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home : news : news January 19, 2019

1/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
County Manager: Planning Paramount For Growing Needs
Kelly Atkins looks to 2019 and beyond

Thomas Lark
Staff Writer

LINCOLNTON, N.C.––Closer co-operation between Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton was among the highlights of 2018.

That’s how Lincoln County Manager Kelly Atkins put it recently. In a Lincoln Herald exclusive, Atkins summarized the year just past and looked ahead to the one now starting. He cited Lincoln County Animal Services; population and business growth and planning for both; and renovations to County facilities, amongst other topics.

The county’s population stands at about 85,000 right now, as Atkins noted.

“And while residential construction remained very healthy during 2018, there was a slight decrease in volume,” he said. “Eastern Lincoln County continues to be the fastest-growing area of Lincoln County. This growth requires additional resources, such as emergency services and the infrastructure to maintain the services provided. Therefore, it is imperative that the County continue planning to meet the growing needs of the population.”

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More County-City collaboration just makes sense. It also makes cents and saves taxpayer dollars.

“During 2018,” said Atkins, “the County also continued to strengthen its relationship with the City of Lincolnton by working to together to reduce costs by sharing services. For example, the City now contracts with the County’s information technology department for their computer and software needs. Another example that we will be pursuing is purchasing additional water from the City in order to supply areas of West Lincoln with public water. While there are many reasons why the City and County explore partnering opportunities, saving taxpayer dollars is the ultimate goal.

“During 2018, the County’s bond rating from the rating agencies (Moody’s) in New York, increased in the general fund and the enterprise fund,” he added, “which will result in lower interest rates when borrowing for capital. Sound accounting practices and a healthy fund balance were just a couple of many factors that contributed to the increase. The last time the County received a rating change was more than four years ago. Considering the types and cost estimates of future capital projects in Lincoln County, this was an important accomplishment during 2018.”

And Atkins applauded the strides recently achieved by animal services.

“One area of government that has observed continued success is Lincoln County Animal Services,” he said. “Several years ago, the board of commissioners decided to move towards the no-kill philosophy. This goal was accomplished in August. However, while reaching 90 percent is a huge accomplishment, we will have to put forth additional effort in order to maintain the status. The efforts of staff and private organizations, such as HATS (Helping Animals to Survive), the Humane Society and citizens alike have been significant in reaching our goal. The efforts of so many are truly appreciated and are making a difference in Lincoln County.”


Planning ahead

Lincoln County continues to plan for the future. 

Atkins noted that several capital projects got under way during 2018. 

“The West Lincoln Library construction should begin within the next few weeks and is expected to be open by December of 2019,” he said. “The R.B. Cronland property, which houses Lincoln County Public Utilities, maintenance, Transportation Lincoln County and library services, will also be home to the Lincoln County Board of Elections. This renovation project is expected to begin in early 2019. Lincoln County Senior Services will be relocating from Gaston College to an existing facility near the East Gaston Street Extension, at some time in mid-2019.

“Lincoln County Administration and the board of commissioners will also be relocating to North Generals Boulevard in March,” he continued. “The new communications center began in February, 2018. The Citizens Center auditorium will be renovated over the next three months. The area vacated by administration, finance and human resources will be replaced by planning and inspections and environmental health. Also, public utilities, soil and erosion, natural resources and the Co-operative Extension will be located in the building. This change will allow the public to visit one location to handle all of their development services.”

And Atkins cited the Lincoln County Health Department’s new digs.

“Lastly,” he said, “the health department officially opened at its new location on Gamble Drive in Lincolnton. The old facility, located off North Generals Boulevard, has since been razed, and the property will be sold during 2019. Also to be located at Gamble Drive is the new courthouse. The board of commissioners decided this location at their budget retreat in December. Clearly, there are pros and cons, no matter where the courthouse is built. However, this location does provide for ample parking and land that is already owned by the County.”

Also during 2018, several new industrial facilities and several expansions occurred in Lincoln County. Atkins cited Husky Rack and Wire, Huber Technologies and Texture Plus, all of which announced new facilities. As well, Blum, Calico Coatings, FMS Enterprises, Aptar and Cataler North America all announced expansions of their existing industries. Combined, these announcements equaled $97.2 million in new tax dollars and nearly 200 new jobs for Lincoln County. 

“The County is currently working with the Lincoln Economic Development Association to plan our next industrial park,” said Atkins. “Clearly, the County’s past successes are tremendous. However, we must continue working towards the future and making sure we’ve got the land and infrastructure in place to attract businesses and industries for years to come.

“It is believed that 2019 will bring new challenges and opportunities for Lincoln County,” he continued. “One area of improvement in Lincoln County during 2019 will be a greater emphasis on long-range budgeting and capital. The budget process continues to evolve, and improvements will continue over the current budget year. For example, greater emphasis will be placed on sustaining a healthy fund balance and adopting a debt policy.”

He added that the general fund budget during fiscal year 2019 is approximately $104 million. The current tax rate is .611 per $100 valuation. 

“The Lincoln County Tax Department is currently re-evaluating all properties in Lincoln County,” said Atkins, “and the new assessments should be available in early 2019. The State of North Carolina requires each county to re-appraise properties at least every eight years. However, Lincoln County re-appraises every four years.”

Due to such factors as population growth, job growth and the real estate market, property values have increased since 2015, as Atkins revealed.

“Obviously,” he said, “some areas in our county will see higher percentage increases in values than others. For those that wish to appeal their new values, there will be multiple ways to do so informally.”

How so? If any property-owners aren’t satisfied with their informal appeal results, they may appeal to the board of equalization and review, Atkins explained. The final step, if they’re not satisfied with the appeal, is to the North Carolina Property Tax Commission in Raleigh. The new property values will be in effect for the 2019-20 budget.


Working toward laudable goals

Atkins also cited some goals the County expects to accomplish in 2019. They include:

continuing to seek new industrial businesses for Lincoln County;

maintaining the positive momentum of keeping the no-kill status at Lincoln County Animal Services;

  • working with existing industries and businesses to assist in growth opportunities;
  • beginning renovations for the Center Drive building for the new home of Lincoln County Senior Services in 2019;
  • beginning and completing construction of the West Lincoln Library;
  • increasing interdepartmental efficiencies;
  • completing construction of the new Lincoln County 911 Communications Center;
  • completing expansions at both the water and wastewater treatment plants;
  • several improvements at various County parks;
  • starting the NC-73 waterline projects;
  • continuing working with other municipalities to expand West Lincoln waterlines;
  • starting construction of the Optimist Club Convenience Site;
  • continuing to work closely with the Lincoln County School System;
  • relocating Lincoln County Administration to the board of education facility;
  • moving planning and inspections and environmental health to the Citizens Center (all development services will be located in one place);
  • completing the board of elections renovation project for county administration;
  • completing the Lincoln County Land-Use Plan;
  • working closely with the N.C. Department of Transportation to improve transportation issues in East Lincoln;
  • working with a transportation consultant to develop a transportation plan for East Lincoln;
  • continuing to seek opportunities to work with the City of Lincolnton and other neighboring cities and counties;
  • improving marketing for the farmers’ markets in Lincolnton and East Lincoln;
  • receiving proposed plans for court services;
  • improving the Internet payment options;
  • improving the Internet-based application process for human resources;
  • continuing to work to improve customer service in all government areas;
  • developing a public/private partnership to better address roadside litter problems;
  • continuing working with an architect to complete new courthouse plans;
  • working with an architect to develop a long-range plan for jail expansion and a new EMS/fire marshal/emergency management facility;
  • more emphasis for veterans through Veterans’ Services;
  • developing a health plan for mosquito control;
  • Lincoln County Economic Development/Airport Authority: improving and enhancing business/industrial opportunities at the Lincoln County Airport and making beautifications along Jack Dellinger Drive out to NC-27 East;
  • and the commissioners, having supported the Article 46 sales tax, wanting to ensure that funds received be utilized to greatly improve security equipment (such as cameras) for all the county’s public schools.

“All of the accomplishments of 2018 and the ones that will be realized during 2019 are the result of the dedicated efforts of all Lincoln County employees,” Atkins emphasized. “Lincoln County is very fortunate to have loyal employees that truly want to make a positive difference.”

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