10/19/05 — Auditor: Fremont's outlook not rosy, but not gloomy

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Auditor: Fremont's outlook not rosy, but not gloomy

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 19, 2005 1:49 PM

FREMONT -- Fremont does not have a rosy economic picture, but it is not as gloomy as it has been, an auditor told the town board at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

Phyllis Pearson, an auditor with the firm of Petway, Mills and Pearson of Zebulon, reviewed the town's annual audit during the meeting.

"Overall, it's not a dramatic improvement, but it's an improvement," she said.

In an interview later, she said Fremont was in a no-growth situation, but that the town's economic picture was "definitely an improvement from what it could have been."

Ms. Pearson said the town had paid off its debts without incurring new bills. She noted the electric and water and sewer funds had small profits. She urged the town to fine-tune the budget between now and June.

Mayor Devone Jones said the town has "stayed within the budget."

"We're not going downhill, but we haven't dug out of the hole either," Town Admin-istrator Kerry McDuffie said.

McDuffie said he expects ElectriCities to raise electric rates by 5 to 7 percent in January. He said the increase would be passed on to the customers, because the town could not afford to absorb it.

McDuffie inherited a large shortfall when he was hired in June 2004. His first budget, prepared in less than a month for three new board members and a new mayor, called for a 30 percent increase in property taxes, from 50 to 65 cents per $100 valuation, to reverse the downward trend.

In other business, McDuffie proposed a new policy for street lights at each intersection, stronger lights on primary roads and lights in the middle of blocks that are at least 600 feet long.

At least two streets would need lights in the middle of the block. McDuffie said he would recommend lights on South Vance Street between Ballance Road and Johnson Street and on Memorial Church Road between Branch Street and Friendship Drive.

McDuffie said lights also might be added temporarily at the request of the police chief and approved by the town administrator because of concerns about criminal activity. A motion to adopt the new policy was passed unanimously.

The board also:

*Appointed J.M. Sherrill of Memorial Church Road to the Board of Adjustment.

*Scheduled a fall cleanup day Nov. 14 and asked residents to have their trash at the curb by 7 a.m.