Name: Bill Terry
Full Legal Name: William Gordon Terry
DOB: April 18, 1948
Occupation and Employer: Major, USMC, Retired (1991) and Pittsboro Town Manager, Retired (2012)
Campaign Website: www.billterryformayor.org
1. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.
I graduated from Carleton College in 1970 with a degree in Government and International Relations and received a Master of Public Administration degree from N.C. State University in 1998. From 1971 to 1991 I served and a combat engineer officer and logistics officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon retirement from the Marine Corps I went to work for the Town of Chapel Hill as the Internal Services Superintendent, responsible for managing the Town’s automotive fleet and building maintenance programs. I worked with the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition since its inception and served as the Chair of the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition Executive Committee from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004. I accepted the position of Town Manager in Pittsboro on October 1, 2007 and served in that position until my retirement on October 1, 2012. I served on the Board of the Chatham County Chamber of Commerce from October 2007 to December 2012.
2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
Both during my 20-year military career and my 22 years of service in North Carolina local government, I have registered as and independent for voting purposes. In my chosen careers, I have served elected officials of both parties without regard to my personal political views and I did not find it useful or productive to label myself as either a Democrat or a Republican. I would define myself as politically conservative, particularly with respect to sound fiscal policies. My campaign platform is “Striving to bring Integrity, Focus, Accountably and Fiscal Responsibility to the Office of Mayor of the Town of Pittsboro.” During my tenure as Pittsboro Town Manager I made numerous recommendations to raise both property taxes and utility rates and I have been criticized for those recommendations. I still claim the title of a fiscal conservative because those recommendations were made in response to a growing municipal government with declining revenues and a water and sewer utility that has not made a profit in over three years. Sometimes being fiscally conservative means you have to find a way to pay the bills and keep the municipal government solvent.
3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
As noted above, I am concerned about the fiscal health of the Town of Pittsboro. The recession required the Town to rely heavily upon cash reserves to balance the budget for about three years and the Utility Enterprise Fund is operating at a loss for the fourth consecutive year. I feel strongly that the Town needs to seek innovative ways to return the water and sewer utility to profitability through an extensive audit of our industrial polices and procedures and a review of our utility rate structure. This will probably mean utility rate increases over the next few years. With respect to property taxes, the Town of Pittsboro has the lowest municipal property tax rate in Chatham County and in all of the contiguous counties. Furthermore, we are facing a property revaluation year in FY 2014/2015 when there is a high probability that decreasing property values will require the Town Board to adopt a revenue neutral tax rate that actually increases the tax rate just to collect the same amount of money from existing tax payers. In order to minimize the impact of the FY 2014/2015 tax increase and to begin to reconstitute the Town’s fund balance, I would strongly recommend a tax increase in FY 2013/2014 that seeks to capture at least half of the expected increase for FY 2014/2015. Concurrently, the Town should minimize any contemplated expansions of municipal services, and identify areas where services could be cut, until the full impact of the FY 2014/2015 tax increase known.
4. The INDY‘s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I am not really sure what you mean by “just community;” however, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you are making reference to racial justice and social justice, whatever that means. I’ll simply stand on my record of service, particularly my 17 years in the Public Works Department of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When I came to Chapel Hill in 1991 as the Internal Services Superintendent, I inherited an all white and all male workforce of automotive mechanics and building maintenance mechanics. After one of my early hiring decisions, I was challenged by the Human Resources Department for not hiring a minority candidate from the pool of applicants. My response to this challenge was simply that the minority candidate was not the most highly qualified. By the time I left Chapel Hill in 2007, I had a workforce that included women, African Americans and Hispanics. I accomplished this diversity by applying the simple rule of, “During every recruitment, cast a broad net to attract highly qualified applicants and hire the most highly qualified applicant every time regardless of race or gender.” This relates directly to the first plank in my platform, “Integrity,” and stems from 20 years of leadership lessons in the U.S. Marine Corps.
5. Pittsboro is facing enormous growth issues if Chatham Park is approved and fully built out. What is your opinion about the necessity and appropriateness of this development? How do you propose Pittsboro should accommodate the infrastructure and public safety needs of Chatham Park?
First and foremost, the Board of Commissioners should make it clear to Preston Development that the advancement of the plans for Chatham Park is not the highest priority for the Town of Pittsboro. Our number one priority remains the construction of a new 3.22 million gallon per day wastewater treatment plant. It is also critical to recognize that, even if we are successful in achieving that goal, the Town will not have sufficient water and sewer capacity to support all of the proposed Chatham Park Development. It may still be necessary for Chatham Park to explore the possibility of an agreement with the City of Sanford to take about 2 million gallons per day of Chatham Park wastewater. It will also be necessary to expand the capacity of our existing water treatment plant and to determine if chlorine residuals can be maintained when pumping treated water from a plant on the north edge of the Town all the way to the southeast corner of the proposed Chatham Park.
The current request for rezoning of the Chatham Park Development does not address the issue of how they intend to satisfy their projected demands for water and sewer nor does it fully address the issue of how storm water will be managed to avoid negative impacts. The Town should table their rezoning request until such time as they have fully answered the question of how they will support the development with water, sewer and storm water management. Under no circumstances should the Town consider annexing any property within Chatham Park that we cannot serve with water and sewer services. Annexations should only be approved when water and sewer services are available and when population densities will generate sufficient property tax revenues to support the associated increases in required municipal services including fire protection and police protection.
Before taking any action on the rezoning request for Chatham Park, the Town should undertake a comprehensive review of our access fees and capital recovery fees to make sure that these fees are set at levels that will fully recover the cost of paying for the infrastructure improvements needed to support any proposed development. The Town should be intimately involved in the design review and construction inspection of any wastewater or storm water facilities within Chatham Park. If facilities proposed for construction by Preston Development are to be handed over to the Town for future operations and maintenance, we must ensure that the developer does not employ solutions that are low-cost up front and high-cost for future operations and maintenance.
6. What is your position on fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, in Pittsboro and Chatham County? Please justify your position.
My position on fracking is that it is not an issue that should take up the time of the elected officials and staff of the Town of Pittsboro. From my platform, “Focus.” Any time or other resources that the Town spends on this issue are time and resources that are not being spent on moving forward on the top priorities of the Town, e.g. construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. I have seen the geologic maps of the gas bearing shale in our state and there is none in Pittsboro. I trust that our state legislature and the highly competent and dedicated staff of NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources will do what is necessary to keep North Carolina safe from the negative environmental impacts of fracking or any other resource extraction operations. Citizens of Pittsboro who have concerns about fracking can and should bring those concerns to the attention of their representatives in the state legislature.
7. In analyzing the Pittsboro town budget, what services need more funding? What could be cut? Assess the financial health of the town.
One area that needs more funding in the Town of Pittsboro Budget is contracted services in the Planning Department. The Town’s Planning Department consists of a staff of two, one of whose time is split between code enforcement and management of parks and recreation issues. The issue of pursuing a comprehensive review of the Town’s Zoning Ordinance, Subdivision Ordinance, Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance and Riparian Buffer Protection Ordinance has been raised several times over the past few years. The conventional wisdom is that these documents need to be incorporated into one Unified Development Ordinance and expanded to include tree protection, storm water and other regulatory planning issues. Ideally, such an effort should be completed before the Town undertakes to move forward with the proposed Chatham Park Development. The in-house staff is simply too small to undertake this task without the help of a highly qualified and experienced planning consulting firm. A second underfunded area is facilities maintenance at the Town’s water plant. While significant improvements have been made over the past three to four years, the backlog of maintenance and repair still remains daunting. This is a particularly challenging area due to the fact that the Utility Enterprise Fund had not operated at a profit in over three years. Finding ways to fund needed repairs needs to be linked to returning the water and sewer utility to profitability.
8. Pittsboro has received a Retire NC designation, which could make the town appealing to senior citizens. What is Pittsboro doing to attract and retain younger residents as well?
I would be hard pressed to name an area where the Town of Pittsboro is taking specific actions to attract and retain younger residents. That being said, I continue to be impressed by the standard of excellence achieved by Dr. Robert Logan in the Chatham County School system and was sorry to hear about Dr. Logan’s recent rent retirement. I sincerely hope that his successor will carry on the legacy of excellence begun under Dr. Logan. On the municipal government side, the Town has invested in parks and recreation opportunities over the past six years, including the addition of two new municipal parks and the improvement of existing parks. I am hopeful that the Town will be successful at encouraging Preston Development Company to negotiate in good faith with the Town so that they can proceed with a version of Chatham Park that respects the small Town values of Pittsboro and recognizes the limits of what can be done to expand our water and wastewater utility system. If we can do so, Chatham Park will bring economic development opportunities that include jobs and places to live that will attract and retain younger residents.
9. If you are incumbent, please share some self-reflection about the pros and cons of the job the current mayor and council are doing leading the town. If you are a challenger, critique the job the incumbents are doing.
I was the Town Manager of Pittsboro from October 2007 until my retirement in October of 2012; therefore, you are asking me to critique my former bosses. As a big fan of the proposition that “honorable people may disagree honorably,” I will do my best to offer a fair and reasonable critique. Let me begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for any citizen who will give up 30 to 40 hours of their personal free time every month for voluntary public service that is compensated at only $3,600 per year. All of our current Board members have full-time jobs and still manage to find time to dedicate a significant amount of time to public service. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it and I would not undertake the challenge of becoming Mayor except for the fact that I am a retiree who does have the time to dedicate to voluntary public service.
Overall, I give the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners high marks for handling the Town’s business very well, particularly in view of the challenges of the recent recession and the closing of the Townsend’s Chicken plant. That being said, there are some recent decisions made by the Board of Commissioners that I do not believe were in the best interests of the Town. In the interest of full disclosure, these are areas where the Board overruled recommendations that I made as the Town Manager.
Annexation of Northwood High School Property. About two years ago the Chatham County School Board requested the voluntary annexation of the Northwood High School property for the expressed reason of cutting the high school’s annual utility bill from about $90,000 per year to about $45,000 per year. As a general rule, the staff recommendation on requests for voluntary annexation will support approval of a valid petition when the annexation is revenue neutral or profitable for the Town and will recommend disapproval of annexations that are revenue negative, i.e., when the financial costs of the annexation exceed the financial benefits of the annexation. The request for voluntary annexation of the Northwood High School property was a revenue negative request to the Town by about $45,000 annually. This $45,000 represented 1.7% of the $2,705,000 budget for our Utility Enterprise Fund, which has operated at a loss for the past three years, and equated to 0.05% of the $85,000,000 budget of Chatham County Schools. This was an expensive gesture on the part of the Town with an insignificant benefit to the school district and the annexation should not have been approved.
Hillsborough Street Water Main Project. The recently completed Hillsborough Street Water Main Project began with a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant that required only $47,500 in matching funds from the Town. As the project was designed and developed, the scope of worked was adjusted to the point that the final bids for the work came in at $1,458,125, creating a nearly $600,000 shortfall in the project budget. As the Town Manager, I recommended that the Board reject all of the bids, seek an extension on the $750,000 in grant funds and seek USDA 30-year funding of the $600,000 budget shortfall. It was my opinion, then and now, that it would not be prudent to spend nearly $600,000 from the cash reserves of a Utility Enterprise Fund that had not operated at a profit for over three years. While this project completed important work that needed to be done, it was not an emergency and it could have waited. The expenditure of about $600,000 of our cash reserves has weakened the financial position of the Enterprise Fund and will make it much more difficult for the Town to pursue our number one priority of building a new 3.22 million gallon per day wastewater treatment plant.