Pilot Mountain’s June board meeting got off to a roaring start when Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department’s board chairman Chet Jessup stood up during the public comment portion of the meeting to lambaste the Mount Airy News for reporting — incorrectly, in his opinion — that the fire department had requested a tax increase.
“‘Tax increase’ get the attention of taxpayers about as fast as any words,” he told the board as he insisted neither he nor fire chief Derrick Manuel had requested an increase.
“It raised the hair on the back of my neck,” said Jessup of what he characterized the ‘controversial article in the newspaper’ that said all of the fire departments except two, Jot-Em-Down and White Plains, had requested tax increases.
“By then, all the hair on the back of my neck went up,” he said, when he read that Pilot Knob had requested a 0.1-cent increase. “The board would not let him ask for a tax increase,” he said, adamant that no request had been made.
Jessup said the budget submitted by the department was “basically the same as last year.” The April 26 Mount Airy News story he referenced read, “Pilot Knob’s request is virtually the same, as the budget provided asked for just $4,300 more, a difference of about one-tenth of a penny on every $100 of valued property.”
A subsequent story on May 13 reporting on Jessup’s complaint to the county board following the first story read as follows: “Finance Director Sarah Bowen said that once vehicle taxes are taken out of the equation (as they aren’t collected by the county), that leaves a request of $177,474 from property taxes. As the current year’s funding is $173,145, the amount requested comes to $4,329 more. In order for the commissioners to fulfill that $177,474 request, the county would have to raise the tax rate from 4.0 cents to 4.1 cents, Bowen explained to the county board.”
However, Jessup insisted to the county commissioners that no increase was requested, and on Monday night, insisted the same to the Pilot Mountain town board, even though funding at the requested amount would necessitate a tax increase.
After a public hearing for the fiscal year 2018-2019 town budget to which no one showed up to speak, the board approved the budget as it was discussed at a budget workshop in May. The budget includes no tax increase. Fee increases include a $1 increase in minimums for both water and sewer, bringing the combined minimum to $30 from $28. Town Manager Michael Boaz said this was not an increase in the rates, merely the minimum charge.
The trash fee was raised from $10.17 to $10.43, an increase of 2.5 percent, which reflects the increase being charged the town by Waste Management Inc.
The board unanimously passed the 2018-19 budget, and the necessary changes to the fee schedule to make the budget work, and also changes to the current budget to cover the final 21 days of the fiscal year.
Alex Shelton of American Tank Maintenance made a presentation to the board regarding a maintenance contract for the town’s two water towers that are in use.
After the presentation, Commissioner Gary Bell was ready to sign the contract and made a motion to do so, after asking town attorney Ed Woltz about the contract. Woltz said it was a short, straightforward contract.
Commissioner Evan Cockerham wanted to get more numbers from other companies before making a decision.
When brought to a vote, Bell and Commissioner Linda Needham voted “yea” to enter into the contract. Cockerham and Commissioner Kim Quinn voted “nay.” Mayor Dwight Atkins broke the tie with a “nay” vote after confirming that waiting a month would cause no undue problems.
Shelton assured the board the problem was not that urgent. The board requested Town Manager Boaz to get some more numbers.
Pilot Mountain’s ABC board chair Billy Pell reported May 2018 sales at $89,110, up 11 percent from 2017 sales of $80, 215.
The town board voted unanimously to a move by the ABC board to increase of $50 per month in the per diem paid to the three ABC board members, bringing the totals to $200 per month for the chair and $150 for the two other members. An amount over $150 requires the governing authority of the board to approve the increase. The town board, as governing authority, did so.
“I think you guys are a bargain,” said Commissioner Evan Cockerham.
“Thank you for the vote of confidence,” replied Pell, who once served as town manager.
Town Manager Boaz requested that the board read his written report in lieu of giving them an oral report as the outside counsel from Bell, Davis and Pitt which the board voted to retain during a closed session in May was waiting, and the meter was running. The board went into closed session to meet with town attorney Ed Woltz and the Bell, Davis and Pitt attorney, then came out of closed session and adjourned.
Boaz said after the meeting, “they met with the lawyers. Eventually, the attorneys will make recommendations to the board. The attorneys are still in the research phase. Eventually, something will come out.”
He declined to say any more.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.