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- City Council approves 2016-17 budget
June 17, 2016
Most homeowners will pay less in city, county taxes next year
The Wilson City Council has adopted the city’s 2016-17 budget, which was balanced with a “revenue-neutral” tax rate.
At its meeting Thursday, June 16, Council unanimously voted for the budget that will pay for city services for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The budget is balanced with a property tax rate of 55.5 cents per $100, a change from the current 51 cents. But the new rates will be based on new, lower property values so most people will pay less in city and county property taxes next year.
Here’s an example of how it will work. The median-priced home in Wilson County last year sold for $130,000, according to Zillow.com. That property owner paid $669.50 in city taxes, $949 in county taxes, or a total of $1,618.50.
The countywide property revaluation, approved by Wilson County commissioners in December 2015, dropped property values inside Wilson by an average of 7.23 percent. So that $130,000 home was revalued at $120,549 and the 2017 taxes will be $669.05 city, $880 county, for a total of $1549.05, or almost $70 in savings.
A caveat – your results may vary. Some properties lost more value than the average while others held steady or even gained value. But on average, most Wilson property owners will pay less in taxes next year.
Tax bills will be mailed to property owners by September and will be due by January 2017.
The proposed budget is also the first to include a full year of lowered residential electric rates. The sale of the city’s share of nuclear and coal power plants was not completed in time for the 2015-16 budget, but Council was able to lower residential electric rates by nearly 18 percent last fall.
So far, the average Wilson Energy customer has been saving $62 per month. Savings are greatest for those who heat with electricity. The proposed budget maintains those same lower rates through at least summer 2017.
Other highlights of the proposed budget include:
- A $1 increase to the monthly water fee and a $2 increase in the sewer fee.
- A 51-cent increase in the stormwater fee, an increase requested in April by a citizens-led Stormwater Committee to help pay for some needed drainage projects.
- A $25-per-year increase in vehicle registrations (up from $5 to $30). The new registration option would increase fees for vehicles within the city limits by $25-per-year (up from $5 to $30) and was proposed as an option for City Council to consider in lieu of a streets bond that has been discussed for several years. These increased revenues, by law, would be earmarked for street paving and improvements and would provide a continuous revenue stream to implement an ongoing street maintenance program.
- No additional city personnel.
- No raises for city employees before the results of the annual audit are presented in October. This has become the city’s standard practice in recent years – to check the city’s financial status before committing to any raises. Raises have also been merit-based in recent years with no across-the-board guarantees.
- Wilson Energy Tops $10 Million Savings in Residential Electric Costs
Collective savings continues to grow following September 2015 rate decrease
Wilson Energy residential customers recently reached a milestone — $10 million in savings since a historic rate decrease last fall.
The Wilson City Council voted in August 2015 to lower rates nearly 18 percent for residential customers, the largest rate cut in history. The rate decrease was made possible by the sale of power plants owned by North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA), the city of Wilson’s wholesale power provider.
Wilson approved the largest decrease in rates among all the NCEMPA cities, and savings began in September 2015. In April, the collective savings reached $10 million and continues to grow every day.
Average monthly utility bills have decreased by $62 since the rate decrease was enacted.
“For years, the City Council searched for a solution to our electric utility costs,” said City Councilman Donald Evans, who also serves as the secretary of the NCEMPA Board of Commissioners. “Until recently, we didn’t have any feasible options to reduce the wholesale cost of power. We were incredibly pleased to be a part of the historic $1.2 billion NCEMPA transaction that resulted in passing along this savings to Wilson Energy customers.”
Mayor Bruce Rose said, “We are excited the electric rate decrease amounts to real savings for our customers here in Wilson. We’re pleased to be putting money back in people’s pockets. I know it makes a real difference.”
Cuts in commercial electric rates are also helping the business community, Ryan Simons, president of the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, told the City Council Thursday. “On behalf of all our members and small businesses, I say thank you.”
Wilson Energy customers can see the running total at www.wilsonnc.org/10million. They also can determine how much they have saved by using the calculator on the site. There are also tips for saving even more money through energy efficiency and other programs.
- City of Wilson offices closed for Memorial Day
City of Wilson offices, including the customer service business office and recreation centers, will be closed Monday, May 30, for the Memorial Day holiday. There will be no trash or recycling pickups.
Environmental services returns to work Tuesday and will be collecting pickups normally scheduled for Mondays. Tuesday routes will be collected on Wednesday, June 1, and there will be no special pickups that day.
Any questions about environmental services may be answered at 399-2485.
The customer service office will reopen Tuesday, May 31. Anyone wanting to pay a bill before then has options:
• Doing so online at www.WilsonNC.org;
• Using the automated system at 399-2200; or
• Leaving payments in the dropbox at the customer service center on Nash Street.
• Customer service may be reached during business hours at 399-2200.
The Wilson Committee on Patriotism will hold its annual Memorial Day service at 10 a.m. Monday in the Wilson County Courthouse plaza. The program will include patriotic music and ceremonies, a Memorial Day message, and other activities. The event is free and open to the public.
- Greenlight, WCC aim to train students for broadband jobs
Greenlight is working with Wilson Community College to train the next generation of workers for jobs in the rapidly expanding broadband industry.
The city-owned broadband system is partnering with WCC’s information technology department to create a training program in fiber optic systems. The first step will be a continuing-education course, but the goal would be a degree program and internships at Greenlight for WCC students.
The collaboration is a natural one, said Gene Scott, Greenlight’s General Manager Outside Plant.
Not only will Greenlight need new technicians to maintain its network but demand for skilled technicians as a whole will grow in the industry, he noted. “Wilson Community College is literally a few blocks up the street and the fit seems natural.”
A group of WCC students toured Greenlight in April. There they met with several Greenlight management employees and learned about the variety of jobs available in the industry, including design and engineering, communications, operations and marketing.
Students were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the technical side of Greenlight’s network.
Scott is working with Kendra Faulkner, networking technology instructor in the Computer Technology Integration program at WCC, to plan the next steps in the collaboration.
- Wilson Energy Celebrates Natural Gas Utility Workers’ Day
April 6, 2016
Wilson Energy’s natural gas employees were recognized this month for more than 13 years of safely providing clean, reliable and affordable natural gas.
The Natural Gas Department took part March 18 in the inaugural Natural Gas Utility Workers’ Day. This was a national effort to recognize people who work in the utility.
Wilson Energy used the occasion to celebrate 13 years of favorable system inspections. Wilson employs 25 people to manage a system serving nearly 15,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers.
All natural gas operators in the United States are federally regulated and must be inspected annually. The inspectors use a 28-page inspection report to inspect all facets of the gas operator’s system to make sure they are compliant to the Code of Federal Regulations. The inspection includes audits of records, meters, training sessions and crew visits.
Wilson’s natural gas system has passed the annual inspection with no violations for 13 years with the most recent favorable inspection in February 2016.
“We are very proud of the hard work done by our natural gas employees,” said Dathan Shows, chief operations officer for the city of Wilson. “Safety is our primary focus throughout Wilson Utilities, and it is always encouraging to have our efforts recognized so consistently by an independent agency.”
For the first time, two employees were selected as Natural Gas Department “Employees of the Year.” Their peers selected Tim Coley and Kevin Farmer as leaders who go above and beyond their job duties. Tim Coley is a utility locator who recently added water, sewer, electric and fiber utility location to his existing job as a natural gas locator. Coley can now assist other utilities with line location. Kevin Farmer is a gas line technician who adds mentoring new employees to his daily duties. Farmer is known as a positive, knowledgeable resource for new and younger team members.
Coley and Farmer were presented the awards by Joe Caster, gas distribution manager.
March 18 was chosen as Natural Gas Utility Workers’ Day in acknowledgment of the New London, Texas school explosion in 1937 that led to the widespread odorization of natural gas and an increased emphasis on safety.
- Gary Farmer tops recipients at annual Human Relations Awards
Gary Farmer, a community leader for education for decades, was honored Friday, Feb. 25, with the Human Relations Commission’s highest honor.
Farmer was presented with the Paul Lee Stevens Humanitarian of the Year Award, given annually to an individual who has made a substantial improvement in our community.
Farmer was a long-time educator, coach and administrator at Eastern N.C. School for the Deaf. During the state’s financial troubles several years ago, Farmer was one of the most vocal organizers of the effort that averted a state shutdown of ENCSD.
He has been involved in many other community efforts. He currently is a member of the Wilson County Board of Education.
His nomination drew 10 letters of support from area organizations, said Human Relations Officer Renee Smith.
“The deaf and hearing impaired of Wilson consider Mr. Farmer a voice and advocate,” she said. “He is a key person in Wilson that has started projects, coordinated fundraisers and stood as an advocate during tough times.”
In accepting the award, Farmer said he had been blessed to be surrounded by strong support.
“It’s not about me. It’s about this group of people. In the big scope of things, it’s about Wilson,” he said.
Luther Jones was also nominated for the humanitarian award. Jones, retired from owning a family gas station, is known in the community for helping people in need with rent, bills and medications. He also gives children money as an incentive to do well in school and achieve higher grades
The award was given during the 45th annual Human Relations Awards Banquet at the Darden Alumni Center. Around 300 people attended the event, during which five other awards were presented.
Other award winners included:
- The Good Neighbor Award, given to James E. Haney. His nomination said he has volunteered in his community for more than 20 years including creating several annual events such a Youth Day and an Easter egg hunt. He also creates Christmas boxes for the elderly. Other nominees were Edward DeLeon, Daniel Gills Neighborhood Association, Charles Eric Jones Sr., Luther Jones and Willie Tomlin.
- The Community Spirit Award, given to the Chamber of Commerce’s Dynamic Leadership Class of 2015. The class raised more than $12,000 to take more than 200 students, teachers and parents from the Hattie Daniels Daycare Center to the N.C. Zoo. Other nominees were Positive Women Positive Results Inc., Wilson County Substance Abuse Coalition and Wilson YMCA.
- The Inspirational Volunteer Award, given to Mike Cannon. After the death of his son by a drug overdose, Cannon has worked to raise awareness for those battling addiction and their families. He has helped local law enforcement stock a drug that can help the survival rate of people who have overdosed on heroin.
- The Community Initiative Award, given to Marvette Coley. She started Positive Women Positive Results Inc., which helps teenage girls prepare for successful lives, including financial knowledge, college preparation, and health information. Other nominees were Donna Pridgen, Jacob Saunders, the Police Athletic League, Julia Newton and the Wilson Police Department.
- The Youth on the Move Award, given to Jordean Blazek-Guinan, a Fike High School student who has been involved in many volunteer efforts, particularly the St. Timothy’s Food Basket Ministry that supports local food pantries. Other nominees were Jessica Cooper, Explorer Post 557, Fike High School’s International Baccalaureate Class of 2016, Carolyn Jablonski, Taylor Jenkins, Bethany Ray. Denise Santiago-Juarez, Erika Staton and the Wilson Youth Council.
- Spirit of NC Award recipients announced by United Way of North Carolina
Two Wilson organizations won statewide recognition this month from the United Way of North Carolina for having outstanding, creative employee campaigns.
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations and the City of Wilson were each selected for the Spirit of North Carolina Award, presented during United Way’s annual statewide meeting and awards program in Pinehurst.
Both organizations also won the Nancy Sallenger Spirit Award from the United Way of Wilson County; those awards were presented Feb. 18.
“Bridgestone and the City of Wilson always find fun ways to inspire their employees,” said Judi Thurston, executive director of the United Way of Wilson County. “We are grateful for them and all the companies working to improve our community.”
Both companies sent a team to the statewide conference in Pinehurst on Feb. 10, 2016. They were joined by the staff of United Way of Wilson County for the awards ceremony.
The City of Wilson was also asked to present at the conference, and city employees shared details about what made their campaign successful. Speakers were Bonnie Gay, Terri Smith and Jerry Stancil, assisted by Dave Baumgartner, Tonya West and Matt Shaw.
They showed a video from the kickoff for the 2015 campaign, various city departments competing in a ‘80s lip-syncing contest. The city also had agency tours, and United Way agency directors spoke at department meetings. The city’s contribution topped $100,000 for the first time.
Bridgestone’s campaign included a challenge to increase its Leadership Circle, the group that each contributes $1,000 or more. They had a drawing for more than 100 prizes, plus they held a basketball tournament and a management lock-up amongst many other fun incentives that resulted in a record total of $421,734
Each year, the United Way of North Carolina recognizes and awards companies and organizations that have demonstrated strong community support through local United Way involvement. The Spirit of North Carolina Award celebrates the partnership of people working together to develop and implement innovative solutions for long-term community change.
Businesses, professional and non-profit organizations, governmental entities, healthcare and educational institutions – large and small – are nominated to receive the Spirit of North Carolina award because they are champions of change. They raise their voice to share the story of their community, volunteer their time and expertise, and invest their resources.
A team of 21 United Way leaders from across North Carolina judged 58 outstanding applications selecting 33 as winners. The established Seven Standards of Excellence, including volunteer culture, partnership with community to raise awareness of needs and foster a spirit of giving, leadership involvement, and campaign coordination are the criteria on which applications are judged.
- City of Wilson Shining Star Awards
January 14, 2016 | Wilson city employees recognizes outstanding public service in 2015.
Wilson city employees have honored two Wilson police officers and two Wilson Energy workers for outstanding public service in 2015.
The City of Wilson’s Shining Stars awards were presented this month to Tyrone Nixon and Kevin Worrell if Wilson Energy and Officers John Logelfo and David Stancil.
The awards were created in 2011 to honor employees who go to great lengths to assist citizens. Employees can nominate coworkers, and the awards are decided by a committee of city employees.
Nixon and Worrell were chosen for the care they showed a 4-year-old boy. The two men were completing a work order when they saw the boy watching them from a window. From talking to the boy, they determined that he had been left alone for some time and was hungry.
The Wilson Energy workers notified the proper authorities and shared some food with the boy while they waited for help to arrive.
“Thankfully, they took ownership of the situation and prevented what could have been a tragedy,” said Thurman Lindsey of Wilson Energy, who nominated them for the award. “Kevin and Tyrone truly went above and beyond their call of duty.”
Officer Logelfo was among officers responding to a call about a man acting erratically on Ward Boulevard. The officer found the man painting words in the roadway and smelling of gasoline. As officers tried to move the man out of traffic, he pulled out a lighter and set his shirt on fire.
Officer Logelfo tackled the man and forced the flames out, saving the man from further injury and possibly saving his life, according to his nominator, Capt. Winston Harris. “Through all of this Logelfo, kept a positive attitude, was professional, communicated effectively and provided lifesaving efficient service.”
Officer Stancil organized a fishing tournament at Buckhorn Reservoir to benefit the Children’s Hunger Elimination of Wilson (CHEW).
Stancil worked for several months to organize the event, setting up sponsors and recruiting competitors. The tournament in August attracted 29 teams and raised nearly $4,000 for CHEW, which feeds school children during holidays and times when schools are closed.
Officer Angie Harrell, who nominated Stancil, wrote, “Officer Stancil should be commended for the amount of work he put into this event on his personal time. He represented the City of Wilson well to several companies outside of Wilson and has built relationships that will last with our local nonprofit.”
- Wilson Corporate Park Named a Smart Site by ElectriCities
December 22, 2015 | The Smart Site designation guarantees the site is shovel-ready for new development.
The Wilson Corporate Park was recently named a Smart Site by ElectriCities of North Carolina. The Smart Site designation guarantees the site has met stringent requirements and is shovel-ready for new development. The site will now be marketed to growing businesses as a prime site for development in North Carolina.
“The Wilson Corporate Park offers first-class amenities and is currently home to many innovative companies,” said Grant Goings, Wilson City Manager. “With the Smart Sites designation, we add another feature to the park. Coupled with Wilson’s strong and supportive business climate, next-generation fiber through Greenlight, and the City’s highly-reliable electric system, the Wilson Corporate Park is an ideal location for new and expanding companies.”
“Wilson Corporate Park is the Southeast’s premiere industrial park along I-95,” said Jennifer Lantz, Wilson Economic Development Council Director. “Its location makes it ideal for manufacturers shipping products both nationally and globally. The location regionally means employers can draw from a larger labor force. The Smart Site designation enhances our ability to be globally competitive for industrial manufacturing and distribution projects.”
The Smart Sites program was created by ElectriCities in 2014 to assist member communities in preparing shovel-ready sites for economic development.
“In today’s competitive environment, it’s rare for a company to locate on an undeveloped property,” said Brenda Daniels, ElectriCities Economic Development Manager. “New and expanding companies expect existing buildings or a prepared, shovel-ready site to shorten the amount of time needed for construction. We created Smart Sites to help offer more shovel-ready property for economic development growth in NC Public Power communities.”
Achieving the Smart Sites designation is very competitive. Potential sites must meet specific requirements and undergo an extensive review process by site selection experts, including ECS Engineering and Creative EDC. Each site must have municipal electric service, water and sewer access within 500 feet and be within five miles of an interstate or interstate-quality highway.
Smart Sites are then marketed internationally by ElectriCities at numerous trade shows and industry events. Other Smart Sites properties are located in Tarboro and Statesville.
- Wilson Energy Employees spread cheer at Longleaf
December 17, 2015 | Wilson Energy employees are helping make Christmas a little brighter.
City employees delivered presents this week that were purchased for patients at Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center. The carefully wrapped packages will be distributed to patients on Christmas Eve.
This marks at least the 18th year Wilson Energy employees have collected presents for Longleaf patients.
“It’s truly been a blessing to partner with the City of Wilson on this,” said Carlos Burks, Longleaf volunteer services director. “Our residents really enjoy it.”
The holiday tradition began from less than cheery roots. Wilson Energy employees used to keep a jar in the office and whenever anyone came in to the office in a bad mood or said anything negative, that person needed to throw some change into the jar, said Annie Ruth Woodard of Wilson Energy.
Once the jar began to fill up, “we knew that we couldn’t spend it on ourselves,” she said.
One employee had a sister who worked at Longleaf and the decision was made to buy presents for the patients. Longleaf is a long-term care facility serving senior citizens, many of whom do not have family members living close by.
Initially the city employees served about 10 patients, but now it’s more than two dozen. Patients provide lists of clothing, food and other items they would like, and Wilson Energy employees try to meet every request. Employees donate all the money used. No city or utility funds are used.
The gifts are just what residents need for a happier holiday, said Stevie Cherry, director of professional services. “They know they are not forgotten.”
- Wilson City Council Approves Greenlight Service to Pinetops
December 11, 2015 | City will provide high-speed, reliable broadband service to neighboring community
The Wilson City Council approved Greenlight service to the Town of Pinetops at its meeting on Dec. 10. The approval will allow high-speed, reliable Greenlight service to Town of Pinetops’ residents, offering Internet service that is 50 times faster than the service currently available.
Construction will begin immediately with Greenlight service expected to be available in Pinetops by April 2016.
“Current providers haven’t made significant upgrades to our broadband service through the years,” said Brenda Harrell, Pinetops Interim Town Manager. “They haven’t found us worth the investment. Through this partnership with Greenlight and our neighbors in Wilson, we are able to meet a critical need for our residents. It’s an exciting time for us in Pinetops.”
The Pinetops Town Council approved its inter-local agreement on Dec. 1.
Wilson and Pinetops have a long history of working together as Wilson Energy has provided electric service to Pinetops since 1972. Pinetops is located in Edgecombe County and has a population of 1,358.
“The Town of Pinetops has been a loyal electric customer of ours for more than 40 years,” said Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose. “They are our neighbors and our friends. They have asked for our help and we are able to lend a hand, so that’s what we intend to do.”
Pinetops had first requested Greenlight service in 2010, but state legislation passed in 2011 limited Greenlight’s service territory to the Wilson County limits. After the Federal Communications Commission’s ruling in February 2015 permitting service beyond Wilson County, talks resumed between the two parties and agreement was reached in December 2015.
“The mission of Greenlight has always been to support the economic health of our community, enhance the quality of life of our citizens and customers, and improve the delivery of City services,” said Grant Goings, Wilson City Manager.
Goings continued, “The Wilson community has never been defined as only the corporate limits of Wilson. In developing our infrastructure, we have always considered the greater need of the community and how our investments in self-reliance would benefit the region. Wilson provides water, electricity, natural gas and wastewater treatment services to neighboring communities. Broadband is the next piece of critical infrastructure that will improve the health of our regional economy.”
The decision to provide Greenlight service to Pinetops at this time was based on the long history of partnership between the two communities, the proximity of the smart grid infrastructure to Pinetops, and the density of households in Pinetops.
“Our commitment to improving the delivery of City services through our smart grid initiatives has made broadband service to Pinetops possible, as the same fiber that supports the smart grid system will be leveraged to deliver next generation broadband,” said Will Aycock, Greenlight General Manager. “Offering Greenlight service to Pinetops is an opportunity to equip our neighbors with the critical infrastructure needed in the 21st century, and help enhance their quality of life by expanding their connection to the global community.”
Formed in 2008, Greenlight is the City of Wilson’s community owned fiber optic network. In 2013, the City of Wilson became North Carolina’s first Gigabit City when Greenlight responded to the FCC’s Gigabit City challenge and began providing gigabit residential service. This means it is possible for customers to receive and send up to a billion bits of data per second. Today, Greenlight provides broadband infrastructure to residents, businesses, and institutions in Wilson and the surrounding region.
- Lower Rates, More Money in Our Community
Wilson Energy has lowered residential electric rates by 17.6%, beginning with every electric meter read after September 1. The average customer will pay about $25 less each month based on typical energy consumption and some people will save even more. Commercial and industrial customers will also enjoy lower electric costs (rate reductions for these customers will vary).
Overall, Wilson Energy electric rates are now competitive with other regional providers.
$16 Million Savings Annually = More Money In Our Community
Lowering our electric rates will save Wilson Energy customers nearly $16 million per year. That’s money that will stay in our community and help support local businesses.
Savings Calculator: See Exactly How Much You Save
A new Savings Calculator on the City of Wilson website will allow each residential customer to see exactly how much money they save on their electric bill each month. Visit WilsonNC.org/ratedecrease
Tips On How You Can Save Even More
The rate you pay for electricity is important, but your energy consumption is even more important. By taking steps to use less energy, you can reduce your electric bill even more. Here are some resources to consider:
- Wilson Energy’s energy audit program, org/wilson-energy/energy-saving-tips/ or call 252-399-2415.
- Wilson Energy’s voluntary load management program “Beat the Peak” where you can save $68 per year – 252-399-2415
- The Weatherization Assistance Program offered in our region by WAGES NC. Information: 919-734-1178 ext. 240, org/programs/weatherization-haarp-program/
- For other money saving tips please visit org/wilson-energy/energy-saving-tips/
Remember … Your Bill Includes Much More Than Just Electricity
Your Wilson Energy bill may contain many services, including water, sewer, trash, electric, and natural gas. Keep in mind the lower rates only affect your electric usage. Rates for the other services remain the same.
How It Happened: The Story Behind the Savings
For more than 30 years, Wilson (along with other cities and towns in eastern North Carolina through the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency) has owned part of several power plants. This summer, Duke Energy Progress purchased the plants back from our public power communities for $1.25 billion. That allowed Wilson to implement this historic rate reduction. City leaders have been working for many years to address the issue of electric rates. It was a team effort that involved many partners to accomplish the sale and enable us to lower rates.