Mocksville board retreat a first step in budget process

Published 1:10 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

By Jeanna Baxter White

Word Master Media Group

Recognizing that a goal without a plan is just a wish, members of the Mocksville Town Board kicked off its budget process with a half-day meeting that allowed the board and staff to discuss challenges and needs facing the town during the coming year.

Board members listened to presentations by the town manager, economic development, town engineer, Envirolink, and the heads of each department, which provided a progress report toward strategic goals and shared funding needs for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

The strategic plan, Town Manager Ken Gamble said, is a guide.

“What keeps you up at night? What is your biggest concern going into this budget year?,” asked Town Manager Ken Gamble.

“We never get fully there because we are always growing and developing, but when we make decisions, we have these overall goals in mind. That point of the strategic plan is to get us there step by step.

“The strategic plan provides a framework for achieving goals and provides accountability to ensure we stay on track with what we have agreed is important.”

He said 120 specific action items were assigned to the town departments this year as part of the strategic plan, with 65% in progress and 35% complete.

“All of our action items are tied to performance evaluations for our leadership team so that we have  accountability for everything that we say we are going to do in the strategic plan.”

Gamble then provided an overview of his progress toward goals in community safety and appearance, responsible and balanced growth, economic development, organizational excellence, and a healthy and active community.

Priorities for FY 2024-2025:

• Incorporate Study Data Into Strategic and Capital Improvement Plans;

• Pavement & Sidewalk Survey;

• Asset Inventory & Assessment for Water & Sewer

• Water System Interconnection;

• Fire Department Needs Based on 3rd-Party Evaluation;

• Update 2019 Comprehensive Plan;

• Zoning Ordinance Review.

Finance Director Lynn Trivette and Rana Gaither said the administration department’s top strategic goals focused on working with Parks & Grounds to develop a sustainable cost recovery policy for Rich Park, recruiting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce, leveraging technology and innovative business approaches to enhance customer service and improve business efficiencies, and expanding community engagement.

All were accomplished, they said.

This year’s capital project recommendations are the installation of a lattice brick wall in front of the Town Hall AC unit so that it can better breathe, as recommended by the HVAC service company, and the completion of Phase III of the paver project, which involves replacing broken pavers along the rest of Clement and the beginning on Water Street.

Emily Quance, human resources specialist, said recruiting employees is difficult, particularly for public works and the fire department. The town must develop fair pay and compensation, career development and advancement opportunities, and invest in employees through training and coaching, she said. HR is creating an annual report that will establish a rolling five-year data set to track recruiting, retention, longevity, and turnover numbers.

Efforts to improve recruitment include: an increased use of social media and direct outreach to more diverse parts of the community; promoting internship opportunities; streamlining the application and hiring process; reviewing job descriptions/duties.

Quance said that retaining employees is also critical.

She discussed inflation vs cost of living increases over the last five years and proposed a 3% cost of living adjustment for town employees this year. She also recommended a 2% retention bonus for full-time employees rated “Meets Expectations” for the FY24-25 evaluation period. The bonus would be provided at the end of the budget year (June 2025)

Community Development operates within four divisions: the town, Mocksville Tourism, Historical Davie, and the Main Street Program. This year’s goals have centered around expanding, diversifying, revitalizing, and promoting the historic downtown and seeking partnerships to drive economic development.

Director of Marketing and Community Development, Jennifer Evens, said the town is working towards full accreditation from the Main Street Program to increase public input and leverage the program’s full value.

Budget requests centered around: additional funding for advertising and new events; wayfinding signs Phase IV; wayfinding sign maintenance; streetscape trees  and installationl and an ornamental fence along a portion of Main Street.

The Mocksville Fire Department (MFD) covers 25.79 square miles in Davie, 8.58 square miles in the town limits, and 17.21 square miles surrounding the town.

The department answered 1,537 calls in 2023 and anticipates this number to continue growing as commercial square footage and residential properties increase.   

In 2023, the town, with help of fire chief consultants, concluded that: a second station is needed in the northern section of the town; only one of three engines rated as in “good shape.” (A new engine will soon be ordered but is still three years away from delivery); and the ladder truck is reaching the end of its service life.

The department is developing strategies to attract employees and retain current employees through a schedule change, employee appreciation, and addressing starting salary. Carter shared wages are not competitive with surrounding areas and recommended an increase to the starting salary and a comparable increase for current firefighters.

Requests for FY 2024-2025: Knox Master Key Control System; 5 sets of PPE at $7,000 each; hose replacement $10,000; 2 Level “A” Hazmat Suits at $1,000 each; 1 adult & 1 child fire resistant rescue msnnequin at $5,000; host one specialty fire class  at $5,000; funding for training; 6 beds with storage at $10,000.

Parks & Rec Director Chris Vaughn presented a list of capital requests: grapple bucket, $3,986, to help with moving and pushing brush in the compost yard; LA 724 Kubota Loader,  $7,984; leaf truck, $178,030.

Public Works Director Brian Moore detailed equipment and personnel needs for FY 2024-2025: replace existing dump truck that is no longer safe to operate with a used dump truck, $40,000; two new employees to assist in reading water meters, perform cut-offs and cut-ons, and complete rereads in time to get the water bills out on time.”

The town contracts with Envirolink to maintain water and sewer plants. Once the Cooleemee Water Plant goes online in 2026, the town will purchase water from the county. Moore advised the board to consider hiring a maintenance person to work with Envirolink now to learn the operation of the sewer plant. “I believe the town will save money by investing in an employee to run our plant rather than hiring a contractor to take care of it for us.”

Chuck Willis, Willis Engineers, detailed the town’s water and wastewater projects. Utilizing maps, he  explained the town’s water and wastewater Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which details larger projects to be implemented over the next five years. Willis gave updates about ongoing projects and shared that $10 million in state and federal grants has made these big projects possible.

There are several CIP projects under way, including a new pump station and force main to convey wastewater from the Leonard Creek basin and Brakebush Brothers chicken plant. These facilities will move wastewater from the town’s Dutchman’s Creek plant to the county-owned treatmentpPlant in Cooleemee, creating additional capacity for future development in the north part of Mocksville. Improvements will also include renovating the Bear Creek Pump Station and an additional water line to improve service to customers on the south side of town. These projects are funded by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Golden Leaf, and town funds. Both are expected to be completed this spring.

Additional projects will concentrate on improvements to the water and sewer facilities north of I-40. The SouthPoint Pump Station and force main and north elevated tank projects are in the design process. Both are being funded by direct appropriations in the 2022 state budget.

The retreat was the first public meeting in the FY2024-2025 budget process. The budget will continue to be discussed at the monthly board meetings.: March 5, 1st draft and department head requests; April 2, second draft and adjustments & corrections; May 7, proposed budget and manager’s message; and June 4, public hearing/adoption of budget.

For more information, call (336) 753-6700 or visit