Williamston mayor presents preliminary budget during work session

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By David Meade
During a budget work session Tuesday, Williamston Mayor Mack Durham presented a brief overview of his vision for growing the town and presented preliminary budget information related to requests made by each of the town’s department heads.
Mayor Durham said he wants to encourage positive growth by “leveraging resources in a maximum way” and making “efforts to add to the general fund.”
In order to do that, the mayor said growing revenue aspects through residential growth in moderate to upscale housing, and recruiting light industry which provides local jobs, will lead to an increase in disposable income.
Balanced with the public services public wants to see, the combination will grow a market for retail type businesses,” he said.
Durham described the budget as conservative.
He said he wants to address some disparity among department heads and move to being a performance based organization, with databased measurements.
According to the mayor, revenues are up, primarily from a tax increase described as “small” and an increase in the garbage fee last year.
Mayor Durham said he wants to increase entertainment opportunities offered in the newly remodeled auditorium with events like the recent James Gregory show.
Durham said similar events will draw people who will help grow hospitality funds and spending demographics, because they are bringing money to spend when they come.
Durham explained the town’s policy on codes enforcement, which he said is looking at codes violations and educating the public to get into compliance. He said the program has been “one of the most positive things we’ve done this year.”
He said being proactive in getting violations corrected before having to send a police officer out works better for the police department and the community.
He said the goal is to educate citizens on what it means to live in Williamston and that the town expects people to go by the ordinances, as opposed to having heavy handed enforcement by the police department.
“When we engage the community, it creates better relationships with residents,” the mayor said. “They feel better if they feel more connected.”
Mayor Durham said he wants the town, as an employer, to become more performance based with job classifications for each employee and salary increased based on performance.
Since 2014 the town has invested in all five department areas.
In Administration, the town purchased a new server $4,000 and truck $8,000 for a total of $12,000.
In the Street Department, a new garbage truck was purchased $139,800; new tipper cans $122,414; new tractor $48,450; a new flat bed truck $79,800 for a total of $390,465.
The Police Department has funded new vehicles yearly at $273,354 and officers received pay raises amounting to $390,465.
The Parks Department has a new mower at $25,725 and some small equipment for a total of $27,430.
The Fire Department was able to get two firetrucks, including an aerial ladder truck at $225,000 and $127,985 for a total of $352,985.
Water Department has new Electronic Meters at a cost of $1.5 million and the Sewer Department had a tractor at $19354 yearly and a Mini Excavator at $12,207 years for a total of $31,562 yearly.
In details of the actual budget, a request by Fire Chief Steve Ellison to provide funding for a part-time fireman during the day was not funded.
The department is all volunteer and according to Chief Ellison, most area fire departments have at least one or more paid staff.
Mayor Durham said the town does not have the revenue to fund the request this year, but will consider for next year.
The fire department will get funding for some equipment upgrades of aging air packs, a laptop and an ISO inspection this year.
The water department will install the last 45 electronic meters this year.
Councilman Rockey Burgess asked the mayor to consider adding a handicap swing for the park to the budget. Cost is expected to be about $1200.
Additional details of the budget will be reported when it is presented for first reading.