Southwest Wake News

Morrisville considering repaying Hindu Society after 30 years

The Hindu Society of North Carolina gave the Town of Morrisville $14,000 in 1987 for improvements to Aviation Parkway in front of its facilities.

The town never made any improvements, nor do town records show it ever returned the money.

Now the Hindu Society could get the money back – with interest, to the tune of $75,000 – as its leaders plan to pay for road work themselves as part of an expansion on the campus.

“When I opened this temple 30 years ago they told me they would do improvements,” said Saroj Sharma, who founded the Hindu Society in 1976 with her husband, Gangadhar, and moved it to Morrisville in the ’80s. “They didn’t, but now we are.”

Leaders of the Hindu temple at 309 Aviation Parkway want to add new classrooms and meeting spaces to keep up with the area’s growing population.

To handle the anticipated extra traffic, the town would require the temple to add turn lanes, curbs, gutters and a drainage system to the often-congested Aviation Parkway.

“And that is really the minimum they can do to keep the road safe,” Town Manager Martha Wheelock said.

Sharma said adding the turn lanes is vital.

“Lots of people come,” she said. “So they turn and have accident? We don’t want that.”

The road work is estimated to cost $300,000. Temple leaders said having the $75,000 would help the work start sooner.

“We are trying to start this year in March ... and finish this year, by December, also,” Sharma said. “We are trying to go as fast as we can.”

Decades-old agreement

Town development rules require the Hindu Society to pitch in to build a median on Aviation Parkway, but only on the side facing the temple.

Wheelock said it doesn’t make sense to build half a median, and the state wouldn’t fund the other half for another decade.

She said the society could pay the town about $75,000 for a payment-in-lieu fee, instead of financing the median construction.

The Hindu Society had asked the town to waive that fee, but officials hesitated, saying it would set a bad precedent.

That’s when Morrisville leaders suggested paying back the 30-year-old fund, at an interest rate that both meets state standards and comes out to about the same cost.

Town records show there was an agreement decades ago to pay back the Hindu Society its $14,000 if the town didn’t use the money within five years. But Mayor Mark Stohlman Stohlman said there aren’t records showing if that happened, or what interest rate was agreed on at the time. The town didn’t keep very thorough records at the time, he said.

“I would not want to defend our records, or lack thereof, in a court of law,” Stohlman said.

He suggested paying the money back with an 8-percent interest rate – the standard rate in North Carolina law for overdue payments – to preempt any legal challenges. That comes out to about $75,000.

Stohlman said Aviation Parkway is a state-owned road that the town likely would never pay to improve on its own, which complicates the issue.

Council member Michael Schlink said promises made by the town council, even decades ago, outweigh whether the town would normally pay for such improvements.

The town’s elected officials made deals in the past, Schlink said, “and we need to uphold our part of it.”

No one on the Town council expressed opposition to crediting the Hindu Society the $75,000, but they didn’t vote on the matter. A vote could come at the next town meeting, on Jan. 27.

“I really appreciate the road improvements suggested by the (Hindu Society),” council member Vicki Scroggins-Johnson said. “That’s a road with a lot of traffic.”