Stallings sets sights on new investment plan

STALLINGS – After two years of discussions, Stallings leaders still haven’t approved a capital improvement plan detailing what projects are needed in town. But the end could be in sight.

Mayor Lynda Paxton says the town has a goal of June for the completion of the plan, in hopes of completing it by the budget deadline.

“What we have basically at this point is a wish list,” she said.  “We don’t have a well-articulated plan on how we are going to pay for all of this stuff.  I guess that’s what we realized in our meeting.”

Town council met Monday, Jan. 28, to discuss possible capital improvement projects for the town, but no decisions or plans have been set in stone so far. Paxton said the largest concern is whether or not the town will take on debt to complete larger projects or stick to smaller projects focused on maintaining current infrastructure.  As of now, the town is on a pay-as-you-go plan and has paid off all previous debt.

While Paxton hopes to get Stallings’s first ever capital improvement plan adopted, she knows documents of this nature will be updated and changed in the future.

“It’s always going to be a rolling document that gets renewed and revised, but my goal is to get something formalized enough to get it before the budget,” she said. “The town’s budget will be due in June of this year. I think that is everybody’s goal, but we have a lot of work to do before we get to that point.”

Before moving forward, town council must first prioritize projects they have been discussing and balance short-term and long-term projects.  Smaller projects, like maintaining current infrastructure in the town, are something Paxton said

Stallings has to carry through with.  Larger projects like intersection improvements and the creation of Blair Mill Park are something town council will discuss in future meetings.

Stallings has committed to some larger projects, Paxton added, such as the intersection improvements at Pleasant Plains and Potters roads, which is part of the recently approved Downtown Master Plan.  State and federal funds, totaling $1.6 million, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and some money provided by Stallings will pay for the $4 million project.

“In order to get it under way (in) 2014 we will have to front some money and be reimbursed by NCDOT,” Paxton said.

Union County also has agreed to update sewer lines in the area around the intersection; something the town says has to be done for future development in the downtown area.

When completed, the improvements will raise the property value of homes in the area, so town leaders are in discussions of having residents help pay for some of the work by creating a special tax district to levy extra funds.

Such a district raises taxes in one area for a limited amount of time for a number of reasons, in this case helping pay for the work being done at Pleasant Plains and Potters roads.

Paxton knows this idea “probably will be a bit controversial,” but said it will help keep the town out of debt.  No decisions on creating the tax district have been made but town staff has been asked to collect information so the council can discuss future plans on raising money for the improvements.

Another project Paxton said the town is looking at is making improvements to the intersection of Stallings and Monroe roads when the widening of Monroe Road
takes place in 2017.  But for now this isn’t on the “wish list” of the council.

“We have to talk about that, so I don’t know if that will be the next priority, but I suspect it might be,” Paxton said.

One project Stallings has committed to is the creation of a sidewalk on Lawyers Road, something Paxton said will take place this spring.  Prior to beginning the $216,000 project, the town had to gain right-of-way approval with the property owners in the area.

Along with road and intersection improvements, the Stallings Parks and Recreation Committee is currently developing a conceptual plan for Blair Mill Park, at 1025 Fair Oaks Drive.

The town already placed a golf course on the property, but Paxton said Stallings leaders want to have a fully developed plan before continuing with further development at the park.

Before moving forward on any project, town officials have to make the decision to continue on a pay-as-you-go plan or take on debt to fund some of the larger projects.

“Right now the town is debt free, which is a good position to be in, but I think if we do some of these other projects in a timely manner we may not be able to do solely pay-as-you-go,” Paxton said.

The last large-scale project the town took part in was the creation of the town hall, which was paid off last year.

Stallings Town Council will continue discussions about the capital improvements plan and the downtown master plan at their next meeting on Feb. 11, a Monday, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Stalling Town Hall, 315 Stallings Road.

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