HAMLET —The Hamlet City Council would like to pay town employees more and make capital improvements like a new fire truck.
But as officials learned during Thursday’s workshop on the proposed 2014-2015 fiscal year budget, money needed for these changes may be tough to find.
Hamlet wants to replace a 42-year-old fire truck used by the Hamlet Fire Department. But a new truck would come with a $250,000 price tag.
Council members debated whether to buy a new or used truck or enter into a lease agreement.
Councilman Pat Preslar said he favored a new truck and thought a lease would allow the council to spread the payment of the truck out over multiple years.
The council agreed that the new fire truck needed to remain on the budget even if it meant making cuts in other programs.
Also on Thursday, Councilman Jesse McQueen asked council to consider a 4 percent raise for the city workers. The council had budgeted a proposed 3 percent raise for workers, but McQueen believed the council should go a step further.
“We ask our people to do a lot with little,” McQueen said. “We’re constantly losing people and we’re going to keep losing people until we try and do something.”
For a raise, each percent costs roughly $37,000, so a 4 percent raise would cost the council around $148,000.
McQueen said it would be money worth spending because it would cost more to lose people and train replacements.
Other council members agreed, but said it is an issue that the board will have to address at future budget meetings.
The council did take a step forward with the Hamlet Opera House by making a $50,000 commitment to the project of renovating the historic landmark that was built in 1914 in downtown Hamlet. That commitment money, which is not included in budget configurations, will allow Miranda Chavis, downtown coordinator for Hamlet, to approach other businesses for potential funding sources.
“This can be start up money so that you can tell people that the city of Hamlet is behind this renovation,” said Councilman Eddie Martin. “It shows that we have a commitment and that we want to encourage them to commit.”
The council also moved to begin the process of looking for volunteers for a committee dedicated to the renovation of the opera house. The council gave Chavis the authority to solicit volunteers for the committee. These volunteers will have to submit an application to the council. A total of five voting members will be on the committee and that will include a member of the council. Chavis will be the director of the committee with no vote.
Former Hamlet Mayor Jeff Smart also presented to the council the donation of 64.99 acres of land off of N.C. Route 177 South on behalf of Marks Creek Industrial Park Inc.
Smart is one of eight board members for the industrial park, and it was the wish of the organization to donate the land so that it may be used to potentially generate revenue or future funds for the downtown business district in Hamlet. The land is currently landlocked and located near Davita Dialysis in Hamlet.
The council was eager for the potential money it could gain from the property to use for the residents of Hamlet.
“I don’t think this is an unreasonable request (that the money should go to downtown business),” Preslar said. “It will go to benefit the businesses in downtown and the people here.”