Town Board Meeting: May 26
The Town of Davidson Board of Commissioners held a virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 6:00 pm through the Zoom virtual platform and was streamed live on YouTube.
Mayor Knox read three proclamations at the start of the meeting: The first was for Historic Preservation Month – May 2020. Please see the Town’s press released published by News of Davidson. The second was for Tourette Syndrome Awareness Day – June 4. The third proclamation was for National Gun Violence Awareness Day – June 5.
In a change to the scheduled agenda, Town Manager Jamie Justice asked to insert an announcement. With approval from the Board, Justice introduced Fire Chief Bo Fitzgerald to make a special announcement. He had big news. The Davidson Fire Department (DFD) recently underwent an Insurance Services Office “ISO inspection” – a detailed inspection that essentially determines how quickly and effective a fire department can respond to a fire. The ratings impact insurance rates for homeowners and business owners.
The last time DFD underwent an ISO inspection was in 2008, and the town earned a split ranking based on properties in town vs. in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). The inspection ratings range from Class 1 to Class 10, with 1 being the best. In 2008, the ratings were Class 9E for the ETJ – most notably because water was not available to fight fires. In town, the rating was a Class 5. Fitzgerald believed the improvements made over the past 12 years would move the town up by several classes for both areas, and he was right.
This time the inspectors further split the assessment of the ETJ into 2 categories: inside and outside 5 miles from the nearest fire station. For areas outside the 5-mile range, the grade remained a Class 9E. However, Fitzgerald noted that he does not believe that there is a structure located in that area. The huge improvements were a jump to Class 4 for the remainder of the ETJ, and a move to Class 2 for the incorporated part of town. That puts DFD in the top 3% of jurisdictions statewide.
Fitzgerald credited his firefighters for their efforts, which included setting up a plan for tanker truck fire support in the ETJ. He thanked the current and previous Town Boards for their support – which included personnel and equipment support. He also noted that the establishment of Fire Station #2 as transformational change in firefighting. The Mayor and Town Board thanked Chief Fitzgerald and asked him to share their thanks with his firefighters.
The next part of the meeting was set aside for the required Public Hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget which had been presented at the Board’s meeting on May 12. In light of the meeting being held virtually, the town published the following information in advance of the meeting: “Article 1A of Chapter 166A of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read: “NCGS§166A-19.24. Remote meetings during certain declarations of emergency (e) Public Hearings. – A public body may conduct any public hearing required or authorized by law during a remote meeting, and take action thereon, provided the public body allows for written comments on the subject of the public hearing to be submitted between publication of any required notice and 24 hours after the public hearing.”
In order to ensure public participation, the Town offered following options prior to the budget public hearing for public comment. These options were developed to allow different technologies to be used ensuring equitable and robust comment opportunities: email, phone, Speak Up Online Platform, or via Social Media. No comments were received during this period.
Following the Public Comment period on the FY21 Budget, a separate public hearing was held for comments on other topics. The same options for providing comments were made available for this session as well. Four citizens provided comments during this session, and were read by Town Clerk Betsy Shores. The topics of the comments included: a proposal for turning Main Street into a pedestrian mall, concern for expending taxpayer dollars to support Davidson nonprofits, comments about wearing masks and the potential impact on businesses, and a recommendation to prioritize sidewalk projects over existing plans.
The next portion of the meeting was dedicated to providing a COVID-19 update. Town staff and the board of commissioners discussed the Town of Davidson COVID-19 response and how to protect the public health in Davidson. The initial discussion was focused on feedback from several Business Roundtables that were held last week with local business owners – this included talk of expanding outdoor dining and seating. Staff subseuqently outlined efforts to proactively partner with the faith community, nonprofits, and other organizations to distribute masks. At the end of the discussion, the Board voted unanimously to approve 3 different actions items. First they allowed local businesses to serve alcohol outdoors – per a recent, temporary decision by the State ABC. Next they approved two budget amendments to expend funds to support COVID-19 related costs.
Following approval of the consent agenda, the Board resumed discussion of old business – the FY20-21 Budget. Town Manager Jamie Justice and Finance Director Piet Swart reviewed updated material from the previous meeting as commissioners and provided details on a request to identify possible adjustments to fee schedules.
The meeting concluded with Jamie Justice reviewing upcoming agenda items, and providing status updates on items from last week’s meetings. That included a discussion of how to move forward with the next phases of re-opening. In addition to holding to the existing meeting schedule, the board asked that there be an effort to identify the need to hold additional mid-cycle meetings to address any important COVID-19 related decisions.