Knightdale Town Council candidates focus on town money management

mhankerson@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

— With a new $10 million town park and an almost-completed greenway connecting the town, Knightdale Town Council candidates all agree about what’s next for the town: keep improving and expanding while staying within the town’s financial means.

Three seats are up for election in Knightdale. Only one incumbent, Mike Chalk, is seeking reelection. Councilmen Jeff Eddins and Tim Poirer are not running again.

Local insurance agent Randy Young, former Town Council member Charles Bullock and Mark Swan, who is a member of the town’s Land Use Review Board, are also running for seats on the council.

The six-person Town Council serves the town of about 13,000, which boomed when I-540 was connected to the town. With more residents also came more capital projects.

“I am completely supportive of the investments we’ve made so far,” Swan said. “I don’t see a reason to raise taxes. … I would really like to capitalize on the investments we made.”

The town reserves some funds for unexpected costs or projects, and 2 cents of the town’s property tax rate goes toward capital projects. Chalk, the current chairman of the council’s finance committee, said he thinks that should be enough for any unforeseen costs in the town and he says he wants to be fairly conservative in the town’s spending.

“I hope to stay on as chair (of the finance committee),” Chalk said. “I will make sure the spending is responsible and we will work within the budget we have each year.”

Bullock, who served on Knightdale’s Town Council from 1985 to 1993, said it’s important to work with the resources, not just money, the town has in an effort to preserve funds.

He said he thinks some projects the town has taken on recently could have been planned more prudently.

“I’m all for parks and rec but I’m also for cost-efficient parks and rec,” he said. Bullock said he thinks Knightdale’s branding initiative could have been handled locally, tapping into Knightdale residents or students to design a new logo or even asking N.C. State University design students to take on the project.

Growth within budget

While Knightdale has to manage a town budget, the council must also consider the rapid growth of the area and how to keep up with the demand for housing and other amenities.

Swan said he’s interested in improving the quality of life in Knightdale. For him, that means focusing on public safety and entertainment opportunities but also dealing with the physical structures that allow for connection, like completing the Mingo Park Greenway and building more sidewalks where they’re needed.

Chalk said he wants to focus on initiatives that would make Knightdale an appealing place for people in various stages of life.

“We have a diverse group of houses where you come to Knightdale,” he said. “(You) can move there when you’re young, move up in housing as your family grows, you can even want to retire here. You can have enough things to want to stay in Knightdale for life.”

Young said from a business standpoint, expanding Knightdale means it could be cheaper for residents in the long run.

“As businesses and people come in, it will generate tax dollars,” he said. “The (money) we generate would be greater than the tax dollars we would have to spend.”

The town has already started to account for more families moving into its borders. The council approved an 835-home, multiyear development that will spring up to the north of Knightdale Station Park.

And while the new development provides the housing that Swan and Chalk say could help attract lifelong Knightdale residents, Bullock said he is concerned with the actual costs of developments like the one approved.

Bullock said new developments could raise taxes on Knightdale residents.

“New development should pay its way, not be a burden on existing taxpayers,” he said.

The new subdivision near Knightdale Station is being developed by Preston Development Co., a Cary-based company that develops land in and around the Triangle. The company will be fronting the initial costs for construction and according to Preston’s vice president of finance, Thad Moore, the company usually maintains the development’s roads and other infrastructure for about a year before dedicating them to the town.

Current financial ties

Chalk, who has served on the council for 18 years, was recently reported to have connections with Carolina Landscape Services, a company the town contracts with for maintenance. Chalk acknwoledged providing financial support to the company, which employs his son, but said he doesn’t profit from the relationship.

Chalk’s connection is not illegal and does not violate Knightdale’s ethics code, but he said if a similar situation ever occurred again, he would consult the town’s attorney.

Swan said Chalk’s involvement in the company is not a problem, but it offers the council an opportunity to evaluate how bids are handled in the council.

“What I really want to see is how is the bid process handled,” Swan said. “Yes, (Chalk) probably should’ve mentioned that his son worked there when the bid came up (but) if the bid was handled properly, we got the lowest bidder and they do a fantastic job.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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