06/22/10 — Mount Olive OKs budget, looks at 'parlors'

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Mount Olive OKs budget, looks at 'parlors'

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 22, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive Town Board of Commissioners approved a $5.586 million budget for 2010-2011 Monday night following a brief public hearing.

The budget retains the current tax rate of 59 cents per $100 worth of property, and there is no salary increase for town employees.

The budget's five different fund totals are:

* $2,927,938, general fund

* $2,412,403, water and sewer

* $165,778, Powell Aid

* $97,841, airport

* $72,888, Waylin Fire District.

During the hearing, Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. said that leaking and inaccurate water meters are costing the town hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues annually.

He said a company had estimated it would cost close to $500,000 to replace all of the meters. The company is willing to finance the project at four percent interest, he said.

"What I am asking you to do is to talk to (special projects director) Maylon (Weeks) and (town manager) Charles (Brown)," McDonald said. "Then sometime during the year you may want to revisit it. If there is a way to get it fixed without hurting the town, then we need to get it fixed."

McDonald said times are tight and he does not want the town to end up in the same financial shape the state is in.

Replacing the meters could result in about a 10 percent increase, or about $200,000 in revenues, he said.

The budget includes $30,000 for meter replacement, but that is for emergencies only.

The board also approved a number of changes to town ordinances, including new fees that could bring in tens of thousands of dollars from the Internet sweepstakes operations that are springing up in the town.

Brown noted the state has an ongoing effort to address the proliferation of the Internet sweepstakes businesses that are viewed as gambling, similar to video poker.

There had been no provision in the town ordinance governing the businesses, he said. He suggested the town amend its privilege license fees to charge $2,500 per business plus $500 per machine. The board approved the change, and fees that will be effective July 1.

McDonald said he had no problem with the fee, but added that the town needs to be careful so as to not drive them underground or into houses.

Town attorney Carroll Turner said most people don't realize that there are already three of the businesses at the Bobby Denning Shopping Center and that one of them has 30 machines.

Another change will ban smoking in Westbrook Park, except in designated areas. The ruling is effective immediately. Violators could be subject to a $100 penalty.

Commissioners also voted to reduce the size of the town Planning Board from 10 to seven members. Board member said it is difficult to find people to serve, particularly from the town's one-mile extra-territorial jurisdiction area in Duplin County.

The board will continue to have five in-town members. It will reduce the number of members in its Wayne County ETJ from three to one and from two to one in the Duplin ETJ.

Other action taken by the commissioners was designed to keep people from placing yard waste, including grass cuttings and other debris, in the road that could end up in the town's storm water drainage system.

Brown said that is a problem because the debris and grass clog up the drains and keep the water from draining properly. No fines were discussed. However, according to the ordinance, it would be a $150 fine payable within three days to the town clerk's office.

It will be up to town inspector Danny Keel to police the ordinance.

The board tabled the final ordinance change, requiring new businesses to screen dumpsters from public view, after spending close to 30 minutes discussing it. Turner was asked to review the proposal and report back to the board.

A $130,000 change order was approved for the renovation project for the town's historic train depot. The town had received more than $400,000 in state grant money for the project.

Some funds were freed up when the bids came in under cost. The town asked for and has received approval from the state to use the leftover funds for more work on the project.

It will enable the town to add insulation in the attic, upgrade kitchen appliances, enhance the breezeway area and do landscaping around the building and adjoining property on the west side of the Housing Authority building.