MURPHY, N.C. – At the Monday, June 4, meeting, the Murphy City Council unanimously approved and adopted the city budget for fiscal year 2018-19.
The council began the meeting by opening the floor for a public hearing on the proposed budget. Receiving no public comments regarding the budget, the council, later in the meeting, briefly discussed the proposed budget as prepared by City Manager Chad Simons.
“I’m very impressed in the job you did,” Mayor Rick Ramsey told Simons. “I think we all are. The detail, the openness that you applied to it has been expressed I think by everyone.”
“We did do our best to curtail as much spending as possible,” Simons answered.
Councilman Barry McClure also praised Simons’ efforts saying, “I think Chad has done a phenomenal job … I appreciate his conservativism on the spending and how each line item is written out and you can look at it.”
As for Simons, he took time to thank City Clerk P.J. Siler as well as all the city department heads for their assistance in preparing the budget.
The budget, which will take effect July 1, contains a total of $4,041,610 in expenditures with the same amount in estimated incoming revenues.
The general fund accounts for the majority of the budget at $2,108,355 and the utility fund amount is $1,571,130. Other amounts include $9,800 for the firemen’s relief fund, $56,000 for the Powell Bill fund, and $296,325 for the rural fire district fund.
Appropriations for the general fund break down as follows:
- Administration – $494,545;
- Police – $786,100;
- Fire – $190,500;
- Streets – $155,900;
- Sanitation – $138,360;
- Recreation – $23,000;
- Library – $195,350;
- Cemetery – $25,000; and
- USDA Debt Service – $99,600.
As for the utility fund, appropriations are as follows:
- Water Filter Plant – $461,075;
- Utility Maintenance – $604,795; and
- Wastewater Plant – $505,260.
The council also approved a town charter amendment to change town elections to non-partisan. At the April city council meeting, a resolution was passed to schedule a public hearing for the May meeting. Councilman McClure stated at the initial meeting, the Murphy City Council is one of only eight remaining partisan city councils out of 533 in the state of North Carolina. McClure also stated the majority of registered voters in the town of Murphy are non-partisan (415) as opposed to 392 registered Democrats and 389 registered Republicans.
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Ramsey explained the amendment proposal had been publicly advertised for two weeks, upon City Attorney Ronald Cowan’s legal opinion, and opened the floor for discussion.
“I’m going to vote for this amendment for non-partisan because I feel like the state law … is archaic and needed to be changed years ago,” Councilman Frank Dickey stated, “and it discriminates against anybody that’s an independent registered voter … I feel like this is a good step maybe in the right direction to direct other elections.”
As a whole, the council seemed to agree with Dickey’s sentiments and approved the amendment unanimously.
Representatives from the Murphy Business Association were present to speak of the overall success of the Spring Festival, which took place in downtown Murphy last month, and also petition to the council to amend town ordinances to allow open-container alcohol consumption along sidewalks in front of restaurants and within the closed perimeter during such festivals.
Dickey protested that state law prohibits open-container consumption in parking lots and closed streets if those streets are state highways.
“We can pass all the laws you want. It won’t be legal,” Dickey said.
Larry Simons, an attorney speaking on behalf of the business association, cited the town of Belmont, North Carolina, as having a similar downtown festival, also along a state highway, in which open-container consumption coinciding with the festival has been legalized through a local ordinance.
To this, Dickey stated he disagreed with the legality of that town’s festival and also expressed concerns over parking and potential noise disturbances accompanying such future festivals in Murphy.
“As far as having open alcohol on the streets on a regular basis, I don’t think that’s good for Murphy,” Dickey said.
Ultimately, Mayor Ramsey accepted the information presented by the business association and stated he, the council, and the city attorney would review it, take it under advisement and reopen discussion over the issue at a future meeting.
The mayor also took time to congratulate the baseball team coached by Adam Fox and girls track team coached by Penny Johnson at Murphy High School. Each team recently won its respective state championship for its sport.
“So whatever they’re coaching, telling them, feeding them or whatever, there’s something going on good there at the school,” Ramsey stated.
Additionally, Ramsey thanked city and public works employees for their hard work during the recent flooding experienced across the region during the last week of May and first few days of June.
“Our public works team has been working around the clock since the flood,” Ramsey explained. “They’ve been working four hours on, four hours off.”
The mayor also added, as of the meeting, workers were still having to access the wastewater treatment plant by boat through the Hiwassee River because the road to the plant was still under water. Ramsey stated the city had difficulties with several automated lift stations within the town’s sewer system during the flood.
“Thank them please, when you see them. You don’t have to know them, but if it says ‘Public Works Town of Murphy’ on the side of the truck, it’s either stolen or they do work for the town of Murphy,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey also reminded the council and all others present for the meeting that the deadline for being added to the public commentary list for council meetings is noon on the day of the meeting and arrangements to speak in public commentary could be made with City Manager Chad Simons.
“That’s the way that anyone can make public comments to us. We encourage public comments. We need to hear what people are thinking,” Ramsey stressed.
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