The Dunn City Council honored one of the area’s longest serving businessmen as part of a long agenda at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
Mayor Oscar Harris presented a proclamation naming March 3 as Freddie Williford Day in Dunn. Mr. Williford was honored by his church at a service that day. The proclamation read by the mayor Tuesday night outlined over half a century of service to the community by Mr. Williford.
“Tonight we want to honor Dunn’s doughnut man,” Mr. Harris said.
Mr. Williford has owned Sherry’s Bakery since 1967. He changed the name from the Dunn Rite Bakery to honor his daughter Sherry.
Many of Mr. Williford’s accomplishments and contributions were recognized in the proclamation. They included a long time service of helping with the Dunn Christmas parade, multiple positions in the Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce, multiple roles at Spring Branch Baptist Church and his role organizing Community Pride events.
In other news, the town council voted to raise sewer rates in town, with one commissioner voting against the measure.
Council member Buddy Maness made a motion to increase sewer rates in town effective July 1.
The base sewer rate for in town customers will go from $11 to $13.75. Each bill also contains additional fees based on the amount of water used. That fee is going from $4.80 per 1,000 gallons used to $6 per 1,000 gallons used.
The original proposal was to increase rates on April 1 but Commissioner Frank McLean said residents needed time to prepare for the increase in the monthly bill.
“We need to give people time to digest this,” Mr. McLean said.
The move was necessary because in previous years the sewer fund was unable to support itself. According to public utilities staff members, the city has had a budget shortfall of $500,000 in the sewer fund each year.
The money to prop up the sewer fund has come from the water fund.
“We have robbed from the water fund to pay the sewer fund,” Mr. Maness said. “If we had done increases all along it wouldn’t be such a big hit now.”
The rate that was approved should eliminate the shortfall.
Mr. Maness agreed as he made his motion.
“This will give people a chance to plan,” Mr. Maness.
The council made a strong stance against a state legislative proposal to consolidate the Alcohol Beverage Control Boards across the state into a single countywide board. This move would impact the ABC Boards that are city controlled, such as Dunn, Lillington and Angier. The move would cost Dunn more than $100,000. In fiscal year 2017-2018 the ABC Board gave the Dunn Police Department $8,000 and gave $125,000 to the town’s general fund.
The council unanimously agreed the system should remain as it is.
“We have had good stores and we have had stable stores,” Mayor Harris said. “I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t oppose this. We cannot afford to lose this revenue.”
“We don’t need anyone telling us how to run our stores,” Mr. Maness said.
Mayor Harris said other towns in the county which have ABC stores are also against the measure.
Angier Mayor Lew Weatherspoon said his town has passed a resolution opposing the state proposal. Lillington Mayor Glenn McFadden said his town will pass a similar resolution in the near future.
In another major move, the council approved a bid for a paving project in town. Paving will likely begin on several streets in the near future.
The council unanimously approved a base bid of $710,175 submitted by the Turner Asphalt company for paving near the intersection of Broad Street and Ellis Avenue, Brunswick Drive and Washington Street.
Board members are ready to see the project move forward.
City Manager Steve Neuschafer said work should be completed by the fall, dependent on weather during the construction process.
“This needs to be our No. 1 project,” Council member Chuck Turnage said.
“I’m ready to get some paving done,” Mr. Manes said.
In other action, the board voted not to extend a Building Reuse Grant through the North Carolina Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division. The grant, for $100,000, awarded to Dunn Hotel LLC for the benefit of a replacment hotel being renovated on Spring Branch Road.
The company did not receive the funds because the company has not met job requirements to obtain the grant funds. There has been little activity on the site. The general contractor for the project has pulled the permits.
Board attorney Tilghman Pope sent a letter to the contractor in February asking for a status update on the project.
“It is time for us to make a serious decision on this property,” Mayor Harris said. “We need to know if there is going to be a Comfort Inn or there is not going to be a Comfort Inn.”
“I think we should not approve this grant because they aren’t upholding their agreement with the city,” Mr. Turnage said.
The board voted to maintain the same election fees which have been used in the past. The fee to file for mayor in the November election will be $42 and $27 for those seeking a council seat.
The board also issued a proclamation noting the retirement of public works employee Billy Eason. He will retire from the town on April 1. Mr. Eason has worked for the town since 1989 as a water and sewer service laborer. Since 2016 he has served as a street maintenance crew leader.
Local citizen Jay Sills spoke during the public comment on the board. He asked the city to continue working to solve the issue of drugs in the county. An emotional Mr. Sills said he lost his son due to a heroin overdose.
“The interstate that runs through Dunn is where the drugs are coming from,” Mr. Sills said. “Your votes here are important, we need you to put more enforcement on the street. I lost my son because of heroin.”