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Spring Lake board reviews finance-related goals


SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen on Monday reviewed goals that will help the town eventually resume control of its finances and other issues outlined in its fiscal accountability agreement with the Local Government Commission.

It also heard an update on the search for a police chief.

The fiscal accountability agreement is a strategy developed by the Local Government Commission that lists the governing board’s responsibilities, the commission staff responsibilities and the goals that need to be met to improve the town’s financial status and internal controls.

The town entered into the agreement in April 2021, promising to take steps to get its finances in order. The Local Government Commission has since taken over financial control of the town amid concerns of budget deficits, fiscal disarray and an investigation into missing money.

David Erwin, accounting and financial management advisor for the N.C. Department of State Treasurer and the town finance director, led the presentation, which went over the need for finance staff, an action plan to restore the fund balance in the general fund and getting financial records up to date.

Erwin said the contracted finance staff had been spending considerable time getting ready for the 2021-22 audit report, including verifying outstanding checks.

Mayor Kia Anthony asked if the fiscal accountability agreement could be updated since it was written before the commission took over the town’s finances. 

Susan McCullen, director of the Fiscal Management Section of the Local Government Commission, said the agreement would be reworked for an exit strategy for the town.

“We want to update it, turning it into an exit strategy,’’ McCullen said. “That doesn’t mean we will put a timeframe on an LGC exit strategy, but it would mean we would agree on the things we want to accomplish before the LGC exits and turns the town back over.”

McCullen said that when the goals are updated, that will give the commission and the town a roadmap for how to get back.

Alderwoman Adrian Thompson asked about an estimated timeframe for the exit strategy. McCullen said it would be up to the board and how much progress can be made. She said the commission staff would be working on a draft for the board to be brought back possibly in September.

Update on staff searches

The town is seeking a permanent town manager, a police chief and a town clerk.

Interim Town Manager Joe Durham said the police chief search completed a first round of interviews and that a second round would be scheduled for the first week in August. He said another participant was added last Friday.

Durham said he was hoping to name a police chief in August.

When asked by Alderman Raul Palacios, Durham said he had begun calling potential applicants for the permanent town manager position.

“I’ve had discussions with the LGC regarding the position, but as far as a full advertisement that will occur this week or next and I’ll be presenting a schedule to you regarding that process,” he said. 

He said the board would be brought in for that recruitment and selection process.

Palacios also asked about the open town clerk position. Melissa Pereira left the position last week.

Durham said the position advertisement was posted last week, and he had received one application.

First Friday on Main concerns

Anthony and the Local Government Commission also discussed an event called First Friday on Main that she announced at a previous board meeting. The event would be a monthly event on Main Street with vendors, food trucks and a street closure from 6-9 p.m. The event has been advertised on social media as being hosted by the town and Circa 1865 Inc., which is Anthony’s nonprofit organization.

The Local Government Commission voiced concerns about the timing of the event, insurance, following set town policies and getting a special event permit from N.C. Department of Transportation for the road closure.

“It sounds like a wonderful idea, but we are concerned about the timing for the first one to get a permit to close the road,’’ McCullen said. “We are also concerned that it gets done in the right way and that the risk is appropriately handled. There is a real risk if you don’t have the insurance in place.” 

Anthony said everything was in place except for the Transportation Department special event permit for the road closure, which prompted commission staff to go into further detail with their concerns.

Tiffany Anderson, the deputy finance director, said that the special permit policy was on the town website and that she had spoken to the traffic engineer at the Transportation Department, who said it could take up to 60 days to receive a permit.

According to the state Transportation Department website, Main Street is a state-maintained road and closing it for a special event requires a formal request to the appropriate division engineer at least 60 days prior to the scheduled beginning of the event.

Tony Burgess, owner of Burgess Boxing at 208 N. Main St., said after the meeting that he had not heard about the event or of a possible road closure for Main Street.

Other property and business owners on Main Street still open on Monday night reported the same.

Durham said after the meeting that he was not sure if the event would take place on Aug. 5 as previously advertised.

The commission staff said they would be back in August to present the June financial report and give further updates.

Anthony also introduced Michael Porter, who was present, as the new town attorney. Porter was voted in by the board at the last board meeting.

Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView TODAY. She can be reached at jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Spring Lake, Board of Aldermen, Local Government Commission, finances, police chief search