The Smithfield Town Council was split last week in its decision to spend $113,000 to light trees along Market Street downtown.
The council voted 5-2 to move forward with the lighting project. Only Councilmen Emery Ashley and Marlon Lee voted no, citing the project’s expense.
Mayor Andy Moore, who does not vote except to break or create a tie, also fretted about the cost.
“I struggle with spending $113,000 to light trees,” he said.
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Ashley said Smithfield needed to fix some broken things before spending money on something new. “How can we spend $3,000 to light each tree when that clock (at the corner of Market and Third streets) isn’t right except two times a day?” he asked.
Most of the money – $96,000 – will come from a state grant for downtown revitalization. The council received word of the grant some weeks ago but struggled with how to spend the money.
At last week’s meeting, Councilman Perry Harris reminded the council that it had 30 days to spend the money or lose the grant.
The council then voted to spend an additional $17,000 to reach the $113,000 price tag for lighting the 38 trees on Market Street from the Neuse River to Bright Leaf Boulevard. Each tree will cost $2,974 to light.
The initial estimate was $5,500 per tree, or about $210,000 for the entire project. To save money, staff suggested town crews do part of the work.
Both the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. and the town’s Appearance Commission supported using the grant to light downtown trees.
Other options were sidewalk repairs, greenway enhancements, downtown way-finding signs and resurfacing the parking lot between Simple Twist and Wells Fargo.
The town will now seek formal bids for the tree-lighting work.
Also last week, the council:
▪ Administered the oath of office to a new police officer, Marshall Tate.
▪ Issued conditional-use permit that will allow Carroll Cottle Farms to temporarily sell produce on North Bright Leaf Boulevard near Hospital Road.
▪ Agreed to buy a $7,500 diagnostic scanner for town vehicles.
▪ Agreed to buy a 14-foot dump trailer for $7,500.
▪ Agreed to pay accounting firm Petway Mill & Pearson, PA $25,000 to audit the town’s 2015-16 finances.
▪ Agreed to pursue buying the property at 116 S. Fifth St. That’s next door to the police station. The lot has a house that burned earlier this year. The town already owns the lot on the other side of the house.
▪ Debated but took no action on allowing the East Smithfield Improvement Organization to use the Smith-Collins Park concession stand during its special events.
▪ Heard a report that said the town was not to blame for drainage problems in Pine Acres subdivision.
▪ Agreed to seek a state grant to study needs in the town’s water and sewer systems.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett