Southport discusses hot button issues in community workshop

SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — Tuesday, the City of Southport held a day-long community workshop to discuss the area’s present and future.

One major topic, should the mayor stay in office two years or four?

According to an international city and county management study, most municipalities elect mayor for four years.

“It’s important for the stability of any municipality for the mayor to have more than just a two year term,” said Mayor Joe Pat Hatem. “I mean there’s no way to get your platform done in two years. There’s a learning curve.”

The City is also dealing with a labor shortage brought on by the pandemic. City Manager Gordan Hargrove says raising salaries should be a priority.

“If we’re going to have a top shelf organization, we have to be able to retain our top shelf talent and attract top shelf talent,” he said in his presentation.

Southport compares its salaries to similarly sized cities and towns. While many were competitive, some positions like Fire Chief and Public Information Officer were underpaid in comparison.

Board member Thomas Lombardi responded, “You can’t have Oak Island paying four or five dollars more an hour than we’re paying. People are not going to stay here.”

One issue the board voted to table to another day: finding other sources of revenue, like paid parking or tax increase.

“In 10 or 20 years, do we want to be outstanding or do we want to be an average or adequate town,” Hatem asked. “We want to be outstanding. And it takes funding for that.”

With major projects like upgrading the Southport sewer system, repaving Howe Street in March, and protecting the waterfront from erosion, Hatem says the board wants to do everything they can to take the burden off tax payers.

“As you know, we have a 30 million dollar loan to help pay for this, so that has to come from our citizens. And if there’s other ways of generating revenue, and getting grants that’s what we are looking for.”

Though the City didn’t make any decisions today, each topic will be up for discussion in upcoming public meetings.

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