City adopts its budget

LUMBERTON — The Lumberton City Council on Monday night adopted its budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 with one vote against a plan that keeps the tax rate the same and lowers electrical costs while bumping some usage fees.

It also provides a 2 percent pay hike for city employees.

Councilman John Cantey said he could not vote for the $78 million budget that increases any fees on city residents still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Matthew. He likened it to “squeezing blood out of a turnip.”

“My vote is not indicative of your work, I want you to know I support you,” Cantey told City Manager Wayne Horne, who prepared the budget. “But I won’t be able to support this budget for one small thing.”

The “small thing” is a 4.6 percent increase in water and sewer rates that would go into effect July 1. A person who had paid $40 for both would now $41.84.

The spending plan is touted as a financial gain for residents because it includes a 3.5 percent reduction in electrical rates that will offset the hikes in water and sewer rates. The electricity rate change takes effect Jan. 1.

Horne has said that the electrical decrease in electricity will more than offset the increase in water and sewer rates. A person whose average electrical bill is $100 a month would now pay $96.50.

The city will maintain its tax rate of 65 cents for every $100 of property, meaning the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $650 a year in taxes.

In other business, the council:

— Approved taking $7,000 from the city’s account that was established after Hurricane Matthew and giving it to the Robeson County Disaster Recovery Committee to allow that organization to buy mold spore detection equipment. The device will be used on repaired or refurbished buildings damaged by Matthew to test for potentially dangerous spores.

— Passed an ordinance requiring residents to buy a permit to operate a golf cart. Drivers also must carry liability insurance on the vehicle.

— Awarded a contract to Gregory Poole Power Systems to provide maintenance for the generator at Lumberton’s water plant for an annual fee of $6,584.50.

— Selected the Wooten Company of Raleigh to undertake drainage improvements in the Tanglewood community. The $3 million project is being funded by a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation.

— Approved a $67,060 bid from K&S Builders to renovate the Dunn Road Fire Station, which was damaged by Matthew.

— Repealed two city ordinances regulating restaurants that serve alcohol. Recent litigation showed the laws conflict with North Carolina ABC Board ordinances. The city’s Planning Board has been tasked with creating a new ordinance focused on public safety.

— Heard Mayor Bruce Davis proclaim June 12 as 2017 Lady Pirates Varsity Softball Team Day in recognition of the Lumberton High School team winning its conference this year. The team members also received a Pride in Lumberton award.

— Listened as the city was recognized by the Red Cross for a recent blood drive during which city employees donated 30 units of blood.

John Cantey Cantey
Drops electrical rates, provides pay hike

By Mike Gellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly