News Column

Rockingham: No tax hikes this year

May 29, 2014

By Matt Harrelson, Richmond County Daily Journal, Rockingham, N.C.

May 29--ROCKINGHAM -- As City Manager Monty Crump put it, the city remains in pretty good shape.

Mayor Steve Morris, Crump and City Council members listened to department heads from the city's agencies during their annual work session and planning retreat Wednesday at the Rotary Lodge at Hinson Lake.

The city of Rockingham's fiscal year 2015 budget shows no tax increases or fee or rate increases for water and sewer. The budget also includes a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for each of Rockingham's 131 city employees.

A public hearing is planned during the council's next monthly meeting at 7 p.m.June 10.

Police Chief Billy Kelly said his department is "in very good shape," but police still need some new equipment.

Kelly is seeking two Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs and two patrol cars for a total cost of $103,000. Police also are requesting three new laptops for officers' vehicles.

A single in-car camera can cost up to $5,500, said Kelly, but the new technology would be integral in that the cameras would always be recording.

Crump asked the chief about the applicants he's fielded for vacant police officer positions.

"We've been able to hire applicants with experience," Kelly said. "We look for longevity. We're in a position to sit back and hire qualified people."

Fire Chief Charles Gardner was on hand as well as his future replacement, Harold Isler, who will take over when Gardner retires in August. The Rockingham Fire Department included in its proposed budget a radio system overhaul that would cost $24,000.

"We'd like to move from an analog system to a digital system," said Gardner. "We've got some dead spots in our system. Everything will be programmed or coded so we won't have crowds coming to our scene but still allows us to talk with other agencies in the county."

Gardner also said there is a new fire truck coming the second week of July that will have more safety features than the 1987 model it will be replacing and will cost less to repair. Gardner told council members the new truck will help keep response times under 4 minutes.

"We'll get Harold up to speed," Gardner added.

Other notes from the planning session include building, grounds and cemeteries supervisor Larry Harrelson Jr. informing the council that a new roof will soon be in the works for Leath Memorial Library. The current roof was installed in 1984 but is only a 20-year roof. He also praised his employees for the work they do maintaining four cemeteries.

Planning Director John Massey said his department is a lot busier than last year with the new Bojangles' restaurant being built next to the current one and Zaxby's starting site planning last week. Massey also said the new restrooms located at the Steele Street access to Hitchcock Creek should be complete in the next couple of weeks.

Dave Davis, parks and recreation director, said his department is well-funded for its size. Participation in parks and rec programs has hovered around 2,000 people for a number of years, but Davis said soccer and softball have increased the number of participants to 2,500.

"We're left alone to do what we do," said Davis. "That is very much appreciative."

As the meeting drew to a close, Morris went around the room and asked each department head how long he or she had worked for the city. Then, he did some addition.

"People ask how the city does so well," Morris said. "There's 313 years of experience here at this table."

Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 15.


(c)2014 the Richmond County Daily Journal (Rockingham, N.C.)

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Source: Richmond County Daily Journal (Rockingham, NC)

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