07/19/11 — City consults attorney for fight over annexation

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City consults attorney for fight over annexation

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 19, 2011 1:46 PM

With incoming City Manager Scott Stevens sitting in, the City Council made quick work of its agenda Monday night, working through its regular board meeting in about the time it takes to boil a pot of rice.

The 15-minute meeting was the first with Stevens in attendance since his hiring was announced May 24. The council went into closed session to conclude the evening, however, to discuss two matters of litigation with attorney Anthony Fox, of the Charlotte-based Parker, Poe, Adams and Bernstein law group, in attendance.

Fox also attended another closed session matter during the council's work session, which, again, was called to discuss a matter of litigation, although he was not in attendance for the full duration of that closed session. Fox concentrates his practice in advising municipalities, according to his biography online, and successfully defended the largest involuntary annexation in North Carolina history.

The council resolved to enter a contract with Fox at its July 5 meeting to discuss its options concerning the de-annexation legislation that was signed into law allowing residents in the area known as Phase 11 to petition for de-annexation.

City Engineer Marty Anderson also presented an item on the consent agenda concerning Phase 11: An easement for Progress Energy to allow electricity lines to run to the Buck Swamp and Salem Church roads.

Anderson said outside the session that the move was insignificant and wouldn't hurt the city whether the de-annexation went though or not, noting that some of the work to be done had been paid up front, meaning the city might as well allow the clearing of the land to finish up.

"When they say stop, we'll stop," he said. "Until then, we'll keep pushing forward."

Anderson did say, however, that with the de-annexation looming, the "push" wasn't "full speed ahead."

The council decided Monday evening on a gate design to be implemented at the Herman Park portion of Park Avenue, ending a discussion about closing the road that began with a March 7 City Council resolution.

The gate design agreed upon is 31 feet across, four to five feet high and will cost $6,600, which Interim Parks and Recreation director Sherry Archibald said will come from the department's existing budget. Seegars Fence Co. provided the design. Mrs. Archibald said the delaying of another park-related project will allow for the funding of the gate installation.

Mrs. Archibald also presented an option that would continue to allow for wheelchair, bicycle and pedestrian traffic through the roundabout, as a sidewalk with handicapped-accessible ramps will run on the north side of Park Avenue connecting the parking lots and allowing individuals to directly access the fountain even when the gates are closed.

But even with the gate situation decided, Park Avenue couldn't stay out of the discussion, as its resurfacing was the next topic on the agenda.

Anderson said the city's total resurfacing plan was forecast to come in about $70,000 over budget due to the streets deteriorating between when the estimates were determined and when the streets were renovated.

"We've tried to cut corners and save money," he told the council during its work session.

Anderson said his department had, so far, overseen the renovation of six of the nine streets identified to be repaired and wanted the council to determine what its priority was because he had only about $25,000 left with which to repave the remaining three sections of road: Park Avenue from Herman Street to Jackson Street, West Chestnut Street from James Street to George Street and East Chestnut from Center Street to William Street.

The Park Avenue repairs were estimated to cost $26,000, while the Chestnut Street renovations were estimated to cost $16,200 and $49,000, respectively.

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said with the reopening of the road through the park, he felt Park Avenue's repairs were the priority.

"If you're going to open it up, you've gotta do it," he said of performing the renovations.

Interim City Manager Tasha Logan, however, wanted to delay the council's decision until Anderson could provide price estimates for the final three roads waiting to be striped within that budgeted amount: Slocumb and Jefferson streets and Westbrook Road.

Anderson presented those, explaining his $25,000 overhead, which would just about cover the Park Avenue repairs.

Council instructed Anderson to proceed with the Park Avenue repairs, adding that the Walnut Street renovations, while needed, should be held off until the entire street can be done at once.

Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear presented an update on drought and river conditions to the council, noting that, while the county is in a drought, it wasn't as bad as previous years. She also announced the recent dredging of the Neuse River to allow for more water to flow and for more clearance for boats and that the Army Corps of Engineers was hoping to close the man-made canal in Mar-Mac to restore the river's flow as it bends north through Wayne County.

In other business, a budget ordinance allocating an additional $6,000 to the Old Waynesborough Commission was contained in the consent agenda. The commission had requested $30,000 from the city's budget this year as an agency donation and received $24,000.

The consent agenda and meeting minutes items passed without discussion.