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Spring Lake board to consider finance changes for fire station


SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen is expected to modify a payment plan for a second fire station that was built in 2021 on N.C. 210 when it meets tonight at Town Hall.

 The fire station was necessary because of work the North Carolina Department of Transportation did on the main thoroughfare in Spring Lake, according to Fire Chief and Interim Town Manager Jason Williams.

  “It has really helped response times for medical emergencies and house fires,’’ Williams said. “Our response time has gone from nine minutes to two minutes in Spring Lake and the Manchester area.”

  Although the fire station was needed, the former administration — including former manager Daniel Gerald — never brought the application for financing before the Local Government Commission for approval, which is required by state law.

Ground was broken and construction had begun before the funding was in place. The town also had only budgeted $1 million for the project, but the contract was for $1.2 million.

The Local Government Commission discovered in April 2022 that the town had circumvented the debt-approval process and entered into an eight-year loan with South River Electric Membership Corp. for $1.2 million for the fire station.

This discovery prompted the Local Government Commission to add this to a growing list of concerns at its regularly scheduled meeting in April. The commission discussed the legality of the loan and shared its concerns with the town by letter, along with other matters.

In May, the commission determined that the loan was void and not legally enforceable by the lender, but said it was ethically right to repay the loan. 

Also in May, the Local Government Commission directed staff to negotiate with South River Electric Membership Corp. on behalf of the town to ease terms for paying back the $1 million loan that the town had used to build the second fire station.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who is also chairman of the Local Government Commission, also instructed staff to counter a 20-year payback period to South River. The terms of the former loan were $125,000 a year for eight years.

“You pay for a car in eight years, not an economic development project or public safety facility,” Folwell said in May.

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The terms expected to be approved on Monday will extend the maturity date from October 2030 to October 2039 and reduce payments to $55,555.56 over 18 years.

A longer payback period will help the town as it struggles to regain its financial footing.

Other items on the agenda include the swearing in of Carly Autry, a UNC Pembroke graduate, as the next town clerk.

The board meets at 6 p.m. at the Spring Lake Town Hall.

Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView. She can be reached at jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com.  

Spring Lake, Board of Aldermen, fire station