Windsor votes on town center, beer trucks at concerts

Published 10:32 am Monday, May 15, 2017

Windsor Mayor Carita Richardson cast a tie-breaking vote to approve a floor plan for the proposed renovations to Windsor’s Town Center after debating the matter for over an hour during the council meeting on Tuesday evening. Prior to Richardson’s intervention, the vote stood at 3-3, with council members Patty Flemming, Walter Bernacki and Greg Willis voting to proceed with the current set of plans and N. Macon Edwards, Durwood Scott and Tony Ambrose voting no.

The point of contention was the total cost of the project. Edwards argued that it would be fiscally unwise for the town to proceed with any floor plan without determining a budget for the project and the likely operating costs each design would carry.

“Has anybody sat down and said, ‘Ok, this is what it’s going to cost to operate this building this year and this is how we’re going to pay for it?” he asked. “We can have all the grandiose ideas we want, but if we don’t have a budget… shouldn’t that be part of the discussion?”

But Town Manager Michael Stallings replied that in order to determine those costs, he would first have to present the council’s ideas to an architect and then put the project out to bid using a single set of finalized plans that would not change.

“Once we have decided on what we’re doing, then we need to have design work done so we’re bidding on a set of drawings,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re never going to get apples-to-apples estimates.”

The floor plan the council ultimately approved specifies a reception and lobby area, a meeting room, an art room, a large catering kitchen and leaving the gym area its current size. The council had debated having a hallway leading to a smaller kitchen, a youth room and two multi-purpose rooms, but the idea was rejected. The multi-purpose rooms may still be included, but will be part of a later phase of the project if they are built.

The council also voted 5-2 to allow an organization to operate a beer truck during the town’s summer concerts following a discussion of numerous citizen requests for such a truck made to various council members during the recent Rhondels concert. The discussion centered on whether the town would have to assume liability for having a beer truck on-site during concerts and how to address the potential for intoxicated attendees.

Councilmen Willis and Edwards voted against the motion. Town Attorney Wallace Brittle suggested that the town could continue to present the bands without sponsoring the alcohol and could rotate drink vendors similar to how the city of Franklin’s “We Be Jammin’” concerts work.

An additional citizen concern, presented by Flemming, was that several people had suggested that the town build the new library before building a new municipal building, saying that the need for a larger library space was more immediate.

During Stalling’s report, he presented a brief overview of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, which is now available on the town’s website.

Edwards objected to the proposed increase in the town’s cigarette tax on the grounds that it has already saved up a lot of money and currently has a surplus.

“I can’t justify raising any kind of tax when we have all this surplus,” he said.

But Stallings said that the surplus being saved now was so the town would not have to take on debt in the future when it came time to fund some of the town’s larger capital projects such as the new municipal center and library. Scott said that the surplus was also a precaution should the town incur an unexpected expense three to four months after passing the budget and not be able to raise taxes for another year to cover the expense.

Edwards said he would support the cigarette tax increase if it was going toward a project that would benefit the citizens, but not if it was just going into the general fund as more surplus.

The council then made a motion to appropriate a donation of approximately $1,400 from the Woman’s Club of Windsor to purchase a new bench for the town’s butterfly garden, which passed unanimously. They also made a motion to re-appropriate $58,500 from funds budgeted for the Church Street/Shiloh Drive sidewalk project that were unexpended as of the end of fiscal year 2015-2016, and re-allocate those funds to the project for this coming fiscal year. That motion, too, passed unanimously.

A public hearing on the town’s budget will be scheduled for the end of May, with action being taken most likely during the June council meeting.