Garner Cleveland Record

Council’s two day retreat lays plans for Garner’s future

Handwritten notes with bullet points of ideas and green sticky notes filled the walls during the Garner Town Council’s two-day retreat in Raleigh last week.

The ideas laid the groundwork for where council members want to focus their efforts in continuing to develop Garner.

Town leaders want to make sure they can benefit as much as possible from any future transit options that may come through Wake County in the near future. Wake County commissioners are expected to ask voters in November to fund their transit plan through a referendum.

As of now, Garner will reap some of the benefits of this transit system. The proposed bus routes and train system would run from RTP through Raleigh to Garner.

There will be three stops in Garner, one expected to be at Greenfield Parkway.

County Commissioners John Burns and Matt Calabria each stopped by the retreat on Thursday. Calabria said CAMPO, Triangle Transit and the county board of commissioners each has to sign off on the transit plan, possibly in an April, May or June time frame, which will determine when it hits a ballot.

He also talked about schools, another big concern for Garner and a topic during the retreat. Calabria said the bond will last the county through 2017, but right now county commissioners are trying to figure out how to fund it.

The third thing Calabria talked about was fire service. Calabria said the county’s compensation study on fire departments is almost complete and will be presented to the fire commission in March.

“I continue to be optimistic on that,” he said.

A pay study conducted over the summer revealed pay for the Garner Fire Department was about 15 percent behind other fire departments in the area similar to Garner’s. That means the average Garner firefighter is a little more than $6,000 behind the market average.

Although the fire department is paid by both the county and town, the town council verbally agreed in November to commit more than $260,500 in the next budget year to increase the salaries and benefits for employees in the Garner Fire Department, whether the county helps or not.

Fire Chief Matt Poole said the county study is very similar, with some small differences, to the town’s salary study. He said the county seems on board to work with the town as Calabria assured the town a few months ago.

Town leaders also looked at ways to make things easier for future construction on bond items.

When the police headquarters was being built, it was delayed multiple times because of problems with subcontractors. The next two major projects on the bond set to be built are a new town hall and a new recreation center.

“We’re on the cusp of building the biggest buildings the town has ever built,” interim Town Manager Rodney Dickerson said. “I don’t think it’s fair to ask (Garner Inspections Director) Tony (Chalk) to manage one of those, much less both of them at the same time.”

He said the town could bring in a private construction consultant to oversee the work to ensure it is done properly, with quality the town would approve of.

John Hodges, assistant town manager, said it would be possible to hire someone to do this on a contract basis and they could possibly roll it into the bond.

“One thing that probably bothers me more is, like Rodney said, we have to take the lowest responsible bidder,” Chalk said. He said a lot of times problems arise when contractors works with subcontractors they’ve never worked with before.

Council member Buck Kennedy thought it was a good idea to consider hiring a construction manager.

“It doesn’t reflect poorly on (Chalk), it reflects positively on ‘let’s get the best for Garner,’ ” he said.

Staff writer Aaron Moody contributed to this report

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland