City Council Recap – Nov 9, 2023

Thursday evening, the Kings Mountain City Council met for its monthly workshop session.  It was a packed house, as one of the topics of discussion was the Dixon Ridge development.  Before we get to the meeting recap, we would like to say how refreshing it is to see a large turnout for a Council meeting.  With the recent election results, Kings Mountain citizens have spoken.  They voted for change – for a new way of doing business in City Hall, with more transparency and less back-room maneuvering. 

Now is a great time for citizens to begin attending these meetings and holding all Councilmembers – both new and old – accountable for their votes.  By attending these meetings and tracking the Council’s decisions, it helps contribute to the transparency, openness and accountability for which we have advocated.  You may not agree with how all Councilmembers always vote, but at least you will be informed and hear directly from them.  And they’ll know that citizens are involved.

One of the best things that the new City Manager has done is to eliminate the “meeting before the meeting” – where Councilmembers were often told how to vote and made decisions out of the public eye with little discussion or debate.  Now, discussions and debates are held in the Council chamber in full view of the public.  This is a great thing!  We saw this on Thursday night.  The Council actually discussed and debated various topics, which leads to a better understanding – on all fronts – of the City and how its business is conducted.

One portion of the meeting especially stood out to us – with a speaker pointing out the obvious stalemate that we are facing in our town.  Citizens want brand name restaurants and stores to plant roots in our town, but we currently do not have the population or income per household for this to happen.  Going forward, decisions need to be measured.  Thoughtful growth can achieve the balance that we need for these things to happen while protecting our small town feel.  Change – in its most pure definition – is going to happen no matter what.  Society changes; spending habits change; living habits and preferences change.  The speaker acknowledged this and emphasized the importance of managing change and growth so that it is done with a purpose and a planned vision.  This takes foresight, strategic planning and thoughtful discussion.  All things that are starting to happen in Kings Mountain.

The highlights of Thursday’s meeting…

Curbside Leaf Collection

The City provided an update and policy review of the City’s curbside leaf collection program. Management acknowledged that, in the past, certain people and streets received preferential treatment while other areas were neglected. That will no longer happen. The leaf collection effort has been supported by the City Manager and Council in the purchase of a new, functional, collection truck. A two-week pickup schedule has been implemented for the fall and winter months, and while they may get ahead, they are working hard to not get behind. Councilman Jimmy West spoke at leangth to ensure equal treatment for all citizens, and staff assured him that was the case now under the new regime. It is a tough job, and there will be issues at times – but at least they are working hard to manage it in a fair and equitable way.

Sewer Plant Rebuild

The City Engineer reviewed plans for the Sewer Plant rebuild, along with the new sewer line installations that will be paid for with 100% federal and state grant money. This is a great opportunity for the City to not only update a 50-year-old plant that has suffered from deferred maintenance, but also to expand its capacity to meet the needs of the community in the future. A special thank you goes to Speaker Tim Moore for his help in securing these funds. By doing it this way, no local taxpayers dollars are being used to accomplish work that needs to be completed anyway.

Local Vendor Preference In Purchasing

There was a lively discussion regarding local vendor preference and purchasing by the City. It was obvious during the discussion that we all – citizens and Councilmembers alike – need more education on this subject. The City is following a state statute for large bids and is tightening procedures for informal bids (or ones below $30K). Councilmen West and Rhodes were vocal in their support of making this a fair and equitable policy – to ensure that local companies are given equal opportunity to bid and a preference for ward, but also to eliminate any additional expenses to the City in adopting these policies. Councilman Rhodes made an excellent suggestion to allow a local vendor to match the low bid if they were within 5% of the low bidder. This would give preference to a local company and also save the taxpayers money. Under previous management, there seems to have been a lot of abuse of City purchasing dollars. It is now being addressed to the benefit of citizens and local companies alike.

Budget Amendments

Among the many budget amendment discussed by the Council was one regarding sidewalk connectivity. Management has recognized several notable gaps in our sidewalk system and has allocated additional funding to install additional sidewalks to link existing sections. One great example of this is along Phifer Road around the schools. Citizens have long complained about this, and the current City Management has listening and is taking action.

Other budget amendments dealt with forward-looking plans. This level of professional and foresight has been absent in Kings Mountain for so long, and now we are looking into the future to address parks, recreation, streetscape, etc. These things have rarely been looked at in the context of a bigger-picture, longer-term view. By doing a deeper dive into these topics, the Council and City Management will produce a blueprint for how we maintain what we have, optimize it for the benefit of our citizens, and build on it for the future of our community.

Dixon Ridge

The Dixon Ridge development project was discussed again on Thursday night. The City gave historical context to the project and detailed how it rejected a warehouse-only development last year because it was not in the City’s best interest. They are working with the developer and various components of City staff to come up with a solution to be able to move forward. It will be up to the City Council to decide if this is in the best interests of the community. There are certainly strong opinions on this topic from citizens. We appreciate the interest and passions, and we believe that this citizen involvement will ensure that the Council and City make the best decisions.

Of note is the fact that the City Council rezoned this property in 2020 to allow for up to 7 housing units per acre, including modular homes. This is a higher number of units per acre. No one can answer why this City did this, and of course the previous Planning Director has been relieved of his duties. So, one of the questions that the City Council and citizens have to answer is: which plan is better for the community? Right now, because of past decisions, we have backed ourselves into a corner. The developer has the zoning approval right now to build thousands of modular homes on the site. We can’t imagine that any party involved really wants that to happen.

This leads us back to the opening paragraph of this summary… even though the election is over, please do not sit back. Stay involved. Stay engaged. And keep the City Council accountable and transparent. Come to Council meetings, ask questions, and talk to your representatives about what you want to see happening. Your input and words matter.

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