Lansing Aldermen adopted their 2012-13 budget Monday with no comment from the public, but a controversial parking ordinance adopted Tuesday had a couple residents fighting mad, and some residents are warned against tampering with water meters.
The $62,779 budget for next year includes no increases in property tax or water/sewer rates, but the 75 percent property tax collection rate has the board considering options to encourage payment including publication of names of delinquent taxpayers.
Another issue facing the town is delinquent or non-payment of water bills. Too often when residents have their water cut off for non-payment, they cut it back on themselves by tampering with the water meter or installing a pipe directly from the town line into the home, the board was informed.
Town Clerk Bernice Prestwood said some of these residents consistently take illegal measures to get water after they’ve been cut off.
Cody Anderson who installs meters for the town, and cuts them off as ordered, said, “They do everything,” including cutting off locks. Many are old style meters, he said, with on and off switches. “I get called and cussed for cutting off water.”
Prestwood said residents have been told it is felony trespassing to tamper with the town meters, and they could be taken to court, but the former mayor would not follow through with action.
When told that residents have cut locks off meters and tampered with them to cut the water back on themselves, damaging them in the process, Mayor George Rembert said, “At that point, we need to call the sheriff.”
“There has to be a way to cut them off and they stay cut off,” Rembert said. “We need to find out what we can legally do and do it.”
The board decided to seek legal advice on this issue.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, Mark Goss was sworn in by Mayor Rembert to serve as alderman to fill the seat vacated by Rembert when he was elected mayor.
Goss moved to Lansing in February and is employed at United Chemi-Con.
“If you want to see things progress, you need to play a part,” Goss said about his decision to serve on the board. “Things don’t always go your way, but the majority rules. That’s democracy.”
Discussion was also held with resident Steve Farrington concerning repairs he wants made to his property from development of a road to the town’s newest well. A turnaround Farrington uses when accessing the property for Christmas tree work is nearly impassable due to a ditch worn in the road from water drainage, he said, and he believes an agreement was made with the town to fix such problems when the road was improved in order to access the well site.
Farrington wants the town to pay for drainage of the ditch and installation of a pipe to prevent further erosion.
The town has been told by the contractor who improved the road that all agreements in the contract have been met, said Rembert, although he questioned whether the contractor had actually done this. He said he would contact the contractor to discuss the issue and report back to the board.
Aldermen Mauvine Shepherd and Brenda Reeves said the board members need to visit the site to see the problem, and Goss said he needed to see the site as he is unfamiliar with the issue.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard comments on the On-Street Parking and Parking Signage Ordinance, and then adopted it.
The ordinance is designed, said Rembert, to regulate designated public parking areas maintained by the town. Those areas designated public parking are striped for spaces and subject to snow removal by the town as well as maintenance.
Resident Dennis Trainor objected to the ordinance, saying property in front of a business such as his and other business owners in the town is private and the town has no say in who cannot park there.
“If you are paying taxes on property you should have the say, even if the property goes to the middle of the road,” said Trainor. “Parking is between them and the property owner.”
Jak Reeves, serving as town attorney for Lansing, said the town through this ordinance is preserving these parking spaces for the townspeople, and the town respectfully disagrees with Trainor’s opinion.
The ordinance, Reeves said, sets forth parameters by which the town can police the public parking areas.
Part of that policing is the prohibition of abandoned vehicles in public parking spaces as well as prohibiting anyone but the town from posting “no parking” signs or signs restricting parking or standing within the right-of-way of public streets.
“We’re trying to get abandoned vehicles [out of those spaces],” said Alderman Shepherd. “This is one of the things we’ve been trying to address. All of us working together we can solve this. We’ve had issues with Mr. Trainor’s parking. He doesn’t like being assigned four spaces in the town parking lot.”
Those issues between the town and Trainor erupted into foul words about the town being spray-painted on a trailer on his property last year, a trailer clearly visible from NC 194N through town. It was quickly removed by Trainor, but has left a lasting impression with the board on which he once served.
“I want to go on record that I think it’s unjust and unfair,” said Trainor during the public hearing on the ordinance. “Private property owners should have been notified before this.”
The board published a notice in the newspaper about the hearing and a notice was posted on the door of town hall. The ordinance has also been discussed at previous board meetings.
The ordinance also angered Fire Chief Everett Adams who appeared at town hall with Trainor just after the ordinance had been passed, saying he was unaware of it (Trainor said he called several people about the issue that evening) and that the town had no authority on the fire department property.
Rembert said the board would be glad to hear further comments about the ordinance at the next meeting during public comment, and copies for review are available at town hall.