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Here's What Happened at the Sept. 19 Town Council Work Session

09/22/2016

The Clayton Town Council tackled a packed agenda at Monday's work session.

Here's what happened:

Public Hearings set for Wine on Main, Lone Star Steakhouse

The Town Council set two public hearings for its Oct. 3 meeting to be held 6:30 p.m. in the Town Council Chambers of The Clayton Center, 111 East Second Street in Downtown Clayton. The hearings are open to everyone to come share their opinions on the matters before the Council. Here's what's on the agenda:

  • Wine on Main Special-Use Permit: Owner Temple Phipps seeks a special-use permit to allow Wine on Main, located at 459 E. Main St., to operate as a cocktail lounge. The reclassification would allow the business to serve malt beverages, such as craft beer, in addition to wine. The owner also plans to add a limited food menu, which would be allowed following approval of the special-use permit. Wine on Main opened in early 2015 and recently expanded its front porch and fencing with the help of a Town of Clayton Downtown Façade and Site Element Improvements Grant.
  • Lone Star Steakhouse Rezoning: Owner James Levinson seeks rezoning of a 1.68 acre lot to B-3 Highway Business from B-3 SUD Highway Business Special-Use District. The land holds a Lone Star Steakhouse and is located at 13049 U.S. 70 Business in the Walmart-anchored Clayton Town Center shopping complex. Special Use Districts require all potential uses to go through the special use process in order to operate, regardless of what the base zoning district permits. The applicant is looking to remove this extra step from its property by eliminating the Special-Use designation. The Planning Board has received and approved a few similar requests this year.

Clayton Rotary Recognized for Supporting Our Police

Have you seen the signs in yards and businesses around Town saying "We Proudly Support Our Clayton Police?" You can thank the Clayton Rotary Club for those – and that's what the Town Council did Monday night!

One of Rotary's six areas of focus is Peace and Conflict Resolution, and with the recent issues across our nation facing law enforcement, our local chapters of this global organization thought it only appropriate to recognize and support their hometown police department.

Our Rotarians distributed 100 of these signs to businesses and residents around Clayton, and you can see them displayed throughout downtown, in shop windows, peeking out of flower beds and posted proudly in front yards. Since the signs showed up, we've taken calls and requests on social media from you asking, "How can I get one?!" While the first 100 are gone, Blackley's Printing & Sign Shop just ran another batch of 50 signs that are available now for $15 each. Proceeds from the sales will go back into Rotary programs that help to serve Clayton. In the past they've donated benches to our greenway and parks, and this year they're taking over the annual Downtown Clatyon Christmas Parade!

We can't thank this active community group enough for this very visual and popular effort to support the men and women on our police force.

Changes to Non-Utility Credit Card Payments Coming This Fall

Coming this fall, the Town of Clayton will restructure its credit-card convenience fees for non-utility payments such as permitting fees, parks and recreation programs and cemetery plot purchases.

The changes will save money for the average credit-card user and eliminate the current $500 limit on credit card transactions.

Under the new policy, the Town will charge a percentage-based convenience fee instead of its current flat charge of $3.95 to use a credit card for non-utility bills.

The new fee will range from 3 percent to 5 percent of the total bill, depending on the type of credit card the customer has. The exact fee will be calculated instantly and shared with the customer before the payment is completed. That way, if the customer feels the fee is too high, he or she can choose to use another method of payment. The same fee structure will apply to debit cards.

For most customers, the change will reduce their fees. The average non-utility payment to the Town of Clayton is $75, which means the average fee would range from $2.25 to $3.75 under the proposed fee structure.

The move to a percentage-based fee will also allow the Town of Clayton to remove its $500 cap on credit card payments for non-utility bills. That will be particularly useful for businesses and developers, who often run up permitting bills well over $500.

The changes DO NOT affect utility bills, such as electricity, water and sewer. For those transactions, the Town will continue to charge a flat fee of $3.95 for credit card payments.

Staff presented the changes at Monday’s Town Council work session, and the council placed the item on its Oct. 3 consent agenda for approval. After that vote makes the new policy official, the Town will work with its credit card service provider to implement it as soon as possible.

Customers looking to avoid convenience fees altogether may continue to pay with cash, check or money order.

Cemetery Billing Policy Under Review

The Town Council instructed staff to take a closer look at the Town’s billing policies for customers looking to finance the purchase of multiple cemetery plots. The topic came up after staff informed the Council that the Town has a problem with customers contracting to purchase multiple graves in our cemeteries and then falling behind in their payments. At this time, a total of 45 customers have $51,695 of past-due payments owed on 82 graves.

To clean up the books and free up graves for other customers, Town staff proposed sending final notices to those 45 customers via certified mail. If they do not respond by Feb. 1, 2017, the staff recommended the Town exercise its right to terminate the contracts without refunds. To prevent the issue from repeating itself, staff also proposed changes to the way the Town contracts the purchase of cemetery lots. Currently, customers put down $100 and pay for one grave per year until their contracts are fulfilled. Under the proposed rules, customers would have to pay up-front for one grave and would have until June 31 of the following year to pay in-full for any additional graves in their contract.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Grannis and Councilman Art Holder had reservations about terminating the contracts without issuing refunds. Staff advised the councilmen that it would require a change to the Town's Code of Ordinances to modify that policy. Councilman Jason Thompson noted that real estate in Town cemeteries is only becoming more valuable as they continue to fill up over time.

Mayor Jody McLeod directed staff to take an inventory of how many graves are available at each of the Town's cemeteries – Maplewood, Forest Hills and City Cemetery – along with an accounting of how many graves have been paid for but remain unoccupied.

Staff will report back to the Council at the Oct. 17 work session.

New Employees Introduced

Department heads introduced seven new workers to the Clayton Town Council at Monday's meeting.

Six of the new hires are filling vacancies that opened up in our electric and police departments and one job – the warehouse specialist – was restored in this year's budget after having been cut during the Great Recession. That position was filled by Chad Wallace, who will oversee the inflow and outflow of inventory at the Town's warehouse, which will increase efficiency primarily in the electric and water and sewer departments.

The other new workers are: Amy Calo, energy services technician; Penny Adams, administrative support specialist; Cory Barrows, electric line technician; Jake Lorren, electric line technician; Amber Butler, animal control officer; and Aurora Wilson-Mayo, police officer. Click here to see photos of all the new employees.

Grant Applications to Proceed

The Town Council granted permission for staff to apply for three grants from the state:

  • A $116,000 grant to complete Phase 1 of the Celebration Station Playground at East Clayton Community Park. The money would come from the Connect NC Bond Grant Program for Children and Veterans with Disabilities. The Celebration Station is designed to be a universal playground where children with and without special needs can play alongside each other. Unlike most grants – which require a dollar-for-dollar match from the Town – this grant would provide $4 for every $1 the Town puts toward to the project.
  • A pair of $150,000 Asset and Inventory Assessment Grants – one for the Town's water system and another for its wastewater treatment operations – from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. The state created the grant program to encourage water and wastewater utilities to become more viable and more proactive in the management and financing of their systems. As with the Connect NC Bond grant, these grants would provide $4 for every $1 the Town contributes.

Other Action

  • The Town Council added a proclamation declaring Saturday, Oct. 15 as High School Band Classic Day to its consent agenda for approval at the Oct. 3 meeting. On Oct. 15, the Clayton Band Boosters will sponsor the 31st Annual Clayton Band Classic at Clayton High School.
  • During the public comment period, Clayton resident Ronald Johnson introduced himself as a candidate for the Johnston County Board of Education.
  • The Council amended the Town's ordinance regarding notices for civil emergencies to reflect changes passed by the N.C. General Assembly. Staff noticed the ordinance needed updating while preparing for Hurricane Hermine.
  • The Council went into closed session to discuss a matter of economic development, as is provided under N.C.G.S. § 143-318.11(a)(4). No action followed the discussion.

Next Meeting Oct. 3

The Town Council's next regularly-scheduled meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 in the Town Council Chambers of The Clayton Center, 111 East Second Street in Downtown Clayton. We post a preview of each meeting a few days in advance on TownofClaytonNC.org and the Town of Clayton's Facebook page

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