Administrator’s job safe for now

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Durham takes steps to correct “overspending”

Correction – The original version of this story posted Monday night incorrectly stated that the spending limits proposed by mayor-elect Mack Durham included cutting out Christmas bonuses for town employees. Durham’s motion was to put spending limits in place but to exclude Christmas bonuses. Durham said Tuesday that his intention was to preserve Christmas bonuses but to limit any unusual spending.

Monday – Less than two weeks after the Williamston election, councilman and mayor-elect Mack Durham began attempting to correct what he calls “overspending” on the town’s budget. Durham, who will be sworn in January 7, 2013, made motions to de-fund the administrator’s position, enact a hiring/firing freeze and to place a limit on spending (excluding regular Christmas bonuses) in order to bring the town back into budget over the next six months.

Durham read a prepared statement saying he was honored to be elected as the town’s new mayor and thanked Mayor Crout for working with him for a smooth transition. However it was evident that differences of opinion between the mayor and mayor-elect on the town’s finances remain an issue for both.

Durham’s statements started on a positive note of the council and mayor working together but quickly turned more serious.

Durham said the town needs to get into “budgetary compliance” and that residents “will see immediate and noticeable changes.” He said that the town overspent on its budget by $230,000 and has six months to correct it before the 2013-14 budget is approved.

“I intend to take immediate action to avoid overspending,” he said. Durham said he believes the town can make budget changes without affecting any services provided to citizens.

Durham made a motion, which Councilman Mike Looper seconded, to de-fund the administrator’s position and said it was necessary to make the change now to avoid having to cut three positions later. Mayor Crout stated that the overspending Durham kept referring to was for the parking lot improvements behind town hall which he said was paid for out of the reserve fund.

The motion failed with 2-3 vote with Councilmen Tony Hagood, David Harvell and Mayor Crout opposed.

Durham also made a motion to limit spending for the next 35 days (excluding Christmas bonuses for town employees).

Crout said the town already has spending limits in place and that there is no other spending planned other than regular bills.

The motion failed with a 2-3 vote, with Durham and Looper voting for the limits, and Councilmen Hagood and Harvell and the mayor against.

Durham also requested a hiring and firing freeze which passed with a 3-2 vote. Crout and Harvell opposed the motion.

The meeting had considerable discussion about the Gray Drive bridge, with a Williamston resident speaking in support of reopening the bridge and a county resident on the other side opposing either reopening or closing of the bridge.

The issue has been ongoing for more than 20 years and the bridge was actually open about four years until it was closed earlier this year.

Williamston resident Pamela Owens asked the town to support reopening the bridge due to emergency situations.

Roger Fields suggested that due to theft, property damage and other problems he said have been associated with the bridge, recommended it be torn down completely.

Acting on a motion by councilman Durham, council unanimously agreed to make a recommendation to the county and the railroad to make the bridge serviceable to the community.

Council also agreed to accept $10,000 appropriated by Councilwoman Cindy Wilson and Anderson County Council to replace fencing around the mineral spring with an iron fence and other improvements to structures in Mineral Spring Park.

A full account of the meeting will be in this week’s issue of The Journal and posted online soon.