Morganton City Council meetings are broadcast live on CoMPAS Ch. 2 and streamed live online via the city's USTREAM i ustream. The Council meets at Morganton City Hall located at 305 E. Union St. Suite A100, Morganton, NC .


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February 27, 2017
Morganton City Hall
Council Chamber

8:15 Welcome

8:30 – 9:45 Water/Sewer Rate Study – Brad Boris; Freesa & Nichols, McGill & Associates

9:45 – 10:45 Pay/Classification Study – Rus Scherer; David Hill, Piedmont Triad Regional Council

10:45 – 11:00 Break

11:00 – 12:00 MainStreet Masterplan Kickoff – Sharon Jablonski/Chosen Firm

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 2:00 Recreation Masterplan Kickoff – Rob Winkler/Chosen Firm

2:00 – 2:30 CIP – Utilities – Various – Electric / CoMPAS

2:30 – 3:00 CIP – General Fund / various

3:00 – 3:15 Break

3:15 – 4:30 CIP – General Fund - Various

4:30 – Wrap-up and Adjourn

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February 27, 2017

Ronnie Thompson, Mayor 
John H. Cantrell )
Forrest A. Fleming ) Councilmen
Sidney Simmons )
Vacant Seat )

Sally W. Sandy, City Manager
Louis E. Vinay, Jr., City Attorney

I. The meeting was called to order in the Council Chamber at City Hall at 8:15 a.m. by Mayor Thompson. The Mayor introduced Council and staff.

Those also in attendance included: Department Directors, representatives from Freese & Nichols, McGill & Associates, Stantec, LandPlan, David Hill with Piedmont Triad Regional Council, members of the Recreation and Main Street Masterplanning Steering Committees, and interested citizens.

The City Manager stated an exciting and full day was planned. She stated there is a lot of long term planning that goes into running the City and the Council would have an opportunity to look at those long-range plans at this meeting.

II. Water/Sewer Rate Study – The City Manager stated the last masterplan process for water/sewer was in the 1990s and looked forward about 20-30 years of large asset management; the last rate study was in 2004. The City Manager asked Brad Boris, Water Resources Director, to introduce the presenters from Freese & Nichols, who conducted our studies.

Boris stated there are several projects being funded now including the water treatment plant, water and sewer rehabilitation programs, and a lot of dividends have paid off with these projects. There has been a reduction of non-revenue water loss of 7% due to these projects. Boris summarized many of the current projects.

Brian Jann of Freese and Nichols highlighted the Water/Wastewater Masterplan. He stated first they are trying to be good stewards of taxpayer money, stretching it as far as they can. They are looking out about 10-20 years in the future. They looked at four different things – the two plants, the collection system and the distribution system; then they developed projects using that information and population growth projections. They have worked closely with staff to prioritize projects. Jann shared some pictures to help Council understand why they are planning these particular projects.

Jann stated they took all the information and put together a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). They, along with staff, prioritized the need, determined costs, developed the CIP and then the Rate Study. Jann stated they identified over 80 projects, both large and small, which comes to about $52 million over the next 10 years. The City Manager stated that sometimes regulations and needs may change plans.

Jann set out the plan to fund these projects. He stated they looked at current rates and where rates need to be to generate revenue to fund these projects. The City Manager stated that in some municipalities water and sewer are treated as one fund, not in Morganton. She stated that the City has a lot of water customers outside the City limits, while sewer customers are only within the City limits. She stated it is not fair for sewer customers to be included with water customers and then noted the sewer fund is “not a cash cow”. The funds are treated separately because the customer base is so different. Jann stated that as part of the rate study they looked at funding in three revenue streams. In order to have enough revenue there would need to be increases. He explained the following schedule of increases: no increase in water or sewer for 2017; a 10% increase in sewer for 2018; 5% increase in 2019 for both water/sewer; no increase in 2020; a 2% increase in both in 2021; and finally 2% increase in odd-years from 2022-2027.

The City Manager reminded the Council that the City water rates are among the lowest in North Carolina, and the sewer rates are extremely low.

Councilman Cantrell asked about the rate structure. The City Manager clarified the current rate structure. She stated there would be a recommended change in the structure. In the last rate study they instituted a debt recovery charge used to accumulate funds to pay for half of the capital program every year. There is a need for that type of charge, the Manager stated.

Jann stated these charges are pretty typical, there is a capacity charge and debt recovery charge which are fixed charges, as well as a variable volume charge. Jann suggested combining the fixed charges and calling it something new. He then suggested a proposed % increase applied at a 2:1 ratio of volume charges to fixed charges.

The Mayor asked if this would apply to both commercial and residential. Jann stated it would. The City Manager stated it gave a bit of a break to residential because of the volume charges, it puts more of the burden on the businesses that have an income stream. Jann shared a graph which showed what various customers pay now and how the proposed increases would affect each customer category.

Jann stated he felt the City was set up well for the next ten years. The Mayor asked Boris what the top priority in each division was right now. Boris stated in Wastewater it is the process conversion because of a regulatory change. In Water the priority is the sedimentation basins.

The City Manager stated that as we go through budget season we would begin incorporating these CIP numbers and then make decisions. She feels this is a practical approach without overburdening the customers with the rates.

Councilman Cantrell asked about the cost of maintenance for water systems the City has acquired. Boris stated that replacement lines are taken out of the operating budget; they try not to use capital money for that type of maintenance.

Councilman Simmons asked for an update on the Walker Street issue. Boris stated they have run into an easement issue but do have a temporary fix. They are continuing to work on this line.

III. Pay/Classification Study – The City Manager stated during this budget year staff has been conducting a Pay and Classification Study with David Hill and Bob Carter. The last pay and classification study was in 2004.

Rus Scherer, Human Resources Director, introduced both Hill and Carter, stating they both have had experience in municipal Human Resources prior to consulting. Scherer read an email from Community House employee Becca Stephens who wrote a note to the City Manager stating how every department pitched in while they were clearing out the Community House for renovation. Scherer stated this is the caliber of people the City has become used to and who we need to attract to continue the level of service we provide. He stated that it’s important to see what other markets are offering so we can retain our high-caliber employees as well as attract new employees to the City.

David Hill summarized the preliminary findings based on an employee census at the beginning of the study showing the employee salaries in relation to grade minimums. He then shared average salaries of local governments in the pay study. Hill next summarized the findings of the workforce analysis, including: 50% of employees have been employed fewer than 10 years, new employees are hired at or near the minimum of their salary grade, and employee salaries remain relatively stagnant resulting in salary compression (57.6% of employees have salaries less than 10% above their salary grade minimum).

Hill shared what “salary compression” means to the City including potential low employee morale, potential loss of experienced, higher skilled employees and the fact that turnover is expensive.

Recommendations include: 1) create a salary vision statement/philosophy – where does the City want to be?; 2) the focus of the administration should be on advancing employees, working with employees and providing the tools necessary to become proficient, productive employees; 3) eliminate the term “hiring rate” in order to be able to hire an employee at a bit higher than the minimum if their qualifications warrant it; 4) don’t necessarily make a change in the salary schedule every time there is a cost of living increase; 5) pay employees what the job is worth, not above market value – rather than paying above grade consider a one-time lump sum. There was some discussion on this topic clarifying details.

Hill stated that to begin to address the issue of compression it would cost about one-half million dollars. The City Manager reminded Council that when the City became non-self-insured and changed to the State Health Plan the City was able to set aside $450,000 in anticipation of the outcome of this study. She stated that in 2004 it took $730,000 to address compression at that time.

The City Manager stated that Rus Scherer, Director of Human Resources, has spent many hours on this study. David Hill stated he has been very pleased to work with Rus.

IV. MainStreet Masterplan Kickoff – The Mayor began by stating how exciting it was to have so much participation in the kickoff and thanked the many citizens who were in attendance for their presence. The City Manager stated that the next two planning sessions overlapped quite a bit; both of these processes would be very public. Both MainStreet and Parks & Recreation planning processes will bring a lot of people to the table, she stated. At the 2015 Workshop Council heard about development, partnerships and more. Some of the things heard at that meeting were, the City needs to be able to retain workforce age residents, must attract young professionals and recent college graduates, must create jobs that satisfy the creative class of entrepreneurs, and must differentiate itself from the competition.

Mainstreet Director Sharon Jablonski stated this was the second masterplan she has participated in. She stated that Collin Suttles, owner of Brown Mountain Bottleworks, would be the chairperson for their steering committee. Sharon recapped the successes from the 1994 masterplan. Sharon introduced Craig Lewis and Amanda Burrell of Stantec.

Lewis stated that their focus is in the details. There have been many great successes in Morganton, but there are still opportunities available. He stated that Stantec works with citizen groups in order to understand what the community’s priorities are. He stated they follow nine key elements including: put people first, understand the market, public art, walkable/tactical urbanism, reclaim/reuse older buildings/parking lots, opportunities for new housing, and aggressively encouraging new investment.

Burrell stated they would host a series of focus group meetings in Phase I. Phase II will see them living in the area for a week in order to immerse themselves into the community. The last phase would be to produce the final product including initial recommendations. They hope to give Sharon the top 10 ideas to work on over the next 5 years. Burrell stated this would be about an 8-month process, looking at October for the final recommendations.

The City Manager stated that Marcia Perritt from THE School of Government, Development Finance Initiative, who has been working with the Broughton Reuse Project and North Carolina School of Science and Math regarding connectivity and how this all ties into the future plans at the State property. She will continue to attend meetings and work through the process with the City. She also thanked Burke County for their participation the Parks and Recreation Steering Committee because what happens in Morganton affects the County. The Mayor stated the Burke County School system was also involved.

V. Lunch – The Mayor called for a recess for lunch at 11:50 a.m. The Mayor called the meeting back to order at 1:00 p.m.

VI. Recreation Masterplan Kickoff – Rob Winkler – The City Manager stated the last Masterplan for Recreation was in 1997. That plan gave the City a road plan to follow which included Catawba Meadows, expansion of the Soccer Complex, and Martha’s Park. There have been many partners in those processes including the Recreation Foundation, Morganton Service League, State of North Carolina, and a private sports promoter. Recreation tourism has changed over the years.

Rob Winkler, Recreation Director, stated that while he has only been in his position for six-months he was a part of the 1997 Recreation Masterplan. Rob stated there were 9 applicants for guiding this masterplan and LandPlan was chosen unanimously. He stated the committee felt they seemed to be a good fit for Morganton. Winkler stated there was a good steering committee in place and he expressed his appreciation for their upcoming service.

Rick McMackin from LandPlan stated they were very impressed with the number of people who have shown an interest in the masterplan process and they were very encouraged by the participation. He stated that along with Charles Howlett from LandPlan, the team included Ernie Baughman and Chris Lampka from Toole Design Group. McMackin stated there would be three phases: Research Phase includes community input sessions; Recommendation Phase includes looking at current trends; Implementation Phase, the final phase, will help develop a Capital Improvement Plan. McMackin stated they just finished a Masterplan for the city of Anderson, South Carolina, which they shared to give Council an idea of what to expect from the process.

Baughman stated that they wanted to “engage” every time they were in town and asked those assembled “if the Parks & Recreation Masterplan could only accomplish one thing what would your personal priority be”. Then he asked the City Manager to respond. She responded her priority would be connectivity of the Greenway from the State property to downtown. Others responded: connectivity of the Greenway from downtown to Catawba Meadows, extend the Greenway, create a unique identity, wheeled sports – cycling, BMX, programming for youth at the recreational facilities, summer camps, cultural heritage tie-in, connectivity to two-State parks, senior citizen friendly, multi-cultural activities, school-age children activities, public outreach/advertising, water-based activities along the river, and a dog-park downtown.

Howlett chronicled their plans for the Recommendation Phase, again using Anderson, South Carolina, as an example of what to expect. Lampka stated they would do an in-depth analysis of what Morganton currently has. A key part will be costs and they will use actual dollar figures in the planning. Howlett stated they would look at the current programming of the facilities and at what type of programming could be built into the existing facilities.

Howlett stated they would look at Morganton via a market-assessment because in many communities the recreation center is in direct competition with gym businesses such as Gold’s Gyms, 24-Hour Fitness, etc. to determine where Morganton should place its focus.

McMackin stated the final phase looks at costs and defines guidelines on how to phase the projects. They will look at various grant programs to help with funding.

Butch McSwain stated his desire to have the planners look at the staffing and maintenance of the project suggestions. McMackin stated that is a part of the process.

Bryant Lindsey stated his hopes that the schools and County would be a part of the planning process. McMackin stated they would encourage participation of all stakeholders.

VII. Capital Improvement Program – The City Manager stated the Council would be presented the highlights of each department and throughout the budget process there would be refining of the Capital Improvement Plan.

Brooks Kirby, Electric Services Director, stated needs including:
$327,000 – replace 2003 bucket truck (#455)
$42,000 – replace 2008 Chevy (#410)
$32,000 – replace 2004 Ford Ranger (#439) with a 4x4
$30,000 – replace 2004 Ford Ranger (#456)
$19,500 – replace substation SCADA RTU (Del 6)
$17,500 – upgrade substation mechanical breakers (Del 6)
$53,500 – upgrade substation regulators (Del 4)
$140,000 – upgrade industrial customer stations
$142,500 – system improvements
$50,000 – year 3 pole inspection
$10,000 – Outage Management System pilot

Greg Branch, CoMPAS/IRMS Director, stated needs including:
$95,000 – system improvements/expansion
$28,000 – DSR satellite receivers
$80,000 – optical line transmitter
$165,000 – DNCS replacement
$50,000 – Citywide connectivity
$13,000 – Servers
$50,000 – Document Imaging Phase 2

Jim Smith, CoMMA Director, stated needs including:
$40,000 – Parking lot lighting replacement
$24,000 – replace track lighting’
$22,000 – landscaping
$10,000 – window sealing and re-tinting
$12,000 – replace gallery benches and furnishings
$17,000 – motor chain project completion
$30,000 – video production/market design equipment

Sharon Jablonski, Main Street/Community House Director, stated needs including:
$50,000 – demonstration project (Main Street)
$244,089 – Community House interior upfit

Phillip Lookadoo, Development and Design Director, stated needs including:
$30,000 – replace 2002 Chevy S10 (#620)
$30,000 – replace/transfer 2007 Ford F150
$30,000 – surplus 2004 Ford Taurus
$1,668,209 – Downtown greenway connector
$50,000 – Jefferson Street improvements
$30,000 – Cascade Park enhancement

Ronnie Rector, Public Safety Director, stated needs including:
$32,000 – replace station #2 generator
$81,375 – repave station 2 parking lot
$6,000 – replace exterior sign at Fire Station #1
$5,500 – replace station 2 exterior windows
$6,700 – replace station 1 HVAC system
$55,350 – fire stations – bay floors refinishing
$40,000 – firearms range repaving
$7,000 – firearms retaining wall
$10,000 – replace exterior light poles at headquarters
$16,500 – evidence lockers
$114,000 – replace CID vehicles (3)
$20,000 – purchase narcotics vehicle
$9,000 – replace windows at headquarters (criminal investigations)
$8,000 – Taser replacement
$17,000 – ballistic helmets and communication system
$28,000 – replacement of firefighter turn-out gear
$12,000 – expand data/video storage
$423,160 – replace SCBAs
$100,000 – body cameras for officers
$12,400 – Python III Raider units (10)
$24,000 – cellular throw phone system
$24,500 – narcotics unit equipment
$34,400 – ballistic shield replacement
$16,000 – level 3 ballistic vests & helmets

Scott Lookadoo, Public Works Director, stated needs including:
$34,500 – replace 2007 Ford F150 4x4 with a truck with lift tailgate (#200)
$78,000 – replace Kubota refuse haulers
$15,000 – replace 2011 tractor/mower (#608)
$20,000 – replace 2007 Cushman (#169) w/Kubota ATV
$30,000 – replace 2008 Ford F150 4x4 (#136)
$25,000 – maintenance/repair buildings
$25,000 – replace 2012 Kubota front deck mower (#102)
$6,500 – three-point mowing deck

Powell Bill Fund:
$80,000 – replace 2006 Ford F350 1t dump 4x4 (#160)
$115,000 – replace 2003 JCB backhoe with ext boom (#149)

Rob Winkler, Parks & Recreation Director, stated needs including:
$15,000 – resurface tennis courts (Carbon City)
$30,000 – resurface bridge Soccer Complex
$40,000 – resurface bridge Freedom Park
$80,000 – replace Mt. View gym air conditioner
$70,000 – replace Collett Street gym air conditioner
$40,000 – replace 2001 Chevrolet 15-passenger van (#844)
$32,000 – replace 2000 reel mower (#872)
$8,500 – replace 2009 Gator (#897)
$30,000 – replace 2008 Ford F150 (#800)
$50,000 – park improvement
$23,000 – purchase tractor for finish mower
$5,000 – purchase finish mower to pull behind tractor

Karen Duncan thanked Michael Chapman for his help in collecting data, photos, and compiling the PowerPoint presentation.

The City Manager stated there is a lot going on in the City currently, more than she remembers in her 24-years here. She stated there are many exciting projects going.

Councilman Cantrell stated the enthusiasm shown today is very energizing.

VIII. Other Items from City Manager and City Council Not on Agenda – There were no other items presented.

IX. Adjournment – The meeting was adjourned at 4:20 p.m.

Preparation of Minutes. These minutes were prepared by Mikela D. Russell, Assistant City Clerk. Copies of all resolutions, ordinances and orders referenced in these minutes are intended to be incorporated into these minutes as if fully set forth herein. Prior to including them into the official minute book, the minutes have been read and approved by the City Manager and the City Attorney, then distributed to each member of the City Council for further review and final approval, at a subsequent Council Meeting.

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