additional workshops on May 21st and 23rd @ 6pm. Mr. Epperson said the emphasis of discussion will be on, and it will be the most important for the Board to feel comfortable about, allocations to the enterprise funds and the item of solid waste fees. Lastly he remarked that the budget increases were largely due to the capital expenditures in the Public Safety category.
Agenda Item 6. Adoption Resolution Calling for Public Hearing to Receive Comment on Close Out of 2009 CDBG Community Revitalization Grant Program.
"(Ward 2) The City was awarded a 2009 CDBG Community Revitalization grant in the amount of $1,000,000. The project area is Third Avenue between Broad and Elm Streets. The grant program closes on June 17, 2013, and the CDBG program requires a public hearing be conducted to receive public comment on close out of the grant. The public hearing date was scheduled for May 28, 2013 and passed by a unanimous vote."
Agenda Item 7. Adopt Resolution Approving Lease with Area Day Reporting Center for Youth at 500 Fort Totten Drive.
(Ward 1) The Area Day Reporting Program for Youth, which is a nonprofit corporation, has requested renewal of the lease agreement for the property located at 500 Fort Totten Drive. The lease term begins on May 14, 2013 and ends on June 30, 2014. The financial terms requires a rental fee of $1.00 be paid to the city as the Area Day reporting Program for Youth will pay no more than $2,500 for the CIty to provide the required hazard and liability insurances; or it may opt to carry coverage independently. If that choice is made, that coverage must be for no less than $500K, and must name the City as a named insured. The Center is also responsible for paying the utility bills and all damages incurred to the property. Passed with a unanimous vote.
Agenda Item 8. Adopt Resolution Approving Interlocal Tax Collection Agreement.
It is recommended the County and City tax offices be consolidated under the jurisdiction of the County effective July 1, 2013. This will result in improved efficiency and lower costs to the City. As a further result of the merger, staffing levels in the tax office will reduce from three positions to one. This reduction will not result in any employee losing their job. During the Retreat and the following Board meeting, both Ald Bengel and Ald White were both very concerned about this consolidation. Tonight Mayor Pro Tem Bengel explained that the City is always looking for ways to partner with the County to retain costs while still providing appropriate level of services and approving this item will satisfy both desires. However, Ald White disagreed and felt it was tantamount to contracting-out not only city services but most important to him, the city personnel/positions that went with them. He said we had a person for this job and we should have gotten our own person to refill that job. When Finance Dir Fiaschetti informed the Board that this consolidation would save the City $59,000, Ald White did not change his mind. Item passed with a 5 - 1 vote, Ald White voted "no".
Agenda Item 9. Adopt Ordinance for the Demolition of the Dwelling Located at 711 Bern Street.
"(Ward 1) The owner of the property at 711 Bern Street was first notified of an issue with the structure in June of 2000. On September 24, 2009, owners of the property were properly served with the City's minimum housing violation. On June 10, 2010, building permits were issued to bring the property into compliance. However, to date no progress has been made and all active permits have now expired." Passed by unanimous vote.
10. Adopt Ordinance for the Demolition of the Dwelling Located at 1816-1818 Greensboro Street.
"(Ward 5) The owner of the property at 1816-1818 Greensboro Street was first notified of an issue in October 1997. In July of 2010, the property was sold to Craven Rental Property LLC. In August 2010, the new owner was notified via certified mail that the property was in violation of minimum housing standards. City staff attempted to work with the owner on bringing the structure into compliance until July 2012. No building permits were ever applied for, and on April 3, 2013 the property was referred to the City attorney for final action to demolish." Passed by unanimous vote.
11. Adopt Ordinance for the Demolition of the Dwelling Located at 723 Cedar Street.
"(Ward 1) The owner of the property at 723 Cedar Street was first notified of an issue in October 1998. The property was brought into compliance in September 2001. The property again fell into a state of dilapidation in March of 2009, and the owner was notified via certified mail. In July 2010, the property was sold to Craven Rental Properties LLC, and the new owner was notified of the minimum housing violations in August 2010. To date, no building permits have been issued to bring the property into compliance. On April 3, 2013 the property was referred to the City attorney for final action to demolish." Passed by unanimous vote.
12. Approve Subdivision Final Plan for Hardee Farms, Phase One, Section D.
"(Ward 3) NAD Development, LLC is requesting subdivision final plan approval for Hardee Farms, Phase One, Section D. This is a 28-lot residential planned unit development. The developer has submitted a cash bond for $46,500 to cover the cost of incomplete improvements. City staff has reviewed the proposed subdivision plan and finds all technical and legal requirements have been satisfied and recommends approval of the final plan." Passed by unanimous vote.
Agenda Item 13. Adopt Resolution Approving Application with NCDOT for Elizabeth Avenue Safe Routes to School Program, Phase II.
"(Ward 4) In 2011, the City was awarded a $99,900 Safe Routes to School grant from the NC Department of Transportation for improvement of pedestrian access to H. J. McDonald School for the neighborhoods east of Racetrack Road. This project was completed in April 2013. As an extension of the work completed, the City proposed to the NC Department of Transportation a second phase that will involve improving access for neighborhoods west of Racetrack Road, and DOT has concurred and awarded the City a $120,000 Safe Routes to School grant. This requires no local match, but the City will be providing all engineering and construction administration services for the project. To proceed with the project, City staff is requesting the Board approve execution of an agreement with NCDOT for phase II of the project."
Ald Kinsey announced that the ribbon cutting ceremony for the original project will be held Wed., May 15, 2013 @ 9am at H.J. MacDonald Middle School. This original grant, under the "Safe Routes to School Program, was approved to be drawn up & submitted by the BOA in 10-26-10. These sidewalks provided for by this grant were installed in the southern right of way of Elizabeth Ave. On 4-12-11, the BOA approved the City to authorize the Mayor and City Finance Dir to sign the agreement with DOT for the actual grant award of $99,900.
Agenda Item 14. Adopt Resolution Approving Financing Terms
"At its February 26, 2013 meeting, the Board of Aldermen authorized proceeding further with reference to the Advanced Metering Project (AMI/DSM) and the Highway 17 south Sewer Improvements project. The Board authorized filing of an application with the Local Government Commission (LGC) for approval of the borrowing and issuance of the Series 2013 Bond. The total new money amount to be borrowed is not to exceed $1,400,000. Requests for proposals were sent to six institutions, and STI Institutional & Governmental submitted a proposal with the lowest overall financing costs at an interest rate of 1.56% for a 10-year term."
"In addition, requests for proposals were forwarded to the same six institutions for refinancing four debt contracts totaling $15,960,528.92. STI again submitted the proposal with the lowest overall financing costs with the financing structure requested, at an interest rate of 1.56%. Refinancing these loans will remove liens from the utility systems and result in a net savings of approximately $1.5 million. Financing for both of the above (2013 revenue bond 2013 refunding bond) will be consolidated into one loan not to exceed $18,000,000 with a 10-year term bearing a fixed interest rate of 1.56%. As revenue bonds are involved, the borrowing will have to be approved by the LGC. It is anticipated this approval can be obtained at the LGC's June 4, 2013 meeting, and closing will take place shortly thereafter."
In response to a question by Ald Bucher, Finance Dept Dir Fiaschetti stated there are no downsides to this action. Ald Outlaw wanted to know if Mr. Fiaschetti has inquired as to whether there were any pre-payment penalties and Mr. Fiaschetti stated there were none. Passed by a unanimous vote.
Agenda Item 15. Adopt FY2012-13 Budget Ordinance Amendment for Electric Fund.
"A team of six lineworkers from the City assisted the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) in restoring electric service to the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. The City has recently received full payment from LIPA for the labor, equipment, travel and overhead related to the lineworkers' response. LIPA reimbursed the City at a higher rate for the labor portion than the typical mutual aid agreement dictates. Jon Rynne, Director of Utilties, has requested that the additional amount the City was reimbursed for labor be paid to the workers who responded. To facilitate this, a budget amendment must be approved." Passed by unanimous vote.
Agenda Item 16. Adopt Resolution to Amend Classification Pay Plan for Fiscal Year 2012-2013.
It is requested a new position be created for an MPO Administrator. The position will be part of the Development Services department and will administer the day-to-day functions of the New Bern Area Metropolitan Transportation Organization. Funding for the position and required capital costs will be provided through an 80% match from the Federal Department of Transportation and a 20% match from local member jurisdictions.
Craven County Commissioner Steve Tyson heads the Transportation Advisory Council, and New Bern Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey serves as vice chairman of the MPO. There has been one meeting to date. The only North Carolina city to be designated for an MPO in the last Census, New Bern's metropolitan area now includes annexed areas east of New Bern such as Taberna and Carolina Colours as well as communities like James City, Grantham and others in that area. Bridgeton, Trent Woods and River Bend and some unincorporated areas near them are also in the planning group. Members of the MPO will meet once a month on the third Thursday at New Bern City Hall.
New Bern Director of Development Services Jeff Ruggieri and Craven County Assistant Manager Gene Hodges head theTechnical Coordinating Committee. MPO members include New Bern's director of development services, MPO coordinator, city engineer; Craven County's planning director and operations and facilities director; town managers from Trent Woods, Bridgeton and River Bend; CARTS; Coastal Carolina Regional Airport Authority; New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce; and federal, state and local transportation officials
Ald Outlaw asked City Mgr Epperson if the 80% match was permanent and what was New Bern's part. He answered "yes" it was permanent and that the City's portion was $20,000. In response to another question from Ald Outlaw on what the City receives from the MPO, Mr. Epperson replied, working on/resolving regional transportation issues w/MTA and securing direct funding from state and federal Departments of Transportation. Ald White asked if our being in this MPO would get our financial rating bumped up? Mr. Epperson answered that factor was one of the puzle pieces. Passed by unanimous vote.
Agena Item 17. Adopt Resolution to Close 1500 block of Rhem Avenue for the Rhem Avenue Block Party on Sunday, May 26, 2013, with a Rain Date ofMonday, May 27, 2013.
"(Ward 1) Residents of Rhem Avenue have requested the 1500 block of Rhem Avenue between Third Street and Fourth Street be closed from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 26, 2013 for the Rhem Avenue Block Party. A rain date of May 27, 2013 has been selected." Pased by unanimous vote.
Agenda Item 18. Adopt Resolution Closing Streets in Union Point Park on May 19, 2013 from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
'(Ward 1) To facilitate a Community Band Concert, it is requested the streets in Union Point Park be closed to vehicular traffic on May 19, 2013 from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Exceptions will be made for vehicles operated by police, fire, emergency and designated program support staff." Passed by unanimous vote.
Agenda Item 19. The minutes from the April 9, 2013 Board Meeting, April 16, 2013 Work Session and April 23, 2013 Board Meeting were approved by unanimous vote.
Agenda Item 20. Appointment(s).
"Alderman Bucher recommends Peter J. Walker be appointed to the Board of Adjustment to serve out John Reichenbach's term, which will expire on June 30, 2013. He also motioned for Mr. Walker to serve an additional 3-year term.
Alderman Bengal is requested to make an appointment to replace Phil Urick on the Board of Adjustment, who has resigned due to health reasons. Mr. Urick's term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2014.
Mayor Pro Tem Bengel then stated the Mayor has a reappointment for Ms. Stevie Bennet to the Planning and Zoning Board. All motions were passed by unanimous vote.
There were no Attorney or City Manager Reports.
A Closed Session was motioned to discuss a possible settlement to a pending claim.
Meeting adjourned at 8:36pm
CCTA Watchdog Reporter for New Bern Board of Aldermen