Clemmons changes course on sewer extension

Published 10:34 am Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Council rejects budget amendment, rescinds interlocal agreement

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Clemmons Village Council is having second thoughts about moving forward with a sewer extension agreement just before Thanksgiving with The Lake at Belmont LLC and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities.

In Monday night’s meeting, council member Michelle Barson made a motion to reject the budget amendment and rescind the village’s sewer extension interlocal agreement with both parties and to direct Clemmons attorney Elliot Fus to notify both of this decision. The council unanimously gave its approval.

In its Nov. 22, 2021 meeting, the council voted in favor of the sewer agreement between Clemmons and The Lake at Belmont LLC, represented by Chris Parr, who is the developer for a 360-unit, multi-family development on 38.48 acres located at 1930 Lewisville-Clemmons Road that was approved along with a voluntary annexation request in December 2020.

In addition, the village agreed to enter into a interlocal agreement with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities to commence the design phase of the project.

The terms of the contract with Parr for an estimated $1.1 million cost for the sewer extension, called for him to pay the village a flat rate of $500,000, but Clemmons had requested that the owner’s contribution “to increase or decrease proportionately, if the cost of the design, permitting, construction and acquisition for the extension is more or less than the estimated cost.”

However, Parr said he would only consider offering a fixed price of $500,000, saying, “I think it’s a fair deal for everybody.”

The motion that night passed 3-1 with Barson being opposed to the amended sewer agreement and also to the interlocal agreement with the utilities administration, which was approved by the same margin.

Barson said, “I’m personally not comfortable with that,” adding she had concerns over future uncertainty, including inflation and rising costs.

In Monday night’s meeting, she said, “My hope in putting the brakes on this current sewer agreement is to revise it and potentially go back to something that is more palatable for Clemmons, knowing we have a big risk involved with allowing current development outside of our borders. Right now we have a blank check written to Chris Parr in exchange for the sewer. He will pay $500,000, and we are putting in the risk, however much that is, which we already know is in excess of $1 million. I want to make sure we know what we’re getting into with this sewer extension more long term.”

A wide-ranging conversation ensued, including council member Chris Wrights saying, “I kind of agree that the deal we ended up making with Parr was a terrible deal for Clemmons, so if there’s a way to get out of it, we need to get out of it.”

Council member Mary Cameron said that she had no problem in taking more time to look at all the facts.

“I see a lot of pros here,” she said. “Just to be very clear, the money that’s in that sewer fund ($5.5 million) isn’t going to be used for anything else, and we have limited possibilities for using it.”

Mike Combest, one of the new additions to the council after the action was taken in November, said he had a concern that the possible perception is that the council is backtracking, but that that now money is getting ready to be spent, “We’re going to do careful consideration.”

And Bradley Taylor, the other newbie on the board, said, “To me, this time allows us to really evaluate all the aspects again to make sure if this is a good deal or a bad deal for Clemmons and then we can take further action later if needed. I believe that’s the intent in the pause.”

Also in Monday night’s meeting, the council approved the minutes of the Jan. 14 special meeting (personnel matter) when Village Manager Scott Buffkin resigned his position.

Buffkin read the following statement in the meeting:

“With great regret due to personal reasons, I must tender my resignation to the Village of Clemmons. I have enjoyed my nearly five years of service and have greatly appreciated the people I have worked with. The staff of the village is without a doubt the best I have ever worked with and are a true asset to the citizens of the village.

“I am aware that my employment agreement calls for a 60-day notice, but I respectfully request that the council waive that requirement. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this organization and community, and I wish you and all of Clemmons well.”

According to the minutes, councilman Mike Combest made a motion “that this council accept Mr. Buffkin’s request to resign his position as village manager for the Village of Clemmons under the following conditions:

“First, that all requirements for advanced notice established in Mr. Buffkin’s employment contract be excused.

“Second, that this council award Mr. Buffkin the compensation he would be entitled to if he were leaving at the council’s initiative as laid out in Section 4 of his employment contract — for a maximum period of up to six months or until he accepts employment at equal or greater compensation than he is receiving now, whichever comes first.

“If Mr. Buffkin accepts employment at a lesser rate during the six-month period, the village will pay the difference in compensation during that period.

“And third, this departure package is awarded to recognize Scott Buffkin’s five years of dedicated and distinguished service to the Village of Clemmons.”

The motion was seconded by Cameron and approved unanimously.

As was reported last week, Assistant Village Manager Mike Gunnell was appointed to serve as interim village manager as a search begins for Buffkin’s replacement. Cameron and Taylor will be heading up the search committee for the council through the Piedmont Triad Regional Council.
In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:

• Approved amending the contract with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department with an increase of $29,950 due to a mid-year across the board 5% increase in county salaries to counteract rising vacancy numbers and a difficult labor market.

• Heard a presentation from Sandi Scannelli, president and CEO of the Shallow Ford Foundation, including a discussion on exploring the possibility of a community center in Clemmons.

• Revisited creating an ad-hoc environmental committee with plans for more discussion in the council’s upcoming retreat. Earlier in the meeting, Charles Sherrill spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, questioning whether this was needed and wanting more details.

• Also during the public comments, Carl Barauskas, who lives on Ridgecrest Road, asked for the council to consider changing the speed limit on the street from 35 mph to 25 mph because of the concerns of speeding and large trucks on the road.

• Heard from Jody Chatham, who said he is glad to be coming back to Clemmons where he will head up the Clemmons community policing division of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Chatham is replacing Brian Gieger, who announced he was retiring from the department this month.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the Marketing/Communications report that E-Recycle has been rescheduled for April 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Public Works Facility and that the Clemmons Farmers Market is accepting applications for full time, part time, daily and artisan vendors for the 2022 season. An informational meeting will be held at Village Hall on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 9 a.m. During the month of February, the village will hold a month-long campaign of Neighbors Helping Neighbors — an educational and collection campaign for the Clemmons Food Pantry with weekly themes.