WALLACE — At the July town hall meeting in Wallace, Tasha and Felix Arthur Herring shared plans to bring back the Back Street Festival on Aug. 13 at 208 SE Railroad St.
“There’s a lot of history on Back Street…so many entrepreneurs come from Back Street and want to come and be a part of celebrating that heritage,” Felix Herring said. “We’ve got entertainment from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. We will also have workshops for adoption, foster care, domestic violence, and teenage suicide.”
The town board then continued with adopting past minutes and the night’s agenda. Finance Director Rob Taylor reported that property taxes are currently at a rate of 93.24%. “It’s an increase of about 3% so far this year,” Taylor said.
Planning Director Rod Fritz presented rezoning requests for public hearing. First was a rezoning proposal for an area of Tin City on NC Highway 41. Julian and Dayana Gevargis, new owners of the 40-acre track of land in question, want to rezone 1.6 acres to a highway business in order to open a farm-to-market restaurant.
“It’s a small restaurant with a parking lot and little places to eat outside. Julian is going to garden, and Ms. Dayana is going to cook,” Fritz explained from sketches.
Next was a rezoning consideration for the Goshen Medical area–next to the Gevargis property–to be properly rezoned into highway business. The building was built in 2010-2011 before the zoning map was drawn, so it was missed on the proper zoning, and the town board was asked to consider if rezoning met the town’s plan.
“The town’s land use plan encourages commercial growth…by rezoning to commercial business, you are encouraging commercial growth in that area,” Town Attorney Anna H. Herring said. The public hearing closed and the board motioned to approve both rezoning requests.
Town Manager Larry Bergman introduced Andy Honeycutt from MeterSYS–the company the town hopes to contract for a new metering system. Honeycutt explained that his Raleigh-based company works independently with all manufacturers.
“I used to be a town manager in Burgaw and Wrightsville Beach. We created this company for you to have an advocate to make good, solid, long-term decisions,” Honeycutt said.
Honeycutt explained the nearly year-long process of adopting the new system as well as the depth of analytics the new software will give to be proactively engaging the public. One of the benefits of the new system will be automatic billing generation from automatic reads from the new meters in the field.
“It’s a fairly long project, but it’s a significant project touching every meter in town, building a network, and building software interfaces. There’s a lot of moving parts, but what this solution will do, and it is our commitment, that it gives you 15 years of reliable service,” Honeycutt said.
Mayor Jason Wells reminded the board about the reason for the meters. “We’ve got some meters that we know are not accurate, and we are missing revenue streams… this system is going to pay for itself.”
The all-in price of $1.25 million will most likely be funded through a five-year financing plan using some of the water/sewer funds as well as ARPA funds.
The board voted to approve the project pending a contract in writing. Work could begin as soon as August with full deployment in February 2023 and final closeout in May 2023.
Finance Director Rob Taylor discussed the $361K Grist Mill Historic Grant awarded to repair the Grist Mill at Boney Mill.
“Once we get it improved to where it is structurally sound and you can walk on it without holding your breath,” said Rod Fritz, Planning Director, “we will get some estimates …to get the millworks running again.” Fritz suggested a learning visit to Yates Mill in Raleigh to get insight into millworks as well. The board approved making the Grist Mill project a capital project as well as a matching $3,600 in town expenses to proceed with the project.
Another grant came through 100% funded in the amount of $1,166,490 from the North Carolina Department of Safety. This grant, according to Taylor, is to build an earthen dike around the wastewater treatment plant to prevent it from flooding. Town Manager Larry Bergman mentioned past flooding in the town that this dike will hopefully help mitigate. The board approved establishing a capital project to move forward with the grant.
Gage King presented the AWOS weather station installation bid. “This has been a three year project. We conceptualized the idea in the spring of 2020. There was a lot of federal bureaucracy we had to run through for approvals, but we cleared land last year ...We initiated bids in early May. It’s been a long process, but we still are moving relatively quickly,” King said.
“There were two bids submitted and the winning bid was for roughly $207K with DPH General Contractors of Wallace–a pre-qualified contractor through the DOT.
“I think we are going to come in way under budget, be 99% grant funded from the DOT, and 1% funded locally,” King said. Assuming the DOT funding comes through, construction can start as soon as August. The board decided to reconvene after all the contractor’s memorandums could be incorporated into the contract. Once included, the board plans to approve the bid award and contract to DPH Construction. Budget amendments were approved, however, for the AWOS budget and airport road relocation.
Town Manager Bergman and Public Services Brent Dean discussed the $125K proposal to evaluate and assess the wastewater treatment plant. As the town plans for expansion, it wants to make sure it is spending money in the right areas at the wastewater treatment plant. Mayor Wells said that “at the end of the day, sometimes you just need a different set of eyes to look at the issues.” Commissioner Brinkley argued that $125K was “too much to pay for another opinion.” The proposal was tabled until further notice.
Similarly, the engineering contract to complete Wells 15 and 16 came back estimating an increase over 50% the original estimate. Bergman presented the details of the estimate and how the existing contract from 2019 left room for adjustment through change orders.
The board discussed how to proceed as well as general concerns with the contractor in question. Commissioner Brinkley said, “This is all administration increases. I’d like to see the original contract that we signed with them.” The proposal was tabled for further discussion.
The Wallace Depot Commission submitted two potential new members: Paul Lizzo of River Landing and Honorable Henry Stephens IV. The members would serve three year terms. The board voted in favor of the appointments.
The same engineering firm contracted to complete Wells 15 and 16 was contracted to engineer for the $6 million Valley Protein Project. The board expressed concern about him changing the contract on the backside of the agreement and costing even more with the bigger project. Bergman discussed the difference of engineers, and his thoughts about having more engineers to call on than just one firm. The board voted to table contracting this further until Bergman can negotiate the contracts more fully with the engineering firm.
Wrapping up the meeting, the commissioners gave updates. A backed-up sewer and flooding in a heavy rain were reported and addressed by Dean. Bergman talked about the library schedule being proposed to move to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with staggering schedules. He discussed a letter of agreement between Teachey and Wallace that could save Teachey the cost of a multi-million dollar storage tank. Abandoned properties were then discussed as well as how to handle them–from enforcing compliance to finding investors who will come and make something of the spaces. Several businesses have expressed interest in Wallace including discount retail stores, car lots, gas stations, fast food restaurants, and residential development. Carlton brought up the need to have outside trash cans at fast food restaurants and grass cutting. She also brought forward the need to do something to honor Jordan for his services on the board.
“He’s been dead a year now, and we said we were going to do something for him before he died,” Carlton said. Carlton suggested that a park bench be put in his honor in Boney Mills. Lastly, Bergman talked about grant funding and USDA Rural Development money being pursued for a community center. The new center is expected to offer classroom space, gym rooms, program space, and potential entrepreneurial incubator space.