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No pay increase for city manager

City sending letter to online publication to protest criticism of Emory

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

 

The Lincolnton City Council decided to extend City Manager Jeff Emory’s contract but did not offer him any increase in pay.
Following the more than two-hour closed session conducted before the end of the regular meeting, Mayor John Gilleland announced that council members had taken action on two separate items, the first of which was regarding Emory’s contract.
The City Council approved extending the contract for two years, while keeping his salary the same. It was also determined that cost of living would be assessed next November.
Additionally, during the closed session council members decided to ask City Attorney C.J. Wilson to draft a letter to the online publication, The Carolina Scoop, for alleging in a Thursday article that Emory “plays politics on the job.” City officials declined to release any details of the letter.
There may be questions about the legality of both actions since North Carolina’s open meeting statutes require any action to be taken in open session even if discussion is allowed in closed session.
No break down of the vote on either issue was released to the news media.
Prior to Thursday’s regular meeting, a swearing-in ceremony was set to be administered for Mayor John Gilleland, Ward II council member Dr. John “Les” Cloninger and Ward IV council member Larry Mac Hovis, during which each would take the oath of office.
However, this ceremony was postponed due to the ongoing election protest concerning irregularities with absentee ballot requests from the recent city election. As stated in the amended agenda, “due to an election protest for the 2011 municipal election, the successful candidates’ certificates cannot be validated by the state Board of Elections.”
Public notice will be provided when the city is notified of a reschedule date.
During the regular meeting, city council members unanimously approved a contract with Lowdermilk, Church & Co., L.L.P. to perform the 2011-2012 audit. The contract, which Emory described as a “very fair proposal,” is in the amount of $34,750.
The council also signed off on numerous reappointments and new appointments for the upcoming term beginning in January.
In addition, council members heard updates from Planning Director Laura Simmons on both the research from surrounding cities regarding enforcement issues with keeping backyard chickens within city limits and on the status of Ingles.
Simmons reported on specific responses from cities that have had some enforcement issues, while also noting that many reported few problems.
Simmons also said that the planning staff is currently in the process of working with the county’s animal control on potential enforcement, provided staffing levels would not have to be increased.
Cloninger asked if they could rescind approval of backyard chickens if they received complaints later, and Simmons replied that council members could include a sunset clause if desired.
Council members ultimately requested that Simmons present the proposed ordinance change at the next meeting, with plans to then move forward with a public hearing. Gilleland added that some of the numbers Simmons reported regarding fowl-related complaints in Winston Salem concerned him.
As for the status of Ingles, Simmons informed the city council that her staff has been notified that Ingles has recently received approval from CSX for stormwater-related encroachments in the CSX right-of-way. Simmons noted that construction is due to begin in March or April.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, speakers advocating for the allowing of backyard chickens asked council members to consider the ordinance change, pointing out that there are pros and cons to every action taken.
It was also requested that goats within city limits be considered, and Cloninger asked that a proposed ordinance allowing for goats be provided at the next meeting, as well.
Both speakers also addressed the issue of the city spraying for mosquitoes, citing the negative side effects involved and asking that council members do away with the service.
Emory noted that he had talked about the service with Public Works Director Steve Peeler and that there’s an “excellent chance” it will be cut.

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