Stallings still has hole to fill as 2014 nears

STALLINGS – Leaders in Stallings took time this week to reflect on a year that saw the loss of a councilman but a number of steps forward on town infrastructure projects.

Councilman Harry Stokes died on Aug. 18, while Town Manager Brian Matthews left for a job with Union County around the same time, leaving two large voids for Stallings leaders to fill. But the council has moved forward on multiple planning and infrastructure projects, including the adoption of the capital improvement plan, or CIP.

“I think the CIP (was one of the biggest projects of the year),” Councilman Fred Weber said. “We finally, after three or four years, got together the living document that can be changed, but at least it gives us an idea of projects where we want to put our money.”

Although a step in the right direction, the projects on the plan won’t be first on the agenda for discussions items as the new council begins working in the coming year. A new town manager, the results of the new storm water needs study and a possible restructuring of voting districts are just a few issues the council will take up in the coming months, in addition to the improvements included in the CIP for the Potter and Pleasant Plains roads intersection.

“Town manager, we have to work on that,” Weber said. “That’s something that really needs to be done and needs our attention as soon as possible. We need someone who is going to direct us and lead us and answer the questions we have.”

But before hiring a new manager, which the town delayed this fall so the newly elected leaders could weigh in on the matter, the council will have to wade through some issues on its own. The study to assess storm water needs in Stallings was recently completed, and results should be presented to the council in early 2014. An action plan to resolve storm water in the town has not been developed, as council members await the study results.

Money currently in the storm water fund is not adequate to pay for all of the necessary repairs in town, and some council members have discussed pulling money from the general fund for the project. Council will have to decide whether to pull money from the general fund, increase the storm water fees for residents or find another source of funding for the needed repairs.

“We got (the storm water study) started, and it is completed and all of the cost estimates will be completed early February. That way we have something to work with instead of best-guess estimates,” Councilwoman Shawna Steele said.

Another item up for discussion for the new board is the redrawing of the voting districts, something that was tabled by the previous council because some worried it was too close to elections and wanted more time to work out the details. Stallings has six voting districts, ranging from a population of 727 homes in District 1 to 1,089 homes in District 6. The districts have not been redrawn since 2001, when they were adopted.

“I hope the council revisits the idea about balancing the voting districts,” Steele said. “I think even considering true district representation should be included in any discussions.”

Council also is trying to roll out a plan for the improvements coming to the Potter and Pleasant Plains intersection to alleviate traffic problems seen in the area. A number of sewer improvements also are proposed as part of the plan to help increase more economic and commercial growth in the area.

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