Commissioners pause over plans for town hall project
Waxhaw commissioners received a glowing audit and financial report from John Kapler of Potter and Company, during a rescheduled monthly meeting Nov. 22. Commissioners had met in a special meeting on the morning of Nov. 7 to approve the rescheduling of its regular Nov. 8 meeting, which coincided with Election Day.
Speaking before the board, Mr. Kapler said his firm had issued a “clean opinion” after conducting the annual audit of the town finances. A “clean opinion”, as Kapler noted, is a determination by the auditor that the town’s financial statements were fairly presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. The auditor’s opinion is not a judgment of the financial condition, only its’ reporting practices.
In reviewing Waxhaw’s financial performance, Kapler presented a series of graphs showing steep increases in the towns cash reserves. Since 2007, Waxhaw has doubled its revenues, growing from $3.4 million to $6.6 million in 2011. During the same period, the town’s expenses have only grown by 35 percent, netting over $6.2 million in excess revenue over expenses. In the last two years alone, Waxhaw had net revenues exceeding $1.8 million for each year. As of June 30, Mr. Kaplan reported that the town’s cash fund balance stood at more than $6.7 million.
During his presentation, Mr. Kapler commended the staff’s efficiency and the town’s financial condition. “I know there’s been much talk about funding a new town hall,” Kapler said, “you have set yourself up very well, if you have to go out and borrow money, because you have increased your fund balance so much over the last couple years.”
Commissioner Martin Lane attributed Waxhaw’s financial performance to the hiring of town manager Mike McLaurin.
“I just want to point out to everyone here that 2007 was a year we hired this man [indicating Mr. McLaurin],” Lane said. “who has done a good job of setting up [financial] targets and done a good job of spending the money. We have this man to thank for that.”
In a review of 2010 fund balances by comparison, Waxhaw reported $5.2 million; Stallings $7 million; Indian Trail, $12.8 million; and Monroe $95.8 million, according to North Carolina’s Department of State Treasurer municipal budget reports.
Commissioners delay decision on design services contracts
Waxhaw Commissioners spent more than a year on the selection process for an architect, planning and design firms for the Small Area Plan and Town Hall projects. In August 2011, Commissioners selected the Lawrence Group for the Small Area Plan and Creech & Associates to design the town hall.
With a decision in hand, contract negotiations began between the respective firms and Waxhaw’s staff and town attorney, Chaplin Spencer, the resulting contract proposals were presented to Commissioners for discussion and approval.
Beginning with the Lawrence Group proposal for the Small Area Plan, the board heard a review of the contract terms by Town Manager Mike McLaurin. After a brief initial discussion, Commissioner Philip Gregory made a motion to approve the contract, which was second by Commissioner Martin Lane. Gregory had preceded his motion by commending the town manager for his diligence and noting that Mr. McLaurin could “squeeze a penny till it’s bloodless”.
In the discussion solicited by the Mayor Daune Gardner after the motion, Commissioners Erin Kirkpatrick and Brett Diller voiced reservations about making such a momentous decision in the face of the newly elected commissioners who take their seats in three weeks.
“I spent 10 years working on this,” Martin Lane said, ”It is a leap of faith, I agree, but we have an obligation to complete this.”
Commissioners-elect Sean Poccia and Mike Stewart were in attendance and after a good deal of back-and-forth conversation between the commissioners discussing whether it was right for outgoing commissioners to vote on the contracts; the board decided to ask each commissioner-elect for their opinions concerning the contracts.
Poccia spoke first, thanking the manager for providing the contracts in detail for him to review.
“Independently these contracts are phenomenal,” Poccia said. “They’ve been vetted many times, there are many iterations and I read through the original versions of both contracts.”
Poccia gave a brief background of his professional career, detailing his experience building multimillion-dollar facilities, data centers and large commercial projects.
“Here is inherently what my problem is with the documents,” Poccia said. “Independently they are rock-solid, if you said were going to hire the Lawrence Group and do everything, all the tasks and (Creech & Associates) is out of the equation, I’d say move ahead. But when you introduce Creech into the mix, I fall short with trying to understanding how these two contracts relate to one another.”
Poccia explained his concern that both firms have tasks that interrelate, sometimes running in parallel, at other times it’s confusing where one will stop and the other will start. None of this is clearly articulated in the documents. Poccia noted how the timelines don’t sync, the Lawrence Group speaks of the a nine-month timeframe, Creech speaks of a 14 to 20 month.
“What’s missing is a project plan.” Poccia said. “I think both of these firms are phenomenal, my concern is how things are going to be related chronologically, how are milestones and key performance indicators and all those things that have to be shared with the public, going to be defined?”
After hearing the comments by both Sean Poccia and Mike Stewart, Commissioner Gregory asked to withdraw his motion to approve the contract, but parliamentarian procedures require that a vote be taken nonetheless. The motion failed, after which Mr. Gregory made the motion that further consideration of the contracts be delayed until January 2012. The motion was approved unanimously.
Conditional use permit approved
In other actions, Waxhaw Commissioners unanimously approved the conditional use permit for the Kapstone Medical, LLC to use the former location of the Waxhaw Community Volunteer Fire Department at N. Main Street as a prototype design and development facility.
In a split vote, the commissioners approved zoning text amendment that allows the placement of off-premise signs for landlocked Waxhaw businesses without road access.
The Commissioners approved $32,947 additional funding for the Small Town Main Street Advisory Committee program. The committee plans to hire a consultant to finalize the downtown branding logo, evaluate sign placement, conceptual design and material selection. Also funded are plans for a promotional materials and events, including a mailing campaign, radio ads, First Friday, carriage rides and promotional items like hats and key-chains.
Town manager Mike McLaurin announced the town offices would be closed for Thanksgiving on Nov. 24 and 25th and the kick off for the “12 Days of Christmas” Nov. 25 at 5:30pm with a “Festival of Lights” event.