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Spring Lake to get financial update, vote on interim manager contract


SPRING LAKE - The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen is expected to hear a financial presentation from the head of the Fiscal Management Section of the Local Government Commission at its meeting Monday.

The board is scheduled to hear from Susan McCullen, director of the Fiscal Management Commission. The financial presentation was taken off the agenda by the Board of Aldermen at the March 28 meeting because aldermen said they had not received the information in advance.

In a letter to the town dated April 7, McCullen said the town’s general fund reserves are inadequate and will need to be restored in a multi-year endeavor beginning with the current fiscal year. She said that as of June 30, 2020, the town’s general fund balance was $0, which was not a typo. The operating cash amounts have depleted from over $2 million in 2018 and are expected to possibly show a $1.8 million deficit. This was the result of spending money that the town did not have in the general fund, according to the letter.

“The Board of Aldermen will need to work with the LGC this spring to develop a fund balance policy to plan how to restore the Town’s general fund to fiscal health,” McCullen said in her letter.

McCullen said the finance staff and former interim Town Manager Samantha Wullenwaber had developed a solid budget for 2022-23; however, the Local Government Commission will not consider any new programs, additional positions or staff raises in order to focus on rebuilding the general fund reserves.

Mayor Kia Anthony did not respond to requests for comment.

McCullen also is expected to discuss the Manchester district firehouse, which was brought up in the last Local Government Commission meeting as one of its concerns, and the need for the town to apply for American Rescue Plan Act funds to fund the town’s water and sewer operations.

The board is also expected to vote on appointing administrative staff to review site plans, subdivision plans and others in compliance with Chapter 160D of the N.C. General Statutes and the Chapter 42 zoning ordinance for the town.

David Moon, deputy director of the Cumberland County planning and inspections department, said his office became aware in March that when the town changed its review process county staff had been delegated to serve as the “administrative officer.” However, the authority was not written into an interlocal agreement jointly adopted by the town and the county.

“Absent such an agreement, county staff cannot serve as the role of “administrative officer,” Moon said.

The resolution being presented Monday night will designate Lynn Hickmon, executive assistant of the Spring Lake inspections department, and Joe Durham, the interim town manager, as the administrative officers for the town. That will give them the authority to approve non-residential site plans.

Durham said Friday that every jurisdiction in the state had to amend their ordinance to comply with the state statute. One of the things that did not occur was to make sure the town named the people who were developing and enforcing the ordinance.

Rawls Howard, the Cumberland County director of planning and inspections, said the statute was created to help clean up and consolidate the various statutes in one location.

Howard said if the town decided in the future that it needed help, it could discuss working with the county planning staff. 

“It depends on what degree the governing body wants in those decisions,” Howard said.

Interim manager vote

The board also is expected to vote on hiring Durham as the interim town manager. Durham started work two weeks ago without a contract. In a letter to the town last week, the Local Government Commission expressed concern about that because of the financial implications for the budget. The town agreed in principle to hire Durham so it would not have a gap in town management services after Wullenwaber was dismissed by the board on March 17.

Durham is a former Wake County manager. His firm, Durham and Associates, has a contract with the town to help find a permanent town manager.

Durham said he wanted to step in to help the town address findings in a state audit report that was released last month and to help stabilize the town. Durham will also be giving his first report as interim manager on Monday night.

A closed session citing personnel is also on the agenda.

The board meets at 6 p.m.

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, interim manager