SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen on Monday discussed moving forward with applying for a Rural Transformation Grant through the N.C. Department of Commerce for revitalizing Main Street.
The town hopes to implement streetscape improvements along the historic business corridor, including gateway signage, new lighting, sidewalk repair and underground power lines.
The N.C. Department of Commerce grant fund has an available pool of $48 million in four categories, including Main Street and downtown investment and revitalization.
“Fingers crossed that we are a shoo-in for this award. There are three phases for this grant starting with streetlights, bringing in new trees and planters, updating parking and the sidewalks,” said Mayor Kia Anthony.
The plan for streetscape improvements include five phases:
Anthony also said that the largest transformation will be underground power lines, which is a project that has been talked about in Spring Lake since 2001.
“This will change the entire feel of Main Street. We are playing ‘go hard or go home.’ We are asking for the biggest ask possible and showing them we are not just thinking right now. We are thinking long-term. We want to see Spring Lake continue to grow,” said Anthony. “This is a diamond in the rough. We might look like coal — clean coal — but we are putting the pressure on and that diamond will shine.”
The timeframe for the improvements is two to five years. Any development will adhere to the town’s façade improvement guide, the Main Street Overlay District zoning and the new comprehensive land use plan.
The board also discussed an interlocal agreement for the collection of taxes between Cumberland County and the town.
Interim Town Manager Jason Williams, who also is he town’s fire chief, was scheduled to present the information but was unable to be at the board meeting because of a conflicting meeting with the Cumberland County commissioners to discuss the town’s fire stations, according to Anthony.
Anthony said there are a few concerns that came out of the audit committee, including not having a current interlocal agreement for tax collection.
“We noticed we were paying the county for tax collection, and as we are looking for as many ways as possible to make sure we are not wastefully spending money, we looked into if it is more beneficial to collect our own taxes or stay with the county,” said Anthony.
Anthony said the town reached out to county administrators and found that there had been changes that lowered the tax collection rate so the town was able to draft a new agreement.
“This is going to save the town $20,000 in tax collection fees every year now that we have this updated agreement,” said Anthony.
She said a few updates need to be made, including using town and city interchangeably.
Alderman Raul Palacios asked if there was no prior agreement, how did the county come up with the cost savings.
Anthony said the rate was lowered from 1.7% to 0.75% and that the town could look at back pay. The percentage change was the cost savings.
“When those revenues are collected by the county, they then distribute according to what the prior agreement was. I think it is important to get the prior agreement to compare,” said Alderman Raul Palacios.
Alderman Marvin Lackman said the issue was something that he had not seen since he had been on the board.
Anthony asked that the board table the issue until corrections are made and additional information is provided before adopting the agreement, which passed unanimously.
The board spent 30 minutes in closed session to discuss personnel and attorney-client privilege.
“No action was taken; however, the board is in preliminary discussion to discuss interest with our town manager finalist,” said Anthony.
Anthony said after the meeting that the N.C. Local Government Commission and state Treasurer Dale Folwell have approved his appointment. She had previously said the board was unanimous in wanting to hire the candidate, who the board would not name because of his current employment situation.
“We are in contract negotiations,” said Anthony.