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Council agrees to not brand water tower

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

For quite some time, the Clemmons Village Council has gone back and forth between adding some kind of mention of “Clemmons” on its water tower — or not.

So in Monday night’s meeting, with a different mix on the council now intact after the November election, it was decided to retract adding anything promoting Clemmons and West Forsyth on the water tower off U.S. 158.

“I know we’ve had this discussion with the previous council concerning the water tank, and it was ‘let’s do, let’s don’t, let’s do, let’s don’t,’ and I guess the last thing was ‘let’s do,’ ” said councilman Mike Rogers. “With the information I’ve gathered, I’d like for us to maybe go back on that.”

After revisiting the cost for the project and what the majority of the council considered to be a lack of visibility based on its location, Rogers made the motion to curtail the painting of the water tower. It passed by a 4-1 margin with councilwoman Michelle Barson opposed.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said that the proposal received a couple of years ago, depending on the specific request, was probably between $6,800 and $12,000.

“What we’re asking for is more ornate other than just having Clemmons,” he said, “At this point, there’s no way of projecting what the contractor would charge, but I would say $20,000 is not out of the range. It’s just a ballpark figure.”

Barson said that the funding for this project would be coming from the sewer (utilities) fund, which has a current balance of more than $4 million.

“This is about community pride, having pride in our school system,” Barson said. “That’s why people choose to live where they do. A strong school system means strong housing values. Forming a rash decision over $20,000 from a very robust earmarked fund, I’d rather get the quote and consider it at that time.”

Rogers said he had heard comments from the Clemmons Civic Club about not being in favor of the project, and he added that with the location, “it’s only visible from Walmart (Neighborhood Market) parking lot in essence. We need everything we have in our sewer fund for our future projects.”

Councilwoman Mary Cameron agreed, saying she would have more interest in this project if the water tower was closer to I-40.

“People driving down I-40 could see this is our brand, this is where we are,” she said, offering that the location off U.S. 158 offered limited visibility. “I think the location is everything. You already know where you are when you can see it. I was not in favor of putting anything on it when we painted it the last time. I have a problem with the price. I think it’s too expensive.”

Both Cameron and Rogers, longtime council members in the past, were re-elected in 2019 after unsuccessful bids in 2017.

Councilman Chris Wrights also weighed in on the water tower before Monday night’s vote, saying, “I was never a fan of painting the thing to begin with.”

Along with the water tower, the village was also considering new entrance signs, “Welcome to Clemmons, Home of West Forsyth, Village of Champions,” and the council agreed by consensus to move forward with that project.

That followed questions about the cost, where Buffkin provided an estimate of $2,500 for new signs at five locations, and if the signs now in place actually needed to be replaced.

Public Works Director Mike Gunnell said that some of the current signs are “a little weathered and some reflectivity is gone.” He said that the new reflective NCDOT signs are a darker color of green, and Mayor John Wait added that the signs in Clemmons no longer comply with current NCDOT standards.

In other business in Monday night’s meeting, the council made the first approvals under the new Street Modification Guide after a lengthy process, particularly with Gardenspring Drive where another public hearing was held in the previous meeting.

Rogers made the motion to install all stop signs recommended by Kimley-Horn relating to Gardenspring and also included the Lakefield Drive/Meadow Glen request — they were the first two applications for street modifications under the new system. The motion was approved unanimously, and in addition, it was clarified that there will be no street striping.

The overwhelming sentiment expressed by those residents who provided input for the traffic-calming request for Gardenspring at the Jan. 13 public hearing was against striping the road and for installing speed humps, which the residents originally requested, and putting up a three-way stop sign.

Engineer Jonathan Guy of Kimley-Horn made the recommendation in the Nov. 25, 2019, meeting for a multi-way stop at Gardenspring and Sandhurst Drive, restriping the existing roadway to provide for 9-foot traffic lanes and 2-foot shoulders and installing 25 mph speed-limit signs on both ends of Gardenspring.

For nearby Lakefield Drive, a dense residential neighborhood which runs from Peace Haven Road to N. Lakeshore Drive, Guy’s recommendation was to implement multi-way stop sign configurations at the intersections of Lakefield at Glenfield Lake, Lakefield at Meadow Glen Drive, and Lakefield at Meadow Glen Court.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin requested that in the future, from a staff viewpoint, that stop sign requests not go through the street modification process because “they are truly not for the purpose of slowing down traffic.”

Wait asked for consensus on the stop sign issue, and the council agreed.

Buffkin added that the case of the three-way stop was different because a safety issue had been identified at the Gardenspring and Sandhurst Drive intersection.

In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:

• Heard from Deanna Kaplan with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education and Ted Kaplan, a Forsyth County commissioner, asking for support of the ¼-cent sales tax proposal for teachers. Deanna Kaplan said that Forsyth County ranks as the lowest of the state’s major urban areas in local teacher supplement pay. She said that the proposed tax would generate an estimated $13 million for the first year and increase to $14.3 million by 2025. The increase will range from $2,000 to $3,000 more per teacher per year and lower the county property tax rate by one cent. Ted Kaplan said that the commissioners decided to take this path to “somewhat level the playing field” on how to get extra money for the school system with about 67 percent of the current revenue coming from property taxes and about 16 percent coming from sales tax. He added that this will make “a pretty big difference in the amount of revenue we’ll get,” saying that the other alternative would be raising the property taxes by three cents, and we are already “on what we consider the max.”

• Approved budget amendment 20-G-6 for an automobile claim to cover the cost of a patrol vehicle that was wrecked during a recent vehicle chase.

• Approved a Second Amendment to the Village Point Sewer Extension Agreement with the Utilities Commission, which will, as Buffkin said, effectively “remove the sunset clause altogether however long it takes to recoup our funds. We will be made full eventually as growth occurs.”

• Heard from Wait, who is the village’s Transportation Advisory Committee representative, with an update on some of the area’s road projects — showing several maps with updates on the timelines.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report that the village was now accepting applications for the 2020 Farmers Market, which will be moving to the grounds of the Jerry Long Family YMCA on Saturday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

• Heard from Valerie Kiger, a partner with Cannon & Company, who provided an audit report for Clemmons for the fiscal year, ending June 30, 2019, giving a “clean, unmodified opinion” and saying that finance officer Ann Stroud again did “an excellent job. The Council officially accepted the report.