Proposed Laurinburg budget: Tax rate unchanged

By: By Katelin Gandee - Staff reporter
Katelin Gandee | Laurinburg Exchange Council members Drew Williamson and Mary Jo Adams discuss the different budget items at the council workshop.

LAURINBURG — Property taxpayers in Laurinburg will not see the rate go up next year.

That is according to the proposed budget reviewed this week by the Laurinburg City Council during a budget workshop.

If approved, the city’s tax rate will remain at 40 cents per $100 of valuation.

Some major ticket items in the proposed $8.1 million budget include

— A new electric substation for $2.2 million

— About $350,000 waterline replacement on Frederick Avenue

— A street resurfacing project for $200,000

— About $152,000 for a new police cruiser and police surveillance camera

— About $114,000 to replaced equipment for the fire department

Council members said there were other items they would like to see included in the budget like a new street sweeper. The equipment they have in mind would have a third brush to help clean curbs by cutting and spraying weeds as well as pushing the trash and dirt into a shop-vac style vacuum that compacts what the machine sucks up.

The cost for the machine is $230,000. Leasing options would add another $25,000 to the cost compared to buying the sweeper in full.

The city purchased its latest sweeper about two years ago and has five to seven years still left in it as well as having an older model as a backup, according to City Manager Charles Nichols.

Nichols said he would look into the idea of selling one of the existing sweepers as well as finding out if there was a way to rent the sweeper for an amount of time rather than buying it.

There was also the suggestion of adding $50,000 to the budget to clean out the area on Leith Creek. The idea would turn the area into a green space or park.

Councilman James Garby asked about the possibility of getting a grant to help clear out the area but the city had looked into that and could not find any. However, if they create a master plan for the green space or park they could receive grants to help build up the area.

The council also had talked of purchasing the parking lot parcels in between Railroad and Atkinson streets. The city has brought on a McAdams Company, a Durham civil engineering firm, to convert the area into “a thriving” civic space.

The first step to acquiring the land will be asking the owners to donate it for some tax breaks, however, the second option is to put $90,000 in the budget to purchase the land. The $90,000 is the estimated appraisal of all the plots of land.

Robert Ellis, the treatment plants director, talked to the council about replacing pump stations. Currently, there is $155,000 in the budget for one pump station to be replaced and Ellis asked for $350,000 to do three pump stations.

According to Ellis, many of the stations were built in the mid-1990s and are starting to rust away from methane gas eating up metal parts causing severe safety issues. The pumps have met their life expectancy and the idea is to change three to five stations per year in order to spread out the cost.

The city is also planning on adding two different positions to the staff including an additional part-time worker to help clean the cemetery instead of using inmate labor as well as starting a part-time student program again.

The council also heard from Carolina Wireless Broadband co-owner Richard Byrd.

Carolina Wireless missed the application deadline for the fiber pilot project that the city recently started with Skyrunner Internet out of Asheville. Byrd said he has been in contact with Skyrunner and the company understands if the council would like to go with Carolina Wireless, which is based in Laurinburg.

Byrd explained that his company is already profitable in the area and has had many positive responses from their customers. The whole idea is to bring the community together through the wireless system and working together to expand the system, he said.

“I’m a local girl and I like keeping things local,” said Councilwoman Mary Evans.

The council agreed to have Nichols and Byrd contact Skyrunner and see the options for changing.

The council will be presented an updated budget draft at the May 22 meeting.

Katelin Gandee | Laurinburg Exchange Council members Drew Williamson and Mary Jo Adams discuss the different budget items at the council workshop. Gandee | Laurinburg Exchange Council members Drew Williamson and Mary Jo Adams discuss the different budget items at the council workshop.

By Katelin Gandee

Staff reporter

Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171

Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171