Robbins receives revitalization report

The Robbins Board of Commissioners met on Thursday, June 13, to discuss updates surrounding Robbins. The meeting covered the downtown revitalization project, updates on the reservoir dredging project, budget amendments, the sales tax allocation system, and personnel policy amendments.

Downtown Streetscape

Jeremy Sparrow from Longitude Planning Group presented a comprehensive revitalization plan designed to enhance the aesthetic appeal, functionality, and overall vitality of Robbins’ central business district.

Sparrow, who is bringing 15 years of experience to the project, hopes to capture Robbins’ charm in his plans. “There’s a lot of different elements that you can do that kind of identify Robbins throughout that whole section of town,” said Sparrow in reference to the downtown area.

The revitalization plan focuses on areas stretching from the southern entrance at Highway 705, Salisbury Street, Milton Street, and concluding at Old Plank Road.

Proposed enhancements include local monumentation, signage, outdoor seating, landscaping, string lights, hanging baskets, decorative traffic lights, and better-defined crosswalks, making the area safer and more visually appealing.

Sparrow’s vision also outlines several outdoor seating and recreation areas, featuring food trucks, picnic tables, and shaded seating. These areas can be temporarily closed to traffic during events to enhance usability.

He went on to explain that converting parallel parking to angled spaces and improving sidewalk connections will increase both accessibility and convenience. The plan considers transforming the nearby rail yard into a linear park or dog park, adding green space for recreational activities.

Sparrow hopes the vision can remedy some of the areas of concern raised by board members and Robbins residents alike. The bridge at the town’s entrance and the current state of sidewalks were highlighted as areas needing urgent attention. Overgrown grass and poor sidewalk conditions detract from the town’s appearance.

When constructing the vision for Robbins, Sparrow reviewed what current residents enjoy most about the town. As such, the plan keeps Robbins’ rural, small-town America appeal and makes quality-of-life improvements that do not fundamentally change the town.

The project will be executed in phases, available funding permitting. This approach aims to minimize disruptions while ensuring widespread improvements. Integrating infrastructure projects such as water and sewer line replacements with sidewalk renovations will optimize costs and reduce future disruptions.

With this preliminary plan in place, the town will seek funding and further refine the design elements through community collaboration.

Reservoir Dredging Update

The board received an update on the much-anticipated reservoir dredging project, which is expected to see progress in the very near future.

The project’s cost has risen from an initial estimate of $40,000 to $72,000, with an additional $31,000 allocated to extend the project area. This extension contributes greatly to the longevity of the dam and resolves preexisting issues.

“It’s more efficient [and] lasts longer, too,” confirmed Robbins Town Manager Clint Mack, who then outlined the advantages of the expansion and reinforcements. A 100-foot culvert has been ordered, and a drop-in concrete “sleeve” will be installed in the storm drain manhole to prevent leakage. This method, although more costly, promises greater durability compared to traditional concrete replacements.

Policies, Taxes, and Budgets

In addition to updates on the dredging project and other smaller town matters, the board was apprised of policy updates and proposed budget amendments.

A major change in the personnel policy was proposed and approved, ensuring that all new employees, particularly those in fire, public works, and police departments, receive health insurance from their start date.

“I would like to have all our employees, particularly fire, public works, and police officers, insured from the day they start,” said Mack. “I am very hesitant, to say the least, about putting a cop on the street without health insurance and having him rely on unemployment or Medicaid status. I’d like to do the best to protect our guys.”

The motion carried unanimously. The probationary period will remain for performance evaluation, but insurance coverage will start immediately.

During the previous May meeting, Mack had commended the town’s competence in managing its finances, excelling in grant and loan management, and successfully handling 15 separate government financial grants.

At this same meeting, the board discussed lowering taxes. In the past month, Mack took a more in-depth look at how taxes work in Moore County to better inform the public and the board before anything was approved.

“We use the per capita method, meaning all sales tax goes into a big pot for the county, [then] goes to the state, and then comes down to the county, which distributes it to the 11 municipalities,” explained Mack. “If a business opens across the street, we don’t collect taxes directly from them. It goes to the big pot, but we do get credit.”

The town analyzed and prioritized its expenditures and fully supports the proposed lowering of property taxes by 1 cent to 70 cents per $100 value for the fourth consecutive year.

Additionally, the board approved budget amendments 10, 11, and 12. These amendments cover assorted town expenses. The 2024-2025 budget, which was discussed in-depth at the board’s previous meeting, was also presented and received unanimous approval. The process was smooth, with praise to department heads and town staff for their efforts.

Other Topics Briefly Discussed

* Lance Mauldin, the Planning Board Chairman, has been appointed to the county land use committee, ensuring the town’s interests are well-represented in county decisions.

* Appreciation expressed for the work of town employees in maintaining recreational areas and reducing “mischief” at parks.

* Positive feedback was shared about the Police Department’s efforts and performance.

* Next month, detailed statistics and correlations related to police activities will be presented.

Feature photo: The proposed revitalization plan for downtown Robbins. Photo via Town of Robbins.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Assistant Editor Abegail Murphy. 

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