City Manager’s Report
Interim City Manager Terry A. Shelton
As the state continues to reopen, many Eden industries have also rehired employees, while others continue to struggle. Ours is a consumer-driven marketplace and shutting down businesses for eight weeks will naturally have an adverse effect on the economy. As of May 29, more than 40 million Americans were unemployed. Commercial businesses are in dire straits because many have been unable to pay rents and must negotiate with landlords for rent relief, which may or may not come. Datex Property Solutions reported that 54.1% of rents were paid in April and 58.6% of rents were paid in May.
On the positive side, national unemployment did not reach the 20% level that was feared in May but remains at 13.3%, which is traditionally very high. Also, even with the pandemic, there has been significant economic development activity in both Eden and Rockingham County since early April of this year.
NC Unemployment Benefits (from Winston-Salem Journal, week of June 1, 2020)
Initial unemployment-insurance benefit claims have dropped for the fifth consecutive week in North Carolina, indicating economic activity has started to pick back up. North Carolina had the 10th-highest number of UI filings in the nation, with a week-high of 172,745 for the week ending March 28. There was nearly an 18% decline in claims to 36,400 for the week ending May 30, down from 44,202 the week prior.
Southern Rockingham Corporate Park
The below graphic shows the location of the Southern Rockingham Corporate Park. A new Belgium company is coming to the park bringing more than 400 jobs. The park’s proximity to PTI and it being on an interstate highway were major considerations for Carrol’s investment in this property.
RCC Workforce Development Center
The Center for Workforce Development (CWD) project is on budget and on schedule at Rockingham Community College, with plans to begin construction in late 2021 and finish in early 2023. On Monday, May 4, Rockingham Community College President Dr. Mark Kinlaw updated the County’s Board of Commissioners on the $19 million project, which is being funded by the quarter-cent sales tax voters approved in 2018. RCC has received $2.66 million in revenues so far.
The RCC Board of Trustees approved an exterior design of the CWD in March, which included design modifications they requested after seeing a presentation at their January board meeting.
The one-story building will be 41,500 square feet, with a main entrance roughly in the center, facing the parking lot across from the Science Building. The CWD will house the programs for Electrical Systems Technology, Industrial Systems Technology, and Machining; and includes a lobby, common areas, offices within an administrative area, conference rooms, a 200-seat corporate meeting room, and a kitchen.
The interior is being planned out now, during the design development phase, which will last through August. The remaining timeline includes:
- Construction documents, October 2020-March 2021
- Advertisement for bids, September 2021
- Bid opening, October 2021
- Construction start, December 2021
- Construction completion, February 2023
All of the Connect NC Bond Fund projects, and those paid for with sales tax across North Carolina, go through the state construction office, keeping them busy and delaying the RCC project.
The College has spent $1.82 million of sales tax revenue, mostly on technology. RCC upgraded 20 computer labs in seven buildings, replaced several faculty and staff computers, upgraded network wiring, and installed a new telephone system.
The City of Eden Economic Development Department was a key supporter of the tax: spent months advocating for the tax at civic and other community groups and had a seat at the table of the committee that promoted the initiative.
The YMCA pool, outdoor exercise groups, and day camp are opening the week of June 8. All precautions are being taken, including temperature checks and masks for staff and members. The pool is laps only and in 45-minute blocks of reserved time.
Di-Lishi Frozen Yogurt
Owner Sam Wright has renovated the front portion of his business. They should reopen soon.
Ruby Tuesday Restaurant
The famous garden bar will be returning shortly to the Eden restaurant. This is one of the major attractions to this restaurant and its fans will be happy that it has returned.
Carter Motor and Cycle Sales-New Business
Located at 915 Washington Street, this new Eden business offers auto sales and service. They are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Call 336-612-2864 for more information.
Small Business Impact
A retail store at 615 Washington Street has opened at the former Tommy’s Barber Shop. This Is Nirvana sells international home décor, clothing, and jewelry. The store will have an official ribbon cutting at a later date.
The owner of Total Diva’s Closet has reopened. She has used some downtime to rearrange her inventory to allow for social distancing.
The director of Help Incorporated will open New Beginnings Too no later than June 15. They are researching their business model of accepting donations and disinfecting them. They will also change out their inventory before they reopen. This store will be the last to reopen in downtown since the Governor shut down businesses.
Many businesses have received government support to survive during forced shutdowns. Some have not received any Payroll Protection Program funds or Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds because they thought restrictions would be lifted sooner. Others are now applying for relief.
Get Fit Rockingham will begin in the next few weeks with t-shirt inventory delivered to the participating towns. The Kate B. Reynolds grant will be divided amongst the towns so that they may run their own separate programs this year.
The City of Eden has received an almost $20,000 NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) recycling grant that was submitted in the fall of 2019.
Tourism and Special Events
A Celebration of Art & Otters
Mark your calendars for Tuesday, July 21 at 10 a.m. You don’t want to miss A Celebration of Art & Otters on the Smith River Greenway! We will be celebrating the Butterfly Trail, Otter Sculpture, and the Otter Holt. We will be honoring the artists and organizers of these exciting projects!
We will officially launch our new ExploreEdenNC.com website in July on the plaza in Grogan Park. The date will be announced soon via our website and Facebook page. We want to celebrate our designer and all that makes Eden great!
We are anxiously awaiting Governor Cooper’s announcement coming at the end of the month concerning the criteria for Phase 3. Currently in Phase 2, outside gatherings are limited to 25. We will then make decisions concerning Shaggin’ on Fieldcrest, Summer Grown & Gathered, Touch-A-Truck, and RiverFest. Stay tuned!
Great River Race – September 19
Get those creative homemade vessels ready! More detailed information coming soon.
Improvements to the Freedom Park Nature Trail!
Waterline Replacement Projects Update
After all active customers on George Street were switched over to the new 2” PVC water main, a Sam W. Smith, Inc. crew cut and plugged the old galvanized water main at the intersection of Clark Street and George Street on May 12. Pavement cuts were patched two days later to complete the project.
Two crews from Citty’s Plumbing & Pools, Inc., assisted by Engineering Department personnel, started closing a few valves at 10 p.m. on June 2 in order to install a tee with two 8” valves, and a cross with three 8” valves near the southeast corner of the old Walmart building. Over the next five days, about 260 linear feet of 8” diameter ductile iron water main was installed from the south side of the building, along with seven bends, to connect with the new valve on the west side of the cross assembly. Hydrostatic pressure testing of this section of new water main was passed on June 8. Additional testing will continue as the crew begins installation of additional new water main starting at the valve on the east side of the cross assembly, with this other section to be located east of the retaining wall installed by the Ample Storage developer.
Additional information needed to provide electrical service to the Jackson Street Pressure Zone project was received from the booster pump supplier in mid-May. DOT personnel provided information on May 20 about a new form that needed to be filled out to go with the encroachment agreement request package prepared by Stoltzfus Engineering. Plans and proposed materials listing were sent to other City employees for review prior to requesting and receiving a purchase order for the package booster pump system on May 28. Additional contact information for electrical service installation was received on June 3, and the approved encroachment agreement from DOT was also received that day. Fabrication and testing of the pump system normally takes about three to four weeks.
Parks and Recreation
All Parks and Recreation facilities, except for the indoor Parks & Recreation facilities, are open in a limited capacity due to the COVID-19. The Freedom Park Splash Pad opened on June 1 and we hope the Mill Avenue Pool will open by June 15. The City hopes to open additional amenities after June 26, when the Governor allows Phase 3 to go into effect.
The Matrimony Creek Nature Trail is closed at this time due to the recent flooding.
Planning & Inspections
The City executed the Local Government Cloud-Based Small Enterprise Agreement with ESRI. This Agreement will improve the City’s ability to run analysis reports on our GIS data and allow 100 users, who can be viewers or creators. The employees identified as creators will be able to collect and correct data in the field. We have been working with ESRI representatives to make this transition and get training for the new services that will be available to the City. We have started our first project to create a navigation plan for the solid waste routes so that the truck drivers can use iPads that will tell them the turns and stops.
When the AMR meters were installed in 2012, the third-party vendor sent crews to GPS the meter coordinates after all the meters were installed. The meters previously installed for testing and all meters installed since that time were not included in the list of GPS coordinates. Since that time, our staff has run reports geocoding active water accounts with address points in our GIS data. Engineering staff continues to locate water meters and identify water meters that were incorrectly located on our GIS maps.
We continue to evaluate the sewer data and fill in field attribute information needed for manholes.
All code enforcement fees that have been assessed since July 1, 2019 have been identified and the property owners have been given notice that any fees not paid by June 15 will be transferred to the Rockingham County Tax Department. These fees will be added to the tax bills that are mailed out in August.
Unified Development Ordinance
We have had our fourth Steering Committee Meeting and have reviewed two of the three modules of the proposed ordinance. The consultants are preparing the first sections of the third and final module
Boards and Commissions
We had the regular Planning Board meeting through Zoom and have forwarded two cases to the Council for consideration: (1) a rezoning of land off Gilley Road; (2) a Watershed 10/70 request.
We have been working with Economic Development on potential grant funds for this project. The State currently has two grant programs that the City could apply for: (1) a traditional CDBG for residential uses; (2) a grant for Covid-19 issues. Housing for low and moderate income people is one of the areas covered.
We mailed a copy of the rehabilitation assistance application to everyone that had been surveyed before. The notice is on our website and our Facebook page. We have been answering many questions from the residents and are seeing a lot of interest. Those in the grant area have until July 30 to submit applications.
At the June meeting of the City Council, a number of policies have been presented for approval that are required by the CDBG program.
Operations & Procedures
The Eden Police department continues to work under CDC guidelines and the Governor’s current order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are still social distancing whenever and wherever possible. We continue to take reports via telephone when appropriate and minimize our exposure to each other and citizens when possible.
Some of the training for our officers has begun to open up. Commission classes, mandated recertification classes, and other training is once again being offered at community colleges and the North Carolina Justice Academy. We have not reset our mandatory in-service training dates yet, but that should be done within the next few weeks.
The CleanB is now running and doing great. A lot of the work is done for the final part of the construction ... wiring and pipe connections just need to be made. At this rate, it will be done way ahead of schedule. Synagro is helping us get the digester cleaned out, so most of this will take place by the end of June. The final closeout should be done in July.