Pilot Mountain commissioners opted not to take any action Monday night on a proposal that would allow for reduced utility bills on accounts temporarily suspended by customers.
At issue is the fact that once a water meter is installed and an account is activated, residents are required to pay the full monthly fee of $38, even if they suspend their account due to such things as extended absences from the residence.
Per the request of the commissioners, town staff developed four options to address the concern. The first option would allow customers the ability to suspend their account; however, they would be required to pay a service fee ranging from $15 to $25. As noted in the meeting agenda, the fee would be a one-time service fee used to pay for the cost of turning the meter on and off.
Option two consisted of allowing customers the ability to suspend their account without any form of fee.
Option three would allow for customers to suspend their account; however, they would be charged a minimum monthly fee that would be less than the customer’s active account charge. The agenda uses the example that if a customer would normally be charged $38, with option three the customer would pay a $14 monthly suspension fee. The third option was discouraged due to the fact that it negatively impacts those who might only use their meter part of the year for irrigation purposes.
Option four that town staff presented was to simply do nothing.
Town staff recommended the first option, noting that the option would benefit residents who either use the meter for such purposes of irrigation, filling a swimming pool and part-time residents.
Following an assessment of all of the options that town staff presented, the commissioners voted to table any possible action until more research is done on the options presented, with Mayor Dwight Atkins voicing interest in adding a time limit on the first option presented.
Richard Lock of Pilot Mountain spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, urging the commissioners to look at what other municipalities across the state are doing in regard to the issue, citing Winston-Salem as a possible location to learn from.
In addition, Lock warned the commissioners that any significant change on the matter could throw the town’s budget out of balance, however Michael Boaz, interim town manager, later said that there is a relatively small number of individuals who have voiced interest in suspending their accounts.
During the course of discussion, Boaz explained the current $38 minimum fee, saying that the total can be broken down with $14 for water, $14 for sewer and $10 for garbage.
In a separate item of business, the commissioners passed a resolution of intent to set a public hearing to close an unnamed street 3-0 vote, with Mayor pro temp Linda Needham excusing herself from the vote due to a conflict of interest.
The alleyway in question runs between two buildings on Davis Street.
The process to close the unnamed alleyway was started when Needham filed an application to close the alleyway that joins her business, Needham Holdings LLC.
Needham cited the fact that the retaining wall that borders the alleyway is in need of repair as the reason why she filed the application.
“Really no one knew it was there, it wasn’t being used,” Needham said of the alleyway.
The public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. If the alleyway is closed, the land will revert back to the owners of the neighboring properties.
In other action Monday night:
– Commissioners voted to reappoint Scott Needham, who serves as chair of the board, to the Tourism Development Authority Board. Needham’s previous term started on April 23, 2012, and will end on July 30.
The Tourism Development Authority Board consists of six members who serve three-year terms. Other members of the board include Mike Jessup, Stacy Hardman, Diane Blakemore, Todd Morse and Frank Nichols.
– During the public comment portion of the meeting, commissioners, town staff and citizens engaged in a discussion over the pro-confederate group, Southern Cross’ march through downtown on Saturday.
“When I see the flag on these trucks, it appears to be a flaunt, to me it’s threatening and I consider it offensive. I don’t think that represents what Pilot Mountain stands for,” Melanie Bennett, Pilot Mountain resident, said of Saturday’s event.
Despite conflicting reports as to whether or not the event went peacefully, Commissioner Cordie Armstrong said that she was aware of several instances where individuals who were a part of the group spewed racial slurs.
Pilot Mountain Chief of Police B.D. Bottoms said that he was not aware of any confrontations, to which Armstrong replied, “I guess it depends on what side of the street you’re on.”
“It was no lesson for me, just a reminder of, but for our young black children, it was a lesson about what the Confederate flag truly represents, which is opposition to civil rights for black people,” Armstrong said of Southern Cross’s march.
There was discussion of legal ways to dissuade future events like the one on Saturday, but the only concrete option that was proposed was the institution of a permit fee.
– Ron Niland of All American Associates detailed the process that will be used for appointing a new town manager, citing that the process will more than likely take between 60 and 90 days.
The next board of commissioners meeting is scheduled for Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.