7/16/2020 3:19:00 PM OAK RIDGE town council
July 9 / MEETING HIGHLIGHTS
WHAT they voted on, and HOW they voted:
Mayor Ann Schneider, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kinneman and council members George McClellan, Doug Nodine and Martha Pittman met July 9 via Zoom. Below are some of the key items they voted on:
5-0: Approve two ordinances that ultimately reestablished the 35mph speed limit originally posted on Linville Road northwest of Scoggins Road
5-0: Approve the town's annual agreement with Oak Ridge Youth Association for the group's use of Town Park
4-1: Approve (Nodine opposed) a proposal by Envirolink Inc. to operate a proposed municipal water system and instruct Town Manager Bill Bruce to negotiate a contract with the operator, with final approval required by the council
5-0: Approve a 2.5 percent annual pay raise for Town Manager Bill Bruce
as reported by CHRIS BURRITT
Mayor Ann Schneider called the meeting to order with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kinneman and council members George McClellan, Doug Nodine and Martha Pittman present. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the meeting was held virtually via Zoom.
Water funding. Town Manager Bill Bruce asked McClellan to provide an update about legislation that equally divides $3.4 million in state appropriations among Oak Ridge, Summerfield and Stokesdale; Gov. Roy Cooper signed the legislation earlier this month.
The funds were left over from a 2018 study to determine the feasibility of creating a regional water system in northwestern Guilford County. After leaders balked at the estimated $50 million-plus cost of the system, the state legislature recently passed a bill redistributing the money to the three towns to spend on water-related projects.
Oak Ridge could spend the appropriation on a proposed municipal water system if it decides to pursue that option. (See related article on front cover.)
Later in the meeting, the council voted 4-1 to create a water advisory board consisting of Schneider, McClellan, Bruce, former Mayor Spencer Sullivan and residents to be named later; Nodine, an opponent of the proposed municipal system, voted nay. The board will advise the council on water-related matters, Schneider noted.
Linville Road speed limit. The council unanimously approved two ordinances that reduced the speed limit on Linville Road northwest of Town Hall from 45 to 35 mph.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation recommended reducing the speed limit on the section of road running about a third of a mile northwest of Scoggins Road after some residents had complained about speeding near Town Park, Bruce said.
The first ordinance rescinded the 45-mph speed limit along the stretch of road, while the second reestablished the 35-mph speed limit originally posted there, Bruce said.
ORYA usage agreement. The council unanimously approved an agreement governing Oak Ridge Youth Association's (ORYA) use of Town Park.
The agreement ended more than a year of tension between council members and Tom Collins, president of ORYA, the biggest user of Town Park. In the Nov. 5, 2019 election, Collins endorsed Van Tanner, who claimed the town spent too little on youth sports. The view drew a rebuke from then-Mayor Spencer Sullivan, Schneider, Kinneman and McClellan.
During last week's meeting, McClellan and Collins addressed each other, reconciling after the two had argued following a council meeting in January. At that time, Schneider called for the creation of a youth athletics subcommittee to explore the relationship between the town and ORYA and seek ways to improve the annual usage agreement between the two parties.
"This has been a truly collaborative effort," Schneider said during last week's meeting as Kinneman and Pittman, who served on the subcommittee, explained the usage agreement that resulted from negotiations with ORYA leaders.
The town will give ORYA a subsidy of $30,000 in the fiscal year that started July 1, according to the agreement. It's essentially a pool of money that the association can draw from to cover the rental of fields, lights for nighttime activities, paint for lines on the fields and other expenses.
A council member will also serve on the association's board as a nonvoting member.
In return, ORYA will recognize the town as a partner of the association in park signs, advertising, marketing and email signatures. Oak Ridge will also promote ORYA's activities on the town's website, Kinneman said.
(See related article in our June 25-July 15 issue.)
Water system contractor. The council voted 4-1 to authorize Bruce to negotiate a contract with Envirolink Inc. to operate a municipal water system being evaluated by the council.
Council members asked for additional information from Envirolink, the only contractor that responded to the town's request for proposals to operate the system. Councilman Doug Nodine voted against the move, saying the council lacks information to determine whether Oak Ridge could operate the system profitably without putting tax dollars at risk. (See related article on front cover of this issue.)
Erosion runoff. Town Clerk Sandra Smith read an email from Steve Holmes, president of the Linville Oaks homeowners association, asking the town to inspect storm-water pipes and a retention pond in the Knight's Landing subdivision.
Runoff from Knight's Landing is entering the pond in Linville Oaks and creating erosion, Holmes said.
Natural area. Smith read emails from Ben Walraven and Barbara Engel asking the town to create a natural area near the site of the proposed veterans' memorial planned for the Whitaker property.
Special Events Committee. Chair Patti Dmuchowski said the committee has set Nov. 10 as the date for an open house for residents to offer input on design plans for the proposed veterans' memorial.
Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Vice Chair Phyllis Anders told the council a proposed horse trail on the Whitaker property would have to be "very short," at about one mile long. She referred to the board's report stating that creating an equestrian trail on the property would also threaten "the safety of patrons at the park." As a result, the board said it would not recommend equestrian trails as part of the expansion of Town Park.
Later in the meeting, Schneider said a proposal by the Piedmont Land Conservancy to buy the 113-acre Bandera Farms tract on Bunch Road would create a network of public trails suitable for horseback riding.
Historic Preservation Commission. Chair Debbie Shoenfeld said the commission recently reelected her as chair and Caroline Ruch as vice chair.
Mountains-to-Sea Trail Committee. Smith reported the committee received 32 submissions with suggestions for a theme for current and future trails in Oak Ridge. The committee plans to select the winner or winners later this month.
Kinneman said he condemned the recent placement of "fliers containing hateful speech" in mailboxes in at least two Oak Ridge neighborhoods. "Hate speech in any form is wrong," he said, without providing details about the fliers.
Separately, Kinneman urged people to wear masks and practice social distancing to control COVID-19.
"We need to be careful," Pittman said, adding she knows few people who haven't been personally touched by the coronavirus.
The agenda listed a closed session for the council to discuss a possible pay raise for Town Manager Bill Bruce. Instead of meeting privately, the council voted unanimously to give Bruce an annual pay raise of 2.5 percent, in line with increases for other town employees.
After the vote, the council adjourned the meeting at 9:18 p.m.