Lake budget approved

The Lake Waccamaw Town Council unanimously approved the FY 2021-2022 Town Operating Budget at last night’s meeting. The proposed $3.1 million budget will maintain the $.20 current tax rate, and will not increase water, sewer, or sanitation rates. 
In his budget message to the board, Town Manager Damon Kempski noted that while the budget did require $66,322 from the fund balance to maintain a balanced budget, that appropriation was less than in years past. The town’s fund balance remains at a “healthy” $1,556,411, with $1.076 million unrestricted, Kempski said.

The budget contains a 2.5 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for employees.

A large portion of the water and sewer budget this year ($325,000) will go to installing backup generators at five lift stations and elevating control panels. That funding is from a Golden LEAF Foundation Disaster Grant. The town will also purchase a sewer vacuum pump trailer and portable bypass pump to help avoid spills during emergencies.

The Police Department will receive $35,000 for onboard computers, $8,000 for Tasers, and $30,000 for a new patrol vehicle.

The Fire Department also was budgeted $35,000 for seven new breathing systems for firefighters, and $15,000 to expand the parking area.

In other business, the board discussed property development issues involving clearing, grading, and drainage. Members agreed that more resources needed to be considered before deciding what is in compliance according to the state law, though a gutter system is “ideal” for new properties at this time. 

Jackie Brooks, who was reinstated as the ABC board member, announced that $16,000 worth of sales over the Memorial Day weekend poured back into the town. 

The town is still diligently working on a Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant, Mayor Daniel Hilburn said, but Lake Waccamaw does not currently meet the standards needed to obtain the grant. The town has committed a 10 percent match up to $3,500 in anticipation of the fund. Hilburn says they aren’t giving up and plans to speak more with the Department of Transportation. 

Commissioner Rosemary Dorsey announced that the board had unanimously voted to join the Eastern N.C. Recovery and Resilience Alliance, alongside the American Flood Coalition and Environmental Defense Fund. This will allow the town to lobby the General Assembly and Congress for increased funding, and improve resources to prepare the area against storms like Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. The mayor also expressed hope of “a working dam” so that drainage of the lake in anticipation of an approaching storm may be possible to save homes from future flooding. Florence caused the worst damage in recorded history at Lake Waccamaw, damaging or destroying every pier and home along the waterfront. 

The meeting was not without a few special guests. 

Mitch Simmons and the Planning Committee for The Cruise for the Cause announced that a $3,354 dollars was raised for the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation. Simmons and his team also presented Police Chief Scott Hyatt with a check for $508 for equipment at the police department. 

Local Boy Scouts also took another step toward obtain a merit badge by attending one town council meeting.

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