In an article concerning Andrea Correll’s resignation in your Aug. 21, 2019, paper omissions of key information were made in several areas. We feel that a fuller explanation will allow a better understanding of current happenings by the town’s citizens.
First, we want to state that everyone on the Swansboro Board of Commissioners has the utmost respect for Andrea and we deeply regret her leaving. She has been an excellent planning director and we wish her continued success in her career.
Second, the board believes that the ultimate and highest responsibility we have is to the citizens of the town. We are entrusted with their monies and need to carefully expend them and effectively steer the town staff in the direction most needed by the town. Our goal is to have the town run effectively without needing tax increases.
No one on the board has ever stated or implied that there are too many town employees or that they are paid too much. In fact, we have applied for a state grant to assist in adding three new firefighters to our department. All the services provided are necessary in our unanimous opinion. We have the utmost respect for the employees of our town and thank them for their services whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Over the last five years, wages and benefits for our town employees have increased 33 percent, while revenues have increased only 26 percent. In the current budget we provided 2 percent for merit increases and 1 percent as a COLA (cost of living) increase. In total, we gave the staff 3 percent to apply with the staff having discretion on 2 percent. In the year 2018 the national average increase was 2 percent and in 2019 it is projected to be 2.1 percent. Our pay scales are within range when considering the North Carolina League of Municipalities data. Four of the five commissioners approved this budget.
In discussing her benefits Andrea stated that our medical deductible is $3,000 and her new job offers a $1,000 deductible. The article neglected to mention that Swansboro instituted a health reimbursement arrangement at the time the deductible increased. It reimburses the employee for at least $1,300 of the spread between $1,000 and $3,000. The actual difference in benefit plans will be small, since in her new plan she will be required to pay at least 20 percent of the amount spent between $1,000 and $3,000.
The average full-time Swansboro government employee makes slightly more than the average Swansboro family’s household income and receives benefits far greater than the average Swansboro resident. Retirement plans allow them to retire with full benefits between 52 and 55 years old and receive continuing medical coverage until they are 65 and qualify for Medicare.
I want to make one final statement concerning the Land-Use Plan. We have no issue with the plan as written. The disagreement comes with some of the interpretations being made. One area of concern is tracts of land close to town zoned Rural Agricultural. The Land-Use Plan specifies how residential usage should be control and states that in higher density areas smaller lots are important to allow for adequate revenues for servicing them. However, a recommendation was made by the planning board to require minimum 3-acre lots on all such zoning.
Another is the question as to how wetlands are to be controlled and which types of wetlands should be protected at all costs. We have requested a Board session to sit down and resolve this issue so that we can move forward cohesively.
Obviously, there are issues the board needs to resolve about the future development in Swansboro and how we get there. That will always be the case. However, we believe these issues can be resolved in a positive manner that maintains our image as the Friendly City by the Sea.
Roy Herrick is a town commissioner.