SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen heard a mostly positive financial update from the Local Government Commission Monday night during a regularly scheduled work session.
David Erwin, accounting and financial management advisor for the N.C. Department of State Treasurer and the town finance director, gave the update on the town’s finances through March.
Erwin said the town was 75% through the budget year. He said overall the general fund was in line with where it should be, although the commission cautioned that the town continue to be conservative in spending.
“Typically municipalities spend more in spring and summer than they bring in,” Erwin said.
He said the police and fire departments made up half of the general fund budget and needed to be watched.
“The Police Department makes up 30% of the general fund budget, and the department is at 74% of budget,” said Erwin, adding that the Fire Department made up 20% of the general fund budget and that department was at 55% of its budget.
Alderwoman Sona Cooper asked if trash receptacles had been audited by the town recently for vacant properties. Interim Town Manager Joe Durham said that was on a list of things to do and that those costs do make a difference.
The board also discussed Powell Bill funds, which cover things like street repairs and curbs as well as water/sewer needs.
When Alderman Raul Palacios asked about the wastewater treatment plant, Erwin said the thought previously had been to tap into the Harnett County/ Fort Bragg line; however, that might be cost-prohibitive to the town.
“The cost is really high,” Erwin said.
Erwin said the town will look into leveraging grants to commission an engineering study for the wastewater treatment plant to get maps and look at infrastructure with a second part looking at possible partnership opportunities, including with the Public Works Commission.
“You need engineers to really tell you what you have on a scale of 1 to 5 and how much it will cost to join other systems,” Erwin said.
Durham said the town will continue to look for partnerships.
“We will continue to look at all those options and what is the most cost-effective for us moving forward,’’ Durham said. “A lot of these decisions will be longer-term that will be discussed with this board.”
Erwin said his next report will include April and May, and the audit will be worked on simultaneously with the budget work. He said the audit is on track to be completed by October.
Parks and Recreation merger
The town is one step closer to a partnership with Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation.
“To give you an update on the parks and rec transition to Cumberland County, there will be a public hearing on June 20 and this will be accompanied by the county and the town of Spring Lake with an interlocal agreement,” Mayor Kia Anthony said.
Durham said it came down to cost savings.
“The most significant reason is the cost savings,’’ he said. “We needed to look at what would be the most cost-effective but still be able to provide a high level of service and a wider array of activities. The cost savings will be over $100,000 a year.”
Durham said there will be an operational agreement between the county and the town that will address issues such as the transfer of employees to the city of Fayetteville and property ownership.
The announcement Monday was the first public declaration from the Board of Aldermen that the partnership between the town and Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation was not only being considered but was moving toward an agreement.
The board met in closed session on Jan. 11 for two and half hours citing N.C. general statutes for personnel, attorney-client privilege and economic development. Michael Gibson, director of Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation, joined the board in closed session. The board adjourned after coming back into open session without taking any action.
A public records request from CityView TODAY on Jan. 24, along with follow-up emails asking for any correspondence including paper and emails between the town, Cumberland County and the city of Fayetteville regarding the Spring Lake Parks and Recreation department and a possible move to join Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation went unfulfilled.
Main Street Freedom Festival
Anthony also announced Monday night that the Main Street Freedom Festival that had been planned for July 3 has been canceled.
The event, which was to be hosted by Rustic Burger, was set to include three country music artists — including Walker Montgomery, Carolyn Miller and Allie Colleen, the daughter of Garth Brooks. The event was also going to have local live performers, food trucks and fireworks, organizers had said.
Event organizers had said they expected 30,000 people to attend.
“It was clear there were just too many logistical challenges for the event this year,” Durham said after meeting with organizers Friday.
Durham said event planners Keem Jones and Jonathan Schmier had secured $4,000 of their $60,000 goal to fund the event. He suggested the event be looked at for next year with more time to raise money and plan.
Schmier did not respond to questions Monday night. In a brief response, Jones said “things were up in the air right now” when asked if the event would be considered for next year.
During town updates, Anthony said the police chief position is being advertised. The position has been vacant since Troy McDuffie retired for the second time in 2021.
Cooper also said the Cumberland County Schools sites for school lunches will be working on something new for Spring Lake children this summer. The 2022 list of summer feeding sites where school-age children under 18 may get lunch during the summer did not include a location in Spring Lake even though lunches have been available in previous years at Spring Lake Middle School, W.T. Brown Elementary School and the Spring Lake Recreation building.
The Police Department also gave a presentation on the Spring Lake Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, which took place April 23. The department is $200 short of its $7,000 fundraising goal, which it hopes to fulfill in the next 30 days.
Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView TODAY. She can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.