By David Meade
Williamston Town Council held a budget work session Tuesday to discuss recommendations made in a previous session held with department heads April 12.
Most of the discussion Tuesday was about the “one time” expenditure requests that were presented in the first work session, however Council is considering providing matching money to get some overdue street repairs made.
Mayor Mack Durham said he wants to look at a possible pay increase for street department employees, who have not seen an increase in five years. Durham said an increase would be over a period of time and based on incentives. He said he would also like to provide funding for either a paid position or some coverage for the Fire Department. The mayor said after discussions with Police Chief Tony Taylor and Fire Chief Steve Ellison, the town may be able to move approximately $50,000 out of the police department budget, where they are one person short, to the fire department budget as a recurring line item to provide some manpower coverage for the fire department. Currently the department is all volunteer. Chief Ellison has recommended the town consider at least one paid position for the fire department.
Mayor Durham said public safety is a priority for the town.
There was considerable discussion about the Envision Williamston program.
Councilman Rockey Burgess said he sees a visual impact from grants and projects the organization has undertaken but is not seeing a physical impact. Mayor Durham said that responsibility (for economic development and business recruitment) should not be placed all on one entity. “There are too many moving parts,” he said. The mayor said the town has seen new home development and that Envision Williamston “is making a tremendous effort.”
He said it is a balance between what the organization is doing and stewardship. He said that the support of the organization and grants obtained through it are a “positive step forward” for the town.
Envision Williamston requested $120,000 which includes funding for an economic development incentive program providing grants for structure improvements. Durham said Seneca has a similar program and that the request from the Envision Williamston Economic Development Committee is just a suggestion.
“It is in the very early stage,” Durham said. “It will still have to go to the ordinance committee for discussion. It is early in the process.”
Durham said the council has already approved an ordinance that addresses an economic development incentive program, but no funding is available until approved by council.
He said the ordinance gives the mayor some flexibility to talk to potential business or industry recruits about incentives, but will still have to come before council for discussion.
“That’s their idea on how to do it, and I respect their input,” the mayor said.
Durham said the Police Department is considering selling and replacing three patrol vehicles and two admin Ford Explorers. They have asked for $65,000 for vehicle replacement.
There was discussion about the request for a Bobcat for the Utilities Departments which led to discussion about several washouts that need addressing including Minor Street, Harbison and Mattison. The discussion led to possibly setting aside some funding for road repairs and paving. Councilman Chris Alexander suggested up to $200,000 be set aside. Road repair and paving requests currently go to the Anderson County Transportation Committee. Mayor Durham said setting aside money to match funding through the ACTC would show “that we are serious about road over here.”
Durham said he was excited about the prospects of what placing aside funds for paving could do. “This really opens up the town to get some closed roads back open,” Durham said after the meeting. “ I will be getting in touch with Anderson County and having a conversation with the Transportation Committee.”
First reading on the new budget is expected at the May 6 meeting of town council.