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Landis officials discuss concerns with high utility charges; select members for Passive Park committee

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Town Manager Diane Seaford on Monday clarified concerns about utility bill costs among Landis residents. Aldermen also selected members to serve on the Passive Park Blue Ribbon Committee.

Seaford said many Landis residents have contacted Town Hall with concerns about high utility bill rates compared to neighboring towns and cities. She clarified that China Grove and Kannapolis, for example, are serviced by Duke Energy, which generates its own power and only charges for electricity usage. Landis is served via ElectriCities and is responsible for the costs of maintaining the electric meters, billing and distribution. Landis residents’ bills also include water, sewer, stormwater and garbage pickup fees.

Seaford provided a side-by-side example of an electric bill from Duke Energy versus one for the town of Landis. Duke Energy charged a rate of 9.1065 cents per kilowatt per hour, and Landis charges 9.5 cents. Duke charged a $14 basic facility charge, $90.70 for energy and 84 cents for renewable energy, totaling $105.54. Meanwhile, when comparing only electricity services, the bill showed Landis charged a $20 facility fee, $94.62 for energy and 81 cents for renewable energy, which only amounts to nearly $10 more than the Duke Energy bill.

Seaford said the increased facility charge is because Landis is tasked with maintaining electric meters, billing and distributing power, whereas Duke Energy generates its own power and is a much larger system.

Alderman Darrell Overcash said he’s only recalled having outages no longer than an hour since 2001. Alderman Tony Corriher said he recalls losing power for only four hours in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo ripped through the southeastern U.S.

In July, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Senate Bill 323, which could help towns and cities using ElectriCities eventually see lower rates if they decide to reinvest nuclear decommissioning funds into a state treasurer-controlled fund.

Also at the meeting, the town approved residents to serve on the Passive Park Blue Ribbon Committee, which will be tasked with designing, budgeting and fundraising the creation of a park downtown. In addition to Mayor Meredith Smith and alderwoman Katie Sells, members will include Summer Faw, John Hall, Delbert Nelms, Ryan Nelms, Tobitha Stewart, David Sells, Pamela Urban, Parks and Recreation Director Jessica Stamper and Billing Supervisor Rebecca Powell.

In July, discussions began about forming a committee to work toward constructing a passive park. Landis acquired from longtime residents D.C. and Frances Linn six lots located on the east side of U.S. 29 after their deaths in 2009. The Linn family had a longtime dream of creating a passive park in the town, which is similar to a typical neighborhood park, but it includes features such as benches, picnic areas, gardens and walking trails.

At the Sept. 13 meeting, Seaford brought forward a list of randomly selected Landis residents who had shown interest in the committee, including Ben Smagacz, Shelly Morgan, Megan Cleveland, Shasta Dease, Pamela Urban and John Hall. Resident and regular meeting attendee Nadine Cherry expressed concern during the public comment period about the selection process since she applied but wasn’t selected.

Corriher joined Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Stewart in voting against the measure during the Sept. 13 meeting, while Sells and Overcash voted in support of the selections. Smith cast the tie-breaking vote against the measure.

After that meeting, aldermen gathered for an informational meeting with residents who were interested in the park to further discuss the history of the endeavor, design details and future plans. They also established a formal application that considered applicants’ background and other volunteer interests around town and posted it to the website and on social media with a deadline of Oct. 6.

Salisbury residents Ed and Susan Norvell will serve as honorary members for the Linn family, while Martha Corriher will act as a representative for veteran recognition in the park. All design concepts will be brought to the board before bidding the development.

In other items at the meeting:

• Aldermen approved an ordinance to close portions of South and North Main Street from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 23 for the Southern Rowan Christmas Parade.

• Aldermen approved the annexation of 109 East 31st St. into the town’s limits. The request comes from Frances Balsamo and Mark Haskell, who own the 0.6-acre property. Planning, Zoning and Subdivision Administrator Richard Flowe said at the meeting there are no plans at this time for future development. Aldermen also approved amending the town’s land use and zoning map to reflect the newly annexed property.

• Assistant Public Safety Director Kevin Young recognized Officer Buddy Ray Porter Jr. for saving a woman who was choking during his lunch break on Sept. 24.

• Young also reminds residents that fire personnel are conducting annual hydrant maintenance and that they may notice discoloration or sediment within their home or business. If this happens, he recommends contacting Town Hall so that the lines can be flushed for a few minutes.

• Seaford reported volume and costs associated with the 2021 season at the pool, which is the first time the town has moved all of its operations in-house. The net cost for operating the pool amounts to $7,797, and 348 memberships were registered for the season. Of those, only 26 were never used. She said the board will need to consider some capital improvements in the next fiscal year budget for concrete repair around the perimeter of the pool, filter replacements and more shade. The estimated total cost ranges from $42,000 to $49,000.

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