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

No tax, fee hikes included in 2012-13 budget

by Kara Lopp

Mint Hill will get four new employees, three new police vehicles and $590,000 in new sidewalks and repairs next fiscal year.

Commissioners approved Town Manager Brian Welch’s recommended $10,929,121 budget Thursday, June 14 with few changes. The budget also includes a switch to bi-weekly recycling with roll-out containers, $470,000 in street resurfacing and a 2.5 percent raise for town employees based on performance evaluations. The proposed budget includes requesting bank loans for $875,000 to pay for the new police cars, sidewalk work and a street sweeper for the public works department. Residents will not see increases in taxes or other town fees.

No one spoke at a public hearing held before the vote.

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 the approved budget, he’ll get three patrol cars and the technician, a salary and benefits 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 didn’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 previously.

The new vehicles will be Dodge Chargers, which cost about $39,000 per car including police equipment. At a recent budget workshop, Mayor Ted Biggers questioned using a loan to pay for the new vehicles. He said this week he’s still not sure “why the manager fashioned the financing in that manner” and will talk with Welch about it.

“We don’t like to go into debt for anything. We like to pay cash for things when we can,” Biggers said. “I don’t know if this is a short-term loan that maybe is to our advantage in some way. I’m sure he’s got a good reason he did that.”

The town budgeted $60,000 for police vehicle repairs last year and as of early June had only spent $34,352.60, according to town records. And of the $3,500 budgeted for vehicle supplies, only $957.36 had been spent.

The three additional full-time firefighters have already been hired and will mean a budget increase of about $150,000 this next fiscal year. That’s on top of an additional $55,000 the department will spend 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. The department’s part-time administrative assistant position will increase to full-time.

In the public works department, Director Dwayne Dorton will receive his 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 North Carolina Korean War Veterans Memorial – the department currently borrows one from the fire department. The department won’t get a requested $6,000 for a stump grinder or about $107,000 for a dump truck. 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, commissioners approved 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 budget also includes a donation of $25,000 for improvements to fields and gymnasiums at Independence High School and Northeast Middle School in exchange for use of the facilities, mostly by the Mint Hill Athletic Association, when they’re not needed for school activities. Independence’s tennis courts also will now be open to the public when students aren’t using them. 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,” also are included.

Tourism money comes from prepared food and beverage taxes.

Want to know more?
Copies of the approved budget are available at town hall, 7151 Matthews-Mint Hill Road.

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