Annual Operating Budget
The city council’s consensus agreement to raise the Ad Valorem Property Tax Rate has been suspended until Tuesday June 25, starting at 6 pm. Councilperson Coffey lobbed a large rock into the tranquility pond of tax rate concession. Ms. Coffey, to the obvious displeasure of the Mayor, announced the need to discuss the ad valorem property tax rate. “As far as the rate I believe the citizens are not happy with the rate increase”. Councilperson Deake entered the suddenly murky pond suggesting the water bill (utility bill) be increased by $5.00 and the property tax increased lowered. Councilperson Kearney said at least twice we have a consensus on the budget, why reopen this debate. Councilperson Rainey pointed out that a water bill increase impacts everyone in the city while a property tax increase impacts only those who pay their property taxes. The race was on to either amend the budget consensus or approve the consensus as is. To the Mayor’s chagrin the council voted to table approval of the operating budget until Tuesday night. The vote was 3 ayes, 2 nays, and 1 pass. One councilperson had an excused absence.
Demolition of four houses
The Council finally agreed to demolish four abandoned, dilapidated, uninhabitable homes owned by an out of state investor. The homes were once owned and occupied by Henderson’s middle income families when Henderson was a vibrate community. The four houses are symbolic of our areas’ forty years of decline. Councilperson Deake lamented the need to spending $30,000 of taxpayers’ money to demolish the houses; instead of spending the same money to improve the recreation department’s ball fields. Adding these are only four of the possibly a 100 similarly distressed properties that taxpayers’ money will be used to demolish. If some industry does set roots in our fair community there will be more than 100 vacant lots available for the emergence of a new middle class with vision and vitality. An aside, I did find the investor’s name in the May 2012 tax lien listing. So besides the $30,000 to demolish the homes there is also $4,670.99 in unpaid property taxes.
Agreement with ECS Carolinas, LLP to Perform Construction Materials Testing Services
The actual title is much longer and more obfuscating. Basically the construction company building the water reclamation facility requires an independent third party testing of construction materials (rock and concrete) to assure the city that proper materials were used and applied according to industry standards. This topic is more interesting for what we all learned about the filter fly (psychodidae). The filter fly is also called drain flies, sewage flies, filth flies. First a side trip about filter flies; “[t]he Filter Fly is one of the simplest flies to tie. And at times it is also one of the most effective you can use to catch many kinds of [fresh water] fish, from trout to bass to bluegills.” (source: jackgartside.com) The subject of filter flies started when Councilperson Kearny asked Mr. Frazier to explain the invasion of the flies. Mr. Frazier passed the topic to Mr. Swain who spoke eloquently and entertainingly of the filter fly invasion. The filter flies live happily in sewage filter beds; the larvae feed on sludge in the filter beds. Before you get all creeped-out about these creatures remember everything in nature is a food source for something else. Mr. Swain explained when construction dismantled some of the filter beds the flies emerged in the billions. Mr. Swain has spent much time and resources trying to gain control on the flies with little success. The flies are impervious to most insecticides including the banned chemical DDT. Ms. Rosemary Lewis, one of three public citizens appearing before the council, put a face before the council representing those whose homes have been inundated by the filter flies. When the council adjourned into a closed session, Mr. Swain and Ms. Lewis had time to discuss the filter fly invasion in her neighbors’ homes. I am not certain Ms. Lewis was satisfied with Mr. Swain’s answers. She at least had the opportunity to speak directly with the city’s authority on filter flies. The council postponed the decision to sign the contract until Tuesday’s continued meeting, giving Mr. Frazier time to get ECS to jump through some extra hoops.
Other Public Comments
Ms. Debbie Perinkson started her presentation saying, “I believe Henderson is in trouble. No new businesses, high crime, high taxes. Many of the good people of Henderson are leaving.” That should get everyone’s attention. She ended her presentation saying, “I think we need to collect taxes from those with the oldest amount due instead of alphabetically.” That is something the City has formally requested the County implement.
Allan Simons said he was a lifelong resident of Henderson. His presentation concerned the state of the athletic fields managed by recreation department. He said Warren and Granville Counties have far better ball fields than Vance County. He suggested the recreation department reach out to business for help and to lower usage fees.
One Stop Permitting
Under the tutelage of Mr. Griffin in the past six months the city has created, designed, developed, and implemented a One Stop Permitting process. Ms. Erris Dunston the project’s facilitator and spokesperson introduced the Council to the newly implemented One Stop Permitting process. Her presentation started with an introduction of all team members who came from across multiple city functions to design, develop, and implement the One Stop Permitting process that will improve the whole permitting process. Following Ms. Dunston’s presentation she fielded a flurry of challenges to the process by the Council. Mr. Griffin stepped in saying any improvement is a learning and development process. “You never get it right the 1st, 2nd, or even the 3rd time.” Adding this is unified process to improve the city’s permitting process. As implementation of the process is refined and enhanced the upper limit of One Stop Permitting is across town in the hollow halls of county governance.
Council Budget Consensus Letter
The attached is a scanned copy of the Report on 25 June Council Budget Consensus that Mr. Griffin distributed and discussed at the June 27th 2013 night’s city Council meeting. The first two bullet points in the second paragraph on page 2 of 2, caused the most consternation among the council members who understood the issue and the mayor. I heard Mr. Deake, Inscoe, and Rainey all say they wished they had received the document earlier. I have read the overview and the page sub-titled Budget Adjustment 7-A. I have no vested interest in the city’s budget unlike I do for the county’s. Maybe by posting this document those interested in the city budget have a bases to argue their agreement or disagreement without personal attacks and the underlying animosity so prevalent across the city and county. Read the letter here: http://homeinhenderson.com/2013/06/28/news/city-business/city-of-henderson-budget-consensus-letter-sent-june-27th-2013/