Board approves funding for rescue squad

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

After taking time to consider a presentation requesting funding from the town, the Elkin commissioners approved a special allocation to the Elkin Rescue Squad for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Two main topics were left undecided following the Elkin Board of Commissioners initial budget work session on May 1, as the elected officials waited on more information from the Elkin Rescue Squad on its financial status and the Main Street Advisory Board on a proposed tax rate increase for properties within the Municipal Service District downtown.

Both of those groups made presentations during the town’s regular monthly meeting on May 14, but the commissioners chose to weigh their options and discuss the topics further at a second budget work session, which was held Friday afternoon.

During the May 14 board meeting, Jeff Whitaker, chief of the ERS, and Mike Bovender, assistant chief, provided more detail about the type of purchases the squad would be facing in the coming fiscal year, including the need to replace six sets of personal protective gear used by members on calls. Six full sets of gear will cost $8,162.77, according to the request from the squad.

The commissioners decided Friday to provide a special allocation of $8,200 to the rescue squad to cover the cost of the PPE gear. The decision was made with a 4-0 vote, since Commissioner Skip Whitman was excused from the meeting due to sustaining an injury.

After hearing the request of the Main Street Advisory Board during the May 14 board meeting, the commissioners asked town staff to poll property owners in the Municipal Service District (MSD) to get a feel for whether they supported the recommended five-cent tax rate increase for the downtown area.

Laura Gaylord, Main Street and community manager for the town, on behalf of the advisory board, noted that the MSD tax had not been increased from 10 cents since it was implemented 20 years ago. She said the MSAB had a number of larger projects it was planning for in the nearing future now that most of the smaller projects had been funded.

The two has 120 parcels in the MSD, and Gaylord reported Friday six property owners who own 16 parcels said they would not favor the tax increase, while 14 property owners who own 21 parcels do support the increase. The property owners of the other 83 parcels did not respond to the survey.

Property owners had just short of two weeks to respond to Gaylord’s request for an answer, explained Town Manager Brent Cornelison. “I think some didn’t respond because they didn’t want their name attached to a yes or no.”

Rather than approving the tax-rate increase, the commissioners decided to hold off and wait on a final approved master plan for the town, which will include streetscape projects and other downtown ideas for implementation.

Commissioner Jeff Eidson, who chairs the Explore Elkin initiative, added that a meeting about downtown is planned for January 2019 to engage businesses and residents in the NC Trail Days festival, and he suggested the projects for the downtown area and gauging property owners’ interest could be included in that meeting.

Also, following a closed session Friday, the commissioners voted 4-0 to hire John Holcomb, who recently retired from the town as town manager and finance director, on a contract basis as finance director effective July 1.

The board will hold a public hearing on the town’s proposed budget, which includes a $1 increase in the minimum water bill and a $1 increase in the volumetric water rate, at its June 11 meeting at 6 p.m. at Elkin Town Hall.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

No tax increase for downtown properties

By Wendy Byerly Wood