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Commissioners vote 3-2 against accepting downtown property

TRYON — The Town of Tryon denied accepting a piece of property at the corner of Palmer and North Trade streets to create a new plaza.

The town council met Tuesday from its recessed meeting last week to decide whether or not to accept the donation from property owner Bob Scruggs.

The vote was tied, with commissioners Crys Armbrust and Bill Ingham voting to accept the property, and commissioners Bill Crowell and Chrelle Booker voting against. Mayor Alan Peoples broke the tie and voted against.

The donation came with the town also taking on the responsibility of repairing drainage issues underneath the street, with estimates being $63,000 to fix the drainage and create the plaza. The drainage repair estimate was $48,000.

Armbrust reviewed different sources of money the town could use to pay for the plaza and drainage, including from the town’s fund balance and a police position in the budget commissioners have said they are not filling.

“This project could be funded with no real harm to what the state allows us to do,” Armbrust said, speaking of the state requiring local governments to keep a minimum 8 percent fund balance.

Tryon commissioners agreed to maintain a 30 percent fund balance, and Town Manager Zach Ollis said preliminary audit figures put the town’s fund balance at 45 percent.

Crowell said the estimate for the project is $63,000, if contractors do not hit granite.

Peoples said he does not think the town needs it, and named several projects the town does need right now. He mentioned the need for water meters, the trash truck the town is having to weld back together to use, sidewalks to White Oak and the Roseland Center, dump trucks that keep needing repairs, paving on the back side of the streets and an elevator in the town hall building so the town can utilize upstairs office space.

Crowell mentioned seven street lights that need replacing, with four of those needing new poles.

“We’re not even maintaining what we have now, and we want more,” Crowell said.

Crowell said if it was just the plaza, he would be all for it, but the creek issue is on private property. He said if the town repairs that creek, when other pipes collapse, those private property owners are going to say “the town did it for them, now do it for us.”

Crowell also said he does not like the idea of spending $60,000 without conversation and without long-term thinking. The project is not in this year’s budget, nor in the town’s streetscape plan, Crowell said.

Scruggs suggested the town not create the plaza to save money, but Crowell said the town accepting the property is all about the plaza.

“My principal concern is we are at the end of a 20-year project, to which hundreds of people have contributed time, talent and treasure, and it seems to me that we should deliver to our citizens the very best product for our citizens for use, not only today, but generations to come,” Armbrust said. “We have an opportunity tonight to do that, without doing any fiscal harm.”

The council opened the discussion up for public comment prior to the vote.

Warren Carson said there are many needs in this town that have gone unaddressed and unfulfilled.

Carson said it would be different if the project were something the town had to have.

“People are suffering day to day,” Carson said. “They need some attention. I just don’t see $65,000 going into this project that seems, quite frankly, rather frivolous.”

Lindy Buss, who is a member of the Harmon Field Board of Supervisors and chair of Fans of Harmon Field, said she is confused that the town cannot take care of and keep up the property it already has, speaking of the Harmon Field playground that the Fans of Harmon Field is raising money to replace.

“The Town of Tryon owns the playground,” Buss said. “They own Harmon Field. Yet, our kids are playing on crap.”

Armbrust said Buss has gone to the Polk County Community Foundation for a grant, but has been denied because the previous organization, the Friends of Harmon Field, has a dark shadow over it because of embezzled money.

“So does the Town of Tryon,” Buss rebutted.

Armbrust said he fully supports the playground fundraising project, but the Fans of Harmon Field asked to fundraise — they did not ask the town for funding.

Buss said she did ask the town, and that fundraising is not something she wants to do; it is something she is doing because she cares.