LUMBERTON — A 2% cost of living adjustment hike for city employees and an increase in water/sewer fees for residents are in the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget approved Wednesday by Lumberton City Council.
The budget also includes a $30,338,740 General Fund, $14,203,550 Water and Sewer Fund, and a $36,218,090 Light and Power Fund.
The property tax rate remains at 65 cents per $100 of property.
The cost of living adjustment for payroll is effective on or after July 1. And as of Wednesday the recommendation was to increase the water and sewer rates by 7.2% after July 1. Residential base water rates for 1,000 gallons or less inside the city would increase from $9.23 to $9.90 and from $22.90 to $22.55.
Councilman John Cantey asked that Council meet in January to revisit the cost of living adjustment, with the goal of making it larger.
“It’s gonna depend on our finances when we get back in January,” City Manager Wayne Horne said.
Council also approved allowing Emergency Services Director Bill French to accept an $87,565 funding reconsideration from the N.C. 911 Board. The funding will help replace radio dispatch consoles and help the fire and police departments transition to 800 MHz Viper radios.
French said when the project is complete, funding will be paid for through grants or the 911 Fund administered by the state 911 board, and not by using city money.
“I’d like to say thank you, Bill, for your time and efforts in this,” Councilwoman Karen Higley said.
Council members also approved an End of Summer community event, with fireworks, at the start of Labor Day weekend on Sept. 3. The event will replace the 2021 Family Fourth Celebration.
Recreation Director Tim Taylor said the department has been unable to set a date for the Family Fourth Celebration with COVID-19 gathering limits still in place.
Also approved Wednesday was awarding contracts to tear down and rebuild residences at 530 Swann Drive and 1703 Maryland St.
“Both of these properties will be complete teardowns and rebuilds,” said Brian Nolley, assistant director of Planning and Neighborhood Services.
“I just would like to say thank you to you and management as well,” Cantey said. “We are rebuilding our community back one or two houses at a time.”
Council also approved the formal acceptance of the American Rescue Plan Grant Funds, of which Horne estimated Lumberton could receive $5.9 million.
Also approved was a memorandum of understanding in support of Robeson County being included in the Opioid Settlement Fund Distribution, a national lawsuit by governments against opioid manufacturers. The approval was one step in the process of securing funds.
Council members also heard from Public Works Director Rob Armstrong that the Rosewood Mobile Home Park CDBG Sanitary Sewer Extension Project is close to completion.
Because of COVID-19 and delays in getting materials, the project has been extended for 75 more days, causing the need for an extra $74,000 for additional services from The Wooten Company, Armstrong said. The funding will be covered by a Community Development Block Grant Infrastructure grant, and the request was approved by City council.
The Council also approved the surplus and transfer of a 1992 Grumman fire truck from the Lumberton Fire Department to Robeson Community College for use in firefighter training.
The truck has been decommissioned since August 2020 and no longer meets state safety regulations for department use, said interim Fire Chief Chris West. The contingency of the donation was that the truck would not be used for interior firefighting operations.
“However, the apparatus can be used for training and educational purposes,” West said.
Council members voted to approve giving the Lumberton Police Department authorization to apply for and accept a 2022 N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program Grant in the amount of…