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Hope Mills board considers staggered four-year terms for members


HOPE MILLS — The Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on Monday discussed the idea of staggering the terms for commissioners and going from two-year to four-year terms.

Before the discussion, Commissioner Jerry Legge reminded the board that the idea “was on the ballot about four or five years ago and the people voted it down unanimously.”

“So I don’t know what we’re going to do here,” he said.

Mayor Jackie Warner told the board “more people came out to vote against it than when they voted for them in the election.”

Town Manager Scott Meszaros told Legge that when he was hired as manager, the board asked him to bring it back to commissioners.

“The board can vote on it themselves, but the town does have the ability to bring it back to the people if they get enough signatures to do that,” Meszaros said.

Meszaros said his staff recommends going to an even-year schedule so they are on the same calendar year as the city.

“That would actually save us because it’s a combined election, which would give us a greater turnout because it’s not an odd year,’ Meszaros said.

“Staff recommended four-year staggered terms like most of the state and stick with two-year terms for mayor,” Meszaros said.

“But it’s entirely up to you,’’ Meszaros said. “The direction was to bring it back and this was one of the goals you have set for me to do.”

The town attorney said this would not add years to the current board members' terms but would  solidify a plan going forward.

“We’re also one of the last places to do it the way we do,” Meszaros told the board.

Meszaros said one of the benefits of a commissioner with a longer term was the experience and knowledge a board member gains. There’s a learning curve the first year, and longer terms would break the two-year cycle that could possibly remove a commissioner before he or she implements plans and ideas and see them come to fruition, he said.

Commissioner Bryan Marley agreed.

“There are several million-dollar projects going on in this town,” Marley said. “When a new board member comes on board they must be brought up to speed and everything stops. Nothing gets done.”

Commissioners Joanne Scarola and Grilley Mitchell were skeptical about revisiting something the people had already voted down.

“The people spoke,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time, we can revisit it and go back and look at the history of that information that was given to us then. We need to have a laid-out plan of what it would look like — the advantages and disadvantages. If we do it that way, it would give us more teeth to bite into it and make an informed decision.” 

Kenjuana McCray, the mayor pro tem, said she thought it was ”outdated to have just two-year terms.” McCray was in favor of four-year terms.

Marley was also in favor of four-year terms, which would match other cities.

“No commissioner wants to talk about it,’’ Marley said. “It’s not being greedy, it’s trying to bring Hope Mills up and make us competitive with surrounding municipalities.”

“I would be in favor of starting the process and getting the info out to the voters,’’ he said. “II think it’s time for Hope Mills to grow. I think it’s time for Hope Mills to get on board.”

The board asked the staff to put together information on the advantages and disadvantages of four-year terms and revisit the idea.

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The board also heard an update on the Public Safety Building. Scott Garner, the building’s architect, told the board “they are on time, on budget and moving forward.” The town expects a certificate of occupancy by Nov. 1 and to move into the building during November.

The board also voted 4-1 to move forward with The One at Hope Mills apartment complex. Commissioners Marley, Scarola, McCray and Mitchell voted in favor; Legge was opposed.

The planned apartment complex will border the Pinewood Lakes subdivision. Residents of the older established neighborhood have voiced their concerns about the project to the board at the last three meetings. Many are concerned about the traffic the planned gate would bring as well as the noise and the devaluation of their properties.

Before the vote, the town attorney told the board they had no choice but to approve the plans since the building has satisfied all of the requirements.

The board also held a 15-minute closed session to discuss information under attorney-client privilege. No action was taken.

Jason Canady covers Hope Mills for CityView. He can be reached at jcanady@cityviewnc.com. 

Hope Mills, Board of Commissioners, four-year terms, The One at Hope Mills