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Commissioners split 3-2 on pay raise for Wood

Arena: Wanted smaller increase

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners decided in a split vote Monday night to give County Manager George Wood a 3 percent pay raise.
The decision came after a closed-session discussion regarding Wood’s evaluation, resulting in a 3-2 vote, with Commissioner George Arena and Commissioner Carrol Mitchem opposed to the salary hike.
Arena told the Times-News Tuesday that his opposition to the raise was because of its amount.
“I indicated I wanted the raise to match the average (county) employee increase of 2.5 percent, not above that level,” Arena said.
As the Times-News previously reported, merit pay increases of up to 2.5 percent were approved for county employees as part of the new fiscal year’s budget. Arena had also opposed that move, saying at the time that he didn’t think it was appropriate to use deficit funding to allow for the pay hikes.
Wood had no comment on the split vote, but said, “I appreciate the feedback on the evaluation and the raise.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, commissioners unanimously approved an incentive grant agreement with Cataler North America, a manufacturer of automotive catalysts and a supplier to Toyota. The company is planning to install new equipment in its Lincoln County Industrial Park facility by November, investing $6.8 million within two years.
Additionally, at least four new jobs, paying average weekly wages of $720, would be created in the process.
If those conditions are met, the county would then pay roughly $18,500 in cash grants annually for a five-year period to the company.
In other board action at Monday’s meeting:
Commissioners voted 4-1, with Mitchem in opposition, to reject Crosland Southeast’s request to rezone property that is located on the east side of the N.C. 16 bypass near the Catawba-Lincoln county line as commercial, despite the Planning Board’s unanimous vote recommending approval of the request. Arena expressed concern with allowing the rezoning before the retail development and investment firm had submitted a master plan, saying he believed it would set a “precedent I don’t feel is appropriate.” He told the applicant that he wasn’t saying his intentions weren’t genuine, but that the county’s interest needed to be protected.
Commissioners voted 4-1, with Mitchem in opposition, to approve an amendment to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance regarding regulations for Internet sweepstakes gaming operations. Mitchem maintained that it was not the county government’s business to regulate such centers. As previously reported, the standards would call for separation requirements from residential zoning districts, churches and schools, certain access and visibility requirements, limits on hours of operation and parking specifications. The regulations will not affect those centers already in business.
Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with RCC Consultants, in the amount of roughly $85,000, for services related to the second phase of an emergency radio communications project.
Commissioners approved a fee-waiver request for this year’s Denver Days event in a 3-1 vote, resulting from the recently passed Specials Events Ordinance, with Mitchem in opposition and Commissioner Jim Klein recusing himself from voting due to his involvement with the event’s sponsor. The ordinance allows permit fees to be waived for certain events, including those sponsored by nonprofit organizations. Mitchem said he was only opposed because he believes the waiver should be a one-time request, rather than applicable for just a year.
Commissioners unanimously approved the authorization of Cleveland County Water to provide water service on Green Farm Road and Amazing Grace Road.

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