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Morganton City Hall

Applause broke the silence at City Hall before a brief recess after Morganton City Council members approved a change to the city’s utility policy.

The change came after City Hall was packed for the council’s September meeting, and again on Sept. 25.

The new policy allows the city to accept the following items as identification to get utilities in the city:

» Any up-to-date formal identification document with photograph issued by the federal government or any of its agencies.

» Any up-to-date formal identification document issued by any state government or agency.

» An up-to-date passport with photograph issued by the government of any nation.

» An up-to-date driver’s license or military service ID with photograph issued by any nation.

As is required by state law, the city will not accept matricular consular or similar documents issued by any country’s consulate, any identity document or form issued or created by any city, country other local government entity or any private individual or corporate entity.

Ismael Vasquez, who spoke to reporters on Sept. 25 about the city’s previous policy, addressed the council during public comment Monday to thank them for the change.

“This big family, present here today, we want to say thank you for what you do,” Vasquez said. “Thank you very much.”

City Manager Sally Sandy said the only previous change to the city’s policy came in 2013 when the city switched to a tiered deposit system based on a potential customer’s credit. That policy switch was made to help reduce uncollected accounts with the city.

While the amount of money owed to the city for uncollected accounts has dropped, Mayor Pro Temp Forrest Fleming said he thought the council would revisit the policy if it were to go up again.

In addition to the change to the city’s utility policy, council members approved the distribution of entitlement funds to local nonprofits.

The city had set aside $22,235 in Community Development Block Grant funds to give to organizations that met the program’s goals and requirements.

The Outreach Center received $5,399 to purchase an electric pallet jack and two new computers.

Options received $10,930, of which $9,930 will be used to make repairs to the shelter’s HVAC system, purchase heavy-duty bunk beds with mattresses and bedbug covers and a new dishwasher. The remaining $1,000 will go to the organization’s Client Housing Assistance Fund to help women and children transition out of the shelter.

The Meeting Place was granted $4,500 to assist with drainage repairs for its shelter.

Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation received the remaining funds, $1,406, to stimulate home ownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income home buyers.

Three public hearings were held for different zoning ordinance amendments, but no one spoke during the hearings apart from Phillip Lookadoo, director of the city’s development and design services.

All three of the following zoning amendments were approved by the council, including:

» An amendment to make it so that “accessory buildings” like storage buildings and separate garages would not be larger than half of the square footage of the house

» An amendment to allow banquets and events so long as they aren’t the primary purpose for a building within neighborhood conservation overlay districts

» An amendment to make zoning conditions for restaurants the same for both drive-thru and non-drive-thru restaurants

A contract to purchase a trailer mounted high sewer vacuum system also was awarded.

The contract for $42,600 was awarded to Vermeer Mid-Atlantic. The city had budgeted $45,000 to replace the unit.

Steps to make parking in downtown Morganton more accessible are underway after the city approved a parking study.

Gannett Fleming was awarded a $40,000 contract, which was set aside in the city’s Main Street department budget, to conduct the study. Sandy said the study would take place over about three to four months.

City staff also were granted permission to explore creating an amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow the cutting of standing timber, at least in some zones and subject to certain restrictions.

Council members also:

» Approved minutes from the Sept. 9 meeting.

» Appointed a tax collector and directed her to collect taxes.

» Approved three budget amendments for CoMMA.

» Approved a budget amendment for the water department to appropriate funds from a customer for a water line improvement.

» Amended the schedule of fees and charges to make changes to the electric rate schedule for the industrial coincident peak rate class.

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Chrissy Murphy can be reached at cmurphy@morganton.com or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphy MNH on Twitter.

(1) comment

MC

They never explain why the citizens need this change to the Utility ID policy. Almost sounds like catering to illegals, which of course would be inappropriate. What problem is being addressed?

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