A recap of Monday night’s meeting:
Public comment was likely the most interesting part of Monday’s meeting. We actually had two separate issues come up during public comment. The first few comments concerned the intersection design of the new intersection in front of the new middle school. The current design from NCDOT calls for a three-way intersection on South Point Road mere steps away from the existing Belwood Drive intersection. The speakers suggested aligning the intersection with Belwood Drive such that we would have one four-way intersection instead of two separate three-way intersections. I think this is a very sensible request and will do a lot to improve traffic flow and safety in that area. Unfortunately, NCDOT does not see it in quite the same way, so Council decided to work with our county and state partners to see if we can talk some sense into DOT.
The next 20 or so speakers spoke on the recent petition that seeks to change the Red Raider mascot at South Point High School. While this is not something in the direct jurisdiction of the City Council, I’m glad we were able to provide a forum for the community to come and voice their opinions. Particularly since I did not grow up here and do not have the same connection with South Point that many of the speakers have, I enjoyed listening to the speakers talk about what it means to be a Red Raider and why that is important to them. It was very educational for me, and I learned a lot from the speakers.
After public comment, we moved through the regular agenda pretty quickly – approving a special use permit for temporary housing at Belmont Abbey and authorizing a contract for a Construction Manager at Risk for the new rec center.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a virtual conference put on by the League of Municipalities and in that conference, they devoted several sessions to IT security for city governments (specifically, the rising threat presented to small cities from malicious entities that lock down city systems and/or steal data for ransom). So, I shared some of the findings from that with the rest of the Council, and we discussed the City’s current security posture (which appears to be very strong). Our IT coordinator is going to provide a summary of what he’s done/is doing to protect our systems so that we can continue to be proactive in this area.
Councilman Turner also suggested that we discuss lot setbacks (the envelope around a building that creates space between one building and the next) as part of our upcoming discussion on development, and suggested that we use the $75,000 we will obtain as part of an upcoming (unplanned) property sale to purchase a new city bus. I think both of these ideas were excellent suggestions. I know that the bus in particular has been needed for a while (I believe the existing bus is 17 years old) and would be greatly appreciated by both the Gadabouts and the other programs that use the bus once those activities are able to resume. So, I look forward to having a conversation on both of those things over the next few weeks.
Our next City Council meeting will be on Monday, July 6 at 6:45pm at TechWorks. You can attend in person or find the livestream here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqOtdtH7gyyToZnnC8kKLQQ
The most significant item on the agenda is providing authorization for the signing of a contract for a Construction Manager at Risk for the new parks & rec multipurpose facility. The CMaR will take this project through the rest of the pre-construction process, including design and bidding of the project.
There will also be a public hearing on a special use permit application from Belmont Abbey to allow them to utilize temporary student housing on campus until their new residential dorms are complete.
Also – the City will be hosting its annual fireworks display tomorrow night at 9:30pm. You can find a parking and street closure map here: https://www.facebook.com/BelmontMainStreetDBDA/photos/a.1909020652650314/2832751306943906
A quick update from our workshop on Monday and other goings-on:
-The workshop started off with a presentation from Chief Hawkins on Belmont PD’s standards and training. We got a good overview of the work that the department has made to implement the recommendations that came out of the 2014 President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as well as their efforts to bring their policies and procedures into alignment with the standards required for the national CALEA accreditation. The amount of ongoing training on everything from de-esclation techniques to emotional intelligence for the CALEA accredidation is substantial, and I think that we as a community can see the benefits of that in a Belmont PD that becomes a better “guardian” (per the Presidential task force) of our city every day.
-We had a good conversation about the site plan for the new Belmont Rowing Center. We approved the new alignment of the docks/boathouse, and I anticipate that we will continue to have productive conversations about the operational details of the new park as we move forward.
-Our Community Branding consultant also gave us a preview of the new logo and brand for the city. We will continue to use the existing seal for official purposes and also on things like police and fire department uniforms. The new logo is intended to be used in the city’s marketing efforts – so you would see it on things like the banners hung around town and the external advertising done for things like Friday Night Live. The City is planning a public roll-out of the new brand soon – so keep an eye out for that.
-Council also formally adopted the Vision and Goals that we put together at our retreat earlier this year. We also set some priorities for future workshops and will be taking a look at our Major Development Process (which is used for new neighborhoods, etc.) at our July workshop.
Also – The City’s annual Juneteenth celebration will be this weekend. There will be a parade down Main Street Saturday at 2pm, and a virtual concert (on Facebook Live) at 7pm (also on Saturday). You can find more information on the event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/606605806576491/
The next City Council Workshop is this Monday at 4pm at Techworks. The meeting will be in-person (following applicable social distancing guidelines), but you can still watch the livestream at www.cityofbelmont.org/livemeetings
-We will be considering an amendment to the current year’s budget (FY 19-20) that brings budgeted expenses/revenues in line with actual expenses/revenues
-There have also been some changes to the site plan and operating agreement for the Rowing Park being built in partnership with the Belmont Rowing Club. So, we will be reviewing those changes.
-We will also view a presentation on the community rebranding project that has been ongoing for the last several months and review a new proposed logo (to be used in conjunction with the existing city seal).
-There are also a number of contracts to review, including a lease agreement with the Montcross Chamber in City Hall and a design services contract for the new Abbey Creek Greenway.
You can find a copy of the agenda here: https://cityofbelmont.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=429
We had a very productive meeting on Monday/Wednesday. Here are some of the highlights:
-We received an update from the county health director on COVID-19 response. Overall, we appear to be headed in the right direction, but he stressed the importance of basic safety precautions – washing your hands, avoiding large crowds, etc.
-We also had a very productive conversation around the Trolley project. I raised some concerns that I had about the project in light of the additional complications stemming from the COVID crisis. So, the Council talked through those, and we made some changes to the MOU that I think will better protect the city (and taxpayers) in the event that these complications become insurmountable. Belmont Trolley will also be making annual presentations to Council so that we can check-in on the project and review goals prior to making each annual support payment.
-We concluded the public hearing and passed the 2020-21 Budget on Wednesday. No additional changes were made to the budget, although we did receive some public comment.
-The ordinance closing Centerview Street and Jade Circle in North Belmont also passed. I asked the developer’s attorney about the timeline for the project (as I have received several questions about that), and he indicated that the actual demolition of the road would likely start by the end of the month.
-We also approved a change to the Rail Trail. The new route will now follow Main Street to Woodrow Ave, and then pick up the rail line again at the intersection with Woodrow. You can see a map here: https://cityofbelmont.civicweb.net/document/21705/3760D662CDE24927A7DFC67F59599AB5-.pdf?handle=7CF687D031104674966E2676C867F1DA
-We also approved resolutions supporting a virtual Juneteenth celebration and continued Powell Bill funding from the General Assembly.
-At the end of the meeting, our police chief also spoke to some of the national issues surrounding policing. I remain very confident in the professionalism, integrity, and training of the Belmont PD. I believe that our police department is one that all residents of our city can rightly be proud of.
If you have any questions – feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The next city council meeting will be on June 1 at 6:45pm. This meeting will once again be virtual, so if you are interested in participating in the public comment portion of the meeting, be sure to submit your comments to the city clerk so they can be read aloud at the meeting.
We have a very full agenda, but here are a few of the highlights:
-We will be receiving an update on the county’s response to COVID-19 from Gaston County Health and Human Services Director Chris Dobbins.
-We will also be conducting the public hearing on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
-There will be an update and a proposed change to the path of the Rail Trail due to some complications with that project.
-We will also be considering the closure of Jade Circle and Centerview Street in North Belmont to facilitate the development of the River West Business Park.-There will also be an update on the Belmont Trolley project, where we will consider a proposed Memorandum of Understanding.
-NCDOT is currently in the midst of a significant cash crunch and has stopped work on many projects and is also planning to significantly scale back maintenance of state roads. City Council will be considering a resolution asking NCDOT and the General Assembly to continue funding for the Powell Bill program (which funds maintenance of city-maintained streets) and to continue necessary maintenance of state roads (including things like patching pot holes and mowing grass along state roads).
You can find a copy of the meeting agenda and a link to the livestream here: https://cityofbelmont.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Id=332
An update from our budget workshop/special meeting on Monday:
-We didn’t make any substantive changes to the budget proposal, so the next step will be the public hearing on June 1. This will be a virtual meeting, so if you would like to participate in the public comment portion of the hearing, be sure to send your comments to the city clerk so that they can be read aloud at the meeting. The legislature recently made some changes to how public hearings are to be conducted in a virtual setting, with the new rules allowing public comments to be submitted up to 24 hours after the virtual meeting is held. So, the final vote on the budget will be held on June 3.
-We also had a great discussion about the new “Al Fresco” outdoor dining program. This program is set to start on Friday to coincide with the new Phase II restrictions from the governor. The next two weekends will act as something of a pilot for the program, and Council is planning to review its progress at our June 1 meeting so that we can make changes as needed. So, if you decide to take advantage of this dining option, let me know what you think – what’s working well and what could work better. To my knowledge, the City has never attempted anything like this before, so it’s likely to be a learning process for everyone.
-We also received an update from the Montcross Chamber on their office space needs and how soon-to-be-vacant space at City Hall might fill that need. We gave the go-ahead to staff to begin working out the details of an actual contract with the Chamber, and that will come back to Council once they have something worked out.