New employees, $590K in sidewalks coming to Mint Hill?

Town manager unveils proposed budget

by Kara Lopp

Mint Hill could see the addition of four new employees, three new police vehicles and $590,000 in new sidewalks and repairs next fiscal year if town commissioners approve the town manager’s recommended budget.

Town Manager Brian Welch unveiled his recommendations to the board Wednesday, May 23. His $11,918,321 proposed budget also includes a switch to bi-weekly recycling with roll-out containers and a 2.5 percent raise for town employees based on performance evaluations. The proposed budget – a $1,298,650 increase from last year – includes requesting a bank loan for $875,000 to pay for the new police cars, sidewalk work and a street sweeper for the public works department. The proposal is on display for public review at town hall, 7151 Matthews-Mint Hill Road. A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. June 14 at town hall and commissioners could vote on the proposal that night.

This year Mint Hill Police Chief Tim Ledford asked for seven new patrol cars, an evidence technician and a vehicle for that new position. According to Welch’s proposal, he’ll get three patrol cars and the technician, a salary increase of about $50,000. The technician is needed, Ledford said previously, because the department needs a civilian employee to handle the collection, inventory and access of evidence in crimes. He cited a recent trend of defense attorneys arguing that sworn officers handling the storage of evidence could allow those officers easy access to planting or distorting evidence. Welch doesn’t recommend buying a vehicle for the technician “because we’ll make other arrangements. We may give them the town hall (Ford) Expedition or find some remaining funds in this year’s budget,” he said.

The new vehicles would be Dodge Chargers, which cost about $39,000 per car including police equipment. Mayor Ted Biggers said he doesn’t want the cost of the cars to be included in a bank loan.

“I don’t think we need to go into debt to buy new police cars,” he said. “We’ve got a line item for repairs that was hardly touched.” The town budgeted $60,000 for police vehicle repairs last year and to date has only spent $34,352.60, according to town records. And of the $3,500 budgeted for vehicle supplies, only $957.36 has been spent.

The fire department would receive three additional full-time firefighters, a budget increase of about $150,000, according to Welch’s proposal. That’s on top of an additional $55,000 the department needs for its first payment on the town’s ladder truck. The payment, the first of five, is $150,820, but the increase to the budget isn’t as much because the town no longer has to make payments on its fire engine, which was around $95,000. Welch also recommends increasing the department’s part-time administrative assistant position to full-time.

In the public works department, Welch recommends granting Director Dwayne Dorton’s request for $255,000 for a new sweeper truck to keep town streets clean. The current sweeper truck is in disrepair.

The department also will receive $6,000 for a water pump for watering around town and at the new Korean War Veterans Memorial – the department currently borrows one from the fire department. Dorton also requested $6,000 for a stump grinder and about $107,000 for a dump truck. Both requests aren’t included in Welch’s proposed budget. The town now hires a company to do stump grinding, Dorton said.

Lee Bailey, with the town’s planning department, will get the $10,000 salary increase he requested to promote one of his current two planners into a senior planning position.

For the 11 nonprofits requesting tourism cash from the town this year, Welch recommends giving:
• Mint Hill Athletic Association, $60,000
• Mint Hill Historical Society, $60,000
• Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department, $190,000
• Levine Senior Center, $5,000
• Mint Hill Scottish Society, $13,700
• Mint Hill Chamber of Commerce, $16,000
• Generation Nation/Kids Voting Mecklenburg, $2,500
• Korean War Veterans Association, $10,000
• Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4059, $2,000
• Mint Hill Arts, $5,000
• Mint Hill Lions Club, $1,500

The proposed budget also includes a $10,000 donation from the tourism fund to the Arts and Science Council and $12,000 for town cultural events, such as “Movies on the Lawn” and “June Tunes.” Tourism money comes from prepared food and beverage taxes.

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