The Bryson City Board of Aldermen held a special meeting and a budget workshop on Monday, May 18 at the Swain County Administration Building. New development, grants and increased water/sewer rates were discussed. The budget for the next fiscal year was also presented.
Chris Green addressed the board about putting in an 8-inch water line to a housing development he is starting in the Jackson line community. Mr. Green had been previously approved for a 1-inch line in September, but with the possibility of future growth in the housing development, he desires a higher volume line. In the Sept. 9, 2019 meeting minutes, it is stated that Mr. Green would have to pay for the water and sewer lines ran under the road. Mr. Green wants to save money by going ahead with an 8-inch line now to accommodate future development needs, he said before the board.
Mayor pro tem Ben King expressed his concern to Mr. Green that it may place strain on the entire water system and that the housing development is outside of the city limits of Bryson City. The town does not have to provide water outside of town limits. King and Town Mayor Tom Sutton advised Green to consult his engineers and follow their recommendations on the appropriate size of the line. Sutton added he would like to talk with an engineer from McGill about this project.
Green explained he would have to shelve the entire project if he couldn't get the line in and would at least like to have a two-inch line for now. King made the motion to allow Green a two-inch line, and the vote passed unanimously.
Paula Bishop is interested in developing the old Powell Lumber property but told town board she wants to ascertain whether the property is contaminated. She addressed the board about applying for a grant through the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Program, which assesses contaminated properties, and provides up to $200,000.
Ms. Bishop wants to help the community by developing the old Powell Lumber in several ways, she said, including housing for people 55 and older, storage units, a greenway and a farmer’s market. She said she wanted further to discuss her plans for development more next meeting. Bishop also explained how her development could benefit Bryson City and Swain County as space is limited downtown, as the site is around 16 acres and would allow room for new businesses to open. There was no action taken toward applying for the grant at the meeting, but Ms. Bishop plans on addressing the board further on this matter in a future meeting.
Water and sewer rates going up
Town Manager Regina Mathis presented the final draft of the 2020-2021 fiscal budget to the board. There are some notable changes in rates coming this year as water/sewer rates are going to be increased by 3%. Town employees will be receiving a 3% cost of living raise, and the starting pay for new employees is being raised from $10 an hour to $11 an hour.
Ms. Mathis said the town had been advised to raise the water/sewer rates by the North Carolina Rural Water Association. The tax rate will remain the same for this year. Retirement rates are going up for July 1, the price for non-law enforcement officer/local firefighter is 10.15% but will increase to 11.35% in 2021. The base rate for law enforcement officers will increase from a 10.90% rate on July 1, 2020, to 12.10% in July 2021. The town’s dental insurance went up from $30 per month to $31 per month. Employee health insurance is also costing $2.64 more this year, and employees will now pay $20 toward the coverage instead of $15.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 15 prior to the board planning to adopt. The next regular meeting of the board is June 1.