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Cornelius News

Budget ready for approval; Gilroy makes sole public comment

June 16. By Dave Vieser. The town’s proposed $24.3 million budget did not generate much interest among Cornelius residents at Monday’s public hearing. Only one citizen came to comment: Former Commissioner Dave Gilroy. “I’m the only one out there,” he said as he approached the dais.

It was a COVID-19 meeting, with social distancing inside council chambers and only one citizen allowed inside council chambers at a time. The only one who spoke out—online or in person—was Gilroy.

The budget includes funding for 3 percent merit raises.


The raises are not across the board, Mayor Woody Washam said. “Some employees may get 0 percent  while some that excel get a little more,” Washam said. When all is said and done the salary line increase up to 3 percent, but not necessarily.

“Hopefully this can allow some of our really good employees to continue to catch up with competitive market pay,” Washam said.

Gilroy was a consistent critic of town spending when he was on the board. On Monday night be brought three charts to demonstrate that town spending is growing faster than real estate values and population. He suggested that this level of spending leads to tax increases every 3-5 years. “That’s the way the town budgets [are] and it would be nice if they were honest with our citizens and said so,” he said.


Gilroy says he will run for his old seat on the Town Board next year. He was defeated when his wife Diane “Dee” Gilroy ran in 2019.

Needs may not precisely track population

Commissioner Denis Bilodeau pointed out that “it would be great if crime, fire department, and traffic costs just stayed at the same level, but they don’t.”

“When we budget we really have to carefully look at what the needs of the town are, not just population or real estate numbers,” Bilodeau said.

The set-up for the budget hearing was unique.

Physical distancing was observed in Town Hall for staff and the board, leaving no room for citizens. “This was to protect the health and safety of the general public, Town Board and our staff,” said Town Manager Andrew Grant.


As for the budget itself there is little controversy this year. The tax rate is the same, and funding was included to start transitioning the fire department to full-time status. The one item which generated some difference of opinion—the 3 percent merit raise pool—did not specifically come up during the hearing.

Email comments will be accepted through 5 pm Wednesday June 17. On Thursday evening at 7 pm, the board is expected to adopt the budget and set the 2021 tax rate via a virtual meeting.

In other action, the commissioners:

—Approved a four-year contract renewal with the Cornelius/Lemley Fire Department, which establishes operational parameters including 24/7 response coverage, personnel training, equipment and apparatus maintenance, fire hydrant flow testing, and insurance levels. This is separate and apart from the 2021 budget proposal to transition to full-time firefighters.

—Tabled a new ordinance which would have established rules and regulations on town property and vacant land, such as authorizing rentals, prohibiting alcohol & firearms, restricting loitering, and compliance with posted signage. The board wanted more time to review the new law as it pertains to firearms.

—Reappointed Joseph Dean, Susan Johnson, Dr. Cameron Bearder, and Phil Bechtold to serve on the town’s Planning Board. Their terms will expire in 2023.

—Canceled the Town Board July 6 meeting due to the Independence Day holiday.