Year of big debates in Weddington

WEDDINGTON – Residents in Weddington turned out like never before in 2013 for issues that included the agreement between the town and the Providence Volunteer Fire Department and the new water tower approved for Hemby Road.

“It’s not that the other issues weren’t important, it’s just that the issues were more complex than they were in prior years,” Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry said of the two dominant topics.

Weddington Town Council discussed the possibility of an agreement with the Providence VFD for nearly six months before reaching a consensus that included the purchase of the real property of the fire department in return for the funds to renovate the facility. Upon the completion of the renovations to the buildings, the town will own the 1.2 acres, 8,320-square-foot front building and 1,500-square-foot rear building. The town paid $1 million to the department in return for the property, which will be worth nearly $1.5 million after renovations.

Before signing an agreement to sell the department’s facility, officials with Providence VFD wanted security for future fire service in Weddington, which is what led to the creation of a 10-year agreement between the department and the town. Prior to the creation of this agreement, town leaders revisited the contract every year for renewal.

“In 2013, I think that we had two very significant issues we had to address,” Barry, who was not re-elected in November, said. “Primarily, there was fire department funding and the renovation of the current facility of the Providence Volunteer Fire Department without incurring the transfer of assets from the taxpayer to a private entity, and the water tower.”

When first approached about helping the fire department fund the renovations for its facility, council members weren’t comfortable with giving $1 million in taxpayers’ money without receiving something in return, an asset for the taxpayer.

Also on the forefront was the new water tower to be constructed in town.

After seven years, the council was brought yet another proposal for a 1.5 million-gallon, 180-foot water tower to help alleviate some of the water pressure problems faced by residents throughout Weddington and in other parts of western Union County.

From petitions to public hearings, people from both sides of the issue spoke to council about their opinions on the topic, and in the end council decided the needs of those who couldn’t shower at times, wash their clothes or do the dishes were the most important. The tower should be complete in spring 2015 and even out the water pressure in town and bring the fire hydrants in town to the required pressure.

Although some in the town disagreed with the results of the two major issues faced by the council this year, Barry and other council members stand by their decisions.

“I think that we had a monumental effort and consensus building in the town council to address the primary concerns on both of those issues,” Barry said, adding that the fire department and water tower issues had a very significant affect on the quality of life for residents in the town, unlike many issues discussed in previous years.

And for the future council, immediately after being seated new members will have important issues on the docket that could have a significant impact on the town and taxpayers.

“The new town council has one looming issue they are going to have to deal with and that is the North Carolina Department of Transportation communication that they are no longer going to take over the road maintenance and the impact that will have on the finances of the town and the finances of the taxpayers,” Barry said.

Council has not set a date for discussing how it will handle the new burden, but it’s something that needs a decision soon, as the state will no longer take over roads in subdivisions in the early stages of development.

The new council will be seated Monday, Dec. 9, during the regular town council meeting at 7 p.m. at the town hall, 1924 Weddington Road.

See more on the biggest issues of 2013 in other western Union County towns in future issues.

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