Outgoing mayor reflects on time in office

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Williamston Mayor Carthel Crout presided over his last town council meeting last week. Following the meeting Crout reflected on the meeting and his time in office as Williamston’s mayor. “It could have been a good meeting had it not been politicized at the end,” he said.

Crout said he placed several items on the agenda that could have waited until the new mayor was in office. “I didn’t want any criticism for not doing it,” he said. “I thought those items should have been on the January agenda.”

Crout said he accomplished what he had planned for his last council meeting.

One of the issues that came up was de-funding the administrator’s position. Crout said that the position falls under the Council to hire and fire. According to Crout, is one of three positions that have to have a majority vote of council. They are the administrator, the town clerk and clerk of court positions.

Crout said that Durham attempted to cut out the administrator’s position by eliminating the funding. Council creates positions and cuts salaries, according to Crout. “The mayor can fire someone, but can’t eliminate positions or salary without a vote of council.”

Crout said that the position of administrator is considered an “at will employee,” with no contract and the administrator serves under the mayor and council by ordinance. Crout said that the position was set up that way so that the mayor couldn’t fire the administrator.

The outgoing mayor said that the town’s administrator “has set forth good strong business operations and policies for the employees.”

He said the policies have created a good work environment, and as a result employees are on time and doing their jobs.

There is a regular Monday meeting, a monthly department head meeting and he said that the operation and staff of the town are working.

Crout said during his time in office, he and the administrator created a new up to date handbook with job descriptions and that performance evaluations for employees are scheduled once a year.

Crout said that the current administrator “has saved the town thousands of dollars” by overseeing purchasing and special projects.

One firm said the town owed them $230,000, and after research by the administrator, was found actually to be owed just $70,000, Crout said.

He pointed out that bonuses, overtime and comp time have been eliminated, saving the town $70,000 to $80,000 a year.

The administrator also managed the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) upgrade project grant, saving $397,000 in grant money. The savings are being used to buy additional equipment to operate the plant.

“She has followed her policies and procedures written in the employee handbook.”

Crout said that with his direction, she has been very instrumental in helping create a very detailed and workable budget.

“It is a sound, financial working budget,” he said. “There might be one or two items that need to be adjusted.” But he added, “ A budget is an estimation from previous years. You are going to have line items that are over and under budget.”

Crout said his critics have “made it a federal crime if a line item is over budget.”

He said that adjustments are made at the end of the year to finalize the town’s yearly finances.

“The town is well within our budget right now,” he said.

He said that improvements to the parking lot in back of the Municipal Center are one of the items that make the town finances appear to be overbudget.

“The parking lot was paid from savings. We have money that has already been counted as revenue. We are in sound financial shape.”

Crout said that the $230,000 used to pay for the parking lot improvements came from the town’s capital improvement fund and that the entire council voted to approve the expenditure.

“It was a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Crout said. “We are lucky we did that before somebody got hurt.”

Crout said the lot had drainage problems and sink holes along with a broken drainage pipe that had to be replaced. A main power line that provide power for entire Municipal Center and Police Department ran underground alongside the old broken pipe, he said.

Crout said that park improvements were a major accomplishment of his administration. The project included a new wider sidewalk and rock wall. Also a new gazebo was constructed in Mineral Spring Park and new restrooms built at Brookdale Park.

All of the projects were accomplished without borrowing money or raising taxes.

The town also received a CDBG grant for a sewer line upgrade along Academy St. to which the town is providing matching funds of $52,000, he said.

“The WWTP upgrade, which we managed, was brought in well under budget,” he said.

Sidewalks in town have been redone and made handicapped accessible, a project accomplished with help from the County in getting Federal stimulus money that came available while he was in office.

West Main St. was repaved with stimulus money the town was able to get with help from Sen. Billy O’Dell. The project was going to cost the town $500,000, Crout said.

“We have provided security equipment in the parks including the veterans park, the ball fields, Mineral Spring and Brookdale. Anywhere we have kids on town property,” he said.

Crout said that the town has accomplished about one major project each year he was in office.

Other projects that are in the works include a County grant to help pay for new fencing for the park spring and Phase II of the streetscape which the town and Greater Williamston Business Association has been working on for more than 3 years. Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2013.

Crout said that the town provided some preliminary engineering for the project and that funds are available from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and matching C Fund money will pay for the project.

There have also been water lines replaced on Center St.

Crout said the town has preliminary plans for Phase II improvments in Mineral Spring Park but has not begun working on them yet.

He said the present WWTP project and the parking lot project were the last two major projects planned under his administration for awhile and the town should be able to add money into the capital improvement fund. “There will be no major projects for two years to build back the reserve fund that we took the money out of.”

“I have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “The town owes no money. All our bills are paid with the exception of the WWTP. We paid off a fire truck three years early, paid off the water tower which was cleaned and painted, early, paid off five or six police car leases early and paid off the outfall line six months early,” Crout said.

“I can leave here with my head high,” he said. “We did a good job. I improved the town financially and physically.”