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Hope Mills board discusses individual budget priorities


Hope Mills commissioners held a special meeting Monday night before their regularly scheduled board meeting to discuss budget priorities. Each commissioner outlined their priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

All members of the board highlighted the town’s pay study as a priority. The town-wide pay study, which was approved in October, will examine competitive salaries for each department in Hope Mills. Results from the study are expected to be delivered in March or April. The board will then decide on which departments get pay raises.

Commissioner Jerry Legge

  • Jack White Bike Path: The Jack White Bike Path project has been underway since 2021. The town is replacing the entire path from the Lake Park entrance through the corner of Lakeview Road. Bruce Clark, the deputy director for Public Works, said construction should start around March 8. The N.C. Dept. of Transportation will manage the construction.
  • Greenway project: Legge said he also wants to make sure the town is putting money towards the Greenway Walking Trail and the construction of the ballfields on the old golf course.

Commissioner Elyse Craver

  • Senior Citizens Center: Craver said she would like the town to focus on the proposed Hope Mills Senior Center and Gymnasium. This building, which was proposed by the Parks and Recreation Department, would serve as a center for senior citizens and also address the growing need for spaces for those with specialized needs. This project would be a 15,000-square-foot building with three multi-purpose classrooms, a gymnasium, pickleball courts, two offices for senior programming staff, and a new maintenance shed. This project would be located at the Golfview Greenway property off Golfview Road. 
  • Neighborhood meetings: Craver said she would like the town to invest in community town halls in local neighborhoods so people wouldn’t have to come to the Hope Mills Town Hall to talk to their representatives.
  • Greenway sponsors: Craver would like for the town to start asking businesses and community partners if they would like to sponsor sections of the Golfview Greenway as a way to generate revenue for the project.
  • Certified Local Government Program: Craver would like Hope Mills to become a Certified Local Government Program. To be part of this program, Hope Mills must have “an active and legally adequate historic preservation commission” and must adhere to the federal certification requirements, according to the state’s Historic Preservation Office. The 1980 amendments to the Historic Preservation Act mandate that a local government has to carry out state or local legislation that designates and protects historic properties. A local government must also create a historic preservation review commission. Being part of this federal program would open the town to more grants.
  • Volunteer recognition dinner: Lastly, Craver said she wants to see the return of a Christmas dinner and party for the town and specifically use it to recognize volunteers.

Commissioner Bryan Marley

  • Finishing projects: Marley said his biggest focus is to finish the projects the town already committed to work on.

Commissioner Joanne Scarola

  • Save money: Scarola said she doesn’t have any wants for the budget other than to save money and start planning on how the town will start paying back on the John W. Hodges Public Safety Center. The center cost $17 million and was funded with money through the USDA Department of Rural Development. It opened last year. Scarola also said that outside of finishing ongoing projects, the only new projects the town should focus on are infrastructure needs and roads.

Mayor Pro Tem Kenjuana McCray

  • Regional transportation: McCray would like to see the start of a partnership with local municipalities and the county to establish a bus transportation system. McCray said the town has already identified the RAISE discretionary grants, which may help support this program.
  • Public art installation: As a member of the town’s new Cultural Arts Committee, McCray said she wants to see installations of art around the town of Hope Mills.
  • Finishing projects: McCray would like to see phase two of Heritage Park and the Inclusive Playground finished in the next fiscal year. Phase two for both of those projects started in late January.
  • Town Hall expansion: McCray said she would like to see an expansion of the Town Hall building so more people can have offices. ​​Legge agreed with her.

Mayor Jessie Bellflowers

  • Town employees: Bellflowers said he would like to see more training and professional development opportunities for all town employees. He would also like to hire an additional zoning code enforcement officer for businesses and unfreeze three firefighter positions. The firefighter positions were under a hiring freeze from the 2021-2022 fiscal budget, however, Fire Chief Steve Lopez said that the department is experiencing an “all-hands-on-deck” situation, so filling those positions will help. Bellflowers is also looking at a program from the local universities and colleges to hire interns and part-time employees for open town hall receptionist positions.
  • Create comprehensive strategic plan: Bellflowers said he would like the town to create a long-term comprehensive strategic plan that addresses each department.
  • Tennis courts to be moved: The Parks and Recreation Department requested $55,000 to repair the town’s tennis courts and make them ADA-compliant. Bellflowers proposed they should move the tennis courts to the former golf course and install a large picnic shelter there as well. The space the tennis courts currently occupy could instead be a public works building, Bellflowers said.

The mayor and town officials will be meeting with Cumberland County officials on Tuesday, Feb. 6, to discuss town and county priorities. On Feb. 19, the board will meet with state lawmakers representing Cumberland County to discuss if there are state funds that legislators can target for county projects. Chairheads of town committees will present their priorities to the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on March 4. The budget retreat for commissioners will be on March 7.

Contact Hannah Lee at hannahleenews@gmail.com.

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Hope Mills, Priorities, Meeting, Projects, Focus, Budget, Board of Commissioners, Goals, Fiscal