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 mseelinger@cityofbelmont.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.

The next budget workshop will be on Monday at 4pm. You can find the agenda and a link to the livestream here: https://cityofbelmont.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=428

This will be the final workshop before the public hearing on the budget on June 1. It doesn’t sound like there have been any substantive changes to the budget proposal from what was presented in the initial workshop – but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

We will also be considering the creation of a Downtown “Al Fresco” Program. You may have seen other cities/towns (especially in other states) allow their restaurants the use of public streets for temporary seating as a way to enable the restaurants to reopen while also maintaining appropriate distancing. This would effectively be our version of that. We will learn more about the proposal on Monday, but the general idea is to allow downtown restaurants to set up tables on Main Street for the Friday and Saturday dinner hours (assuming that the governor proceeds with allowing outdoor dining next week). I think this is a great idea, and I am very interested in learning more about it.

We will also be hearing an update on the potential partnership between the City and the Montcross Chamber that would allow the Chamber to lease space in City Hall (for their offices) that will become vacant once the new public works building is complete.

We will also be reviewing a plan to construct a sidewalk from the new Belmont Middle School up to the current high school. The City, Gaston County Schools, and the developer of the McKee Farms retail project are building different sections of the sidewalk, and the project should greatly enhance the walkability of that area, which will be particularly important when the new middle school opens.

Here’s a quick update from our City Council workshop this week:

-The current budget proposal from staff is basically a hold-the-line budget, which makes sense given the current very fluid situation. It calls for leaving all taxes, fees, etc. unchanged for the upcoming fiscal year. So, residents will see no change in their tax or utility bills. Because we are less likely to see property development of all types (commercial, residential, industrial) in the current economic environment, it is projecting a smaller increase in property tax receipts next year (3%) as well as a 3.5% reduction in sales tax receipts coming into the City. The proposed budget uses pretty conservative estimates for next year, so while I am looking forward to the lifting of the shut-down orders, we are well-prepared in the event that they are continued for several more weeks. You can find a copy of the budget presentation here: https://cityofbelmont.civicweb.net/document/21012/5690AA89120941A390872577450672E2-.pdf?handle=F531A685AAF546F8AEDFC6B11B48149F

We also decided to accept offers to purchase part of a city-owned parcel at the corner of South Main Street and Myrtle Street. The city’s lot abuts the current home to Two Chicks and Garibaldi Realty, and the offer is to purchase the slice of the lot that currently houses Two Chicks’ outdoor patio and a small piece directly behind the building. We will make a final decision on the sale once the bidding period ends (which is 10 days after the last bid is received).

-We also received an update on the code enforcement case for 951 Cason Street (the old mill across from Linford Park). The property owner has indicated that he will have the front side of his building fixed by May 31, the roof done by August 1, and the back side finished by October 1. Council requested that he obtain the necessary permits to complete this work by our May meeting (on 5/4), and we will receive another update on this case at that time.