Mebane’s city council heard two weeks ago from all the city’s top municipal officials, as they outlined a host of new employees, buildings, vehicles, programs, and other items they want included in the city’s next budget, which starts July 1.
The department heads presented a total wish list that included 23 new employees, who would cost almost $2 million if all were included.
The city currently has 138 full-time employees and 44 part-time employees.
Outgoing police chief Terry Caldwell, who formally announced his retirement at the end of his budget presentation, asked (again, he noted for the third consecutive year) for more staffing for the police department – four patrol officers and one investigator. He also renewed his call for a new headquarters.
Caldwell said he preferred to see the new station located “around the interstate corridor,” where he described that most of the calls come from.
Pressed about the possibility of having the headquarters located on part of 6 acres recently purchased by the council, on a 3-2 vote, adjacent to the city’s new community park, Caldwell said he would not want to “get out of line” by turning down being at that location, but said he felt being closer to the I-85/40 would be more effective.
Specifically, Caldwell suggested the Mebane Oaks corridor, specifying about five to six acres as needed for a new police headquarters. “We need to get some land,” suggested councilman Tim Bradley.
Meanwhile, fire chief Bob Louis led all department heads in personnel requests, with seven new positions requested – six new firefighters and one fire inspector.
He also suggested that the city should look at another (fourth) fire station. He said a new site should be near the Trollingwood-Hawfields Road area, near the Love’s truck stop.
The city’s third station, at 1469 Mebane Oaks Road, opened six years ago, in 2015; the third station cost about $2.1 million, Louis recalled. The fire chief is asking for $500,000 to buy land and begin designing the new station, which he said could push $4 million to $8 million for construction.
In response to a reporter’s question, Louis also said that the county’s potential location of an EMS station in Mebane (as proposed recently by county manager Bryan Hagood) would have no impact on the fire department’s need to respond to fire and medical calls within the city.
Louis also dwelt at some length on the poor condition of some of the city’s fire trucks, and the high maintenance costs associated with them. He said even some of the city’s most recently-purchased trucks have maintenance issues.
Most times, departments assume a 20-year life for their fire trucks. [See separate story on Graham’s budget, for instance.] However, Louis outlined problems with trucks that had been purchased in 2014 and 2017 and on which the city is even still making loan payments (on 10-year loans).
The city has no-interest loans on two 2014 trucks that each cost under a half million each, but owes 2½ and 3 years’ more payments on them. Another truck, purchased in 2017, has 6 more years on that loan.
Louis is requesting one new truck at a cost of $550,000.
Planning and inspections departments
Council members seemed eager to accommodate an expansion of an auxiliary building (originally a bank branch) owned by the city at the corner of Washington and South Fifth streets beside the municipal building that serves as the headquarters for both the inspections and planning departments.
Cliff Askew, the city’s chief building inspector, presented plans for adding 850 square feet to the building, which includes an expansion of five offices on the back side of the building; adding some parking spaces; and bringing the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He had received a low bid of $205,000.
Councilmen generally agreed with city manager Chris Rollins’ idea to start that work during the current fiscal year, rather than waiting until July 1.
At this week’s city council meeting (April 5), a budget amendment for $213,000 was included to begin the work. It was adopted as part of a package of non-controversial “consent agenda” items. The 850-foot addition is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
Sanitation, Streets, and Utilities
Several new employees and pieces of equipment were requested by those associated with functions of the public works department; Mebane has multiple departments for services typically clustered as “public works” in most municipalities.
A new garbage truck would be $320,000; an additional requested maintenance worker would cost $58,601.
Two additional utilities department workers would cost $110,897 and $55,589. An equipment shed would cost $80,000.
Miscellaneous other employees
Several miscellaneous additional employees were also requested. Among them:
· A downtown coordinator of the Main Street Program, to promote downtown revitalization, at a cost of $110,268. That high salary level prompted councilman Tim Bradley to question whether some alternative, lower-priced option might be available;
· A public information officer for the city, at a cost of $101,840;
· An accounting manager in the finance department, at a cost of $101,221;
· A parks operations and maintenance supervisor within the recreation department, at a cost of $99,613;
· A geographic information system (GIS) analyst, at a cost of $88,458;
· A human resources consultant, at $88,133;
· An office administrator at the planning department, at a cost of $57,645.
Mebane councilmen will convene for another budget-related special meeting next week, most likely to hear the city manager’s first take on which of the requests he is inclined to include in the proposed budget he will present to the council and those that he will not.