RED SPRINGS — Commissioners here learned on Tuesday that three sites have been identified for the future development of industrial sites or business parks in the city.
Red Springs City Manager David Ashburn told commissioners that the city, which provides its own electricity through ElectriCities, was looking for areas with the power company that could one day be developed by businesses and industries. Three areas were identified in a preliminary report by ElectriCities as the top three areas, Ashburn said.
One area is near Serioplast on NC 71, another on NC 71 past the solar farm and the last on NC 710 towards Pembroke, he said.
“It’s all economic development,” Ashburn told the Robesonian on Wednesday.
Ashburn also said a new restaurant, which serves Japanese cuisine, will open next week. The restaurant is located opposite the former KFC restaurant.
He also reminded the curators that an art gallery will soon be located inside the former Goody’s store.
Ashburn said “economic efforts within our community” are progressing.
Commissioners were also told the city will see a 0.5% decrease in electricity costs from ElectricCities due to the company’s formula change related to how it bills customers. Several other cities and regions saw increases, Ashburn said.
Special separation COLA increases
In other areas, commissioners voted to award cost-of-living adjustments to two police department retirees, including former Red Springs Police Chief Ronnie Patterson. Both retirees receive severance pay, which is unaffected by COLA increases, Ashburn said.
“Since Ronnie retired there have been two 3% increases in the cost of living [for town employees]Ashburn told the Robesonian on Wednesday.
The money equates to about $1,300 a year, he said.
The funds will be paid through the police department’s budget, which has enough money to absorb the costs. This will be provided for in the next budget, Ashburn said.
Patterson, who is acting mayor, recused himself from the 4-1 vote in favor of including the increases in future payments for retirees. Commissioner Duron Burney voted against.
Burney told the Robesonian he voted against the motion “because it was unbudgeted.”
Burney said the request could have waited until the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year was created.
“We’re going to do what’s right, but I want it to be clear and clean,” Commissioner Caroline Sumpter said.
Sumpter raised concerns about budget accountability and the police department’s fundraising. She told commissioners that she held department heads accountable for spending and sticking to their budgets and that she wanted the city to be consistent as well.
The excess of a property on East Sixth Avenue was also approved on Tuesday.
The city has been approached by someone interested in purchasing the land, and they will advertise the plot on govdeals.com.
Some city leaders have spoken of the need to upgrade the city’s aging electrical system.
Mayor Pro Tem Patterson said the upgrade was necessary for “cost savings” to residents.
“I know there are issues with our electrical system,” Mayor Edward Henderson said.
However, Henderson said those issues would cost the city dearly to fix.
He said there was work to be done to improve the system and services, including reviewing the size of the city’s electrical service.
“It’s time for some of that work to be done,” he said.
The process involves asking questions such as “Do we have enough people in our electrical department to do the job that needs to be done?” said the mayor.
Ashburn said the electrical system upgrade would cost $7 million. He had previously told the commissioners that a request for federal funding in the amount of $30 million had been made. If approved, the funding would help the city upgrade its electrical system, water and sewer systems and downtown streetscape.
Seizures and tax collections
Also during the meeting, commissioners heard from Robeson County Commissioner Faline Dial, who provided an update on property tax collection and other issues. Dial and Commissioner Judy Sampson represent districts that include the city.
Dial told commissioners there were 23 parcels eligible for foreclosures. She asked the stewards to help her locate some of the owners.
“We are actively working on foreclosures throughout the county,” she said.
The county collects taxes for towns like Red Springs.
The tax collection rate in 2016 for Red Springs was 91.89% and 95.6% in 2020, she said.
Dial said the 2021 collections so far are at 82.86%. However, collections will continue until July.
“We hope we can get to 96 [%],” she said.
Dial also told commissioners they had looked at two companies that were willing to collect taxes for Red Springs independently of the county.
However, the percentage companies wanted for collections was too high, she said.
“We just didn’t find it beneficial at this point,” Dial said.
Dial was informed that the tax revenue percentages due to the city for the months of December and January had not been received by the city. She told the commissioners that she would look into the matter.
The Robeson County Commissioner also told council that the Clean and Green Initiative’s county-wide cleanup day called “Operation Spring Cleaning” will take place on March 19.
She encourages municipalities and local organizations to get involved and focus on garbage collection efforts from March 19 until the end of April.
Dial invited the commissioners to a meeting with the state director of rural development in North Carolina on February 21.
“This is an opportunity for all of the municipalities in the county to come together to speak to our state director about the opportunities for our cities,” she said.
Also during the meeting, Patterson asked City Attorney Tim Smith to seek solutions regarding chicken manure used by farmers to fertilize crops. He also asked the police chief to enforce ordinances on vehicles with loud mufflers, which criss-cross the city.
The commissioners walked out of a closed session to discuss personnel with the city attorney, but took no action.
Prior to the adjournment, Mayor Henderson said the city manager would schedule a shop meeting at a later date with the rescue team.
Contact Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or by email at [email protected]