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Council votes itself 88% raise

HIGH POINT — City Council salaries are proposed to nearly double in High Point’s upcoming budget slated to take effect July 1.

The council voted 6-0 on Thursday to raise the annual salary from $10,800 to $20,307 for council members — which would be an 88% raise — and from $15,000 to $26,649 for the mayor, an increase of 77%.

If the raises are approved when the budget is adopted, they would be the first salary adjustments the council has given itself since 2008.

Councilman Chris Williams said Monday he made the motion to raise the salaries because council members’ workloads have increased, and he thinks the current pay is too low for many candidates to consider serving.

“I don’t think we’re there yet, where it would be considered a full-time job, but it’s enough hours that would hinder someone who is working 9 to 5,” he said.

In addition to Williams, those voting in favor of the raises were council members Michael Holmes, Cyril Jefferson, Britt Moore and Monica Peters.

Mayor Jay Wagner and council members Wesley Hudson and Victor Jones were absent from the vote, which occurred during a budget work session.

The current expense allowance amounts of $250 a month ($3,000 a year) for council members and $350 a month ($4,200 a year) for the mayor would not change.

At the meeting, staff presented requested information showing that High Point council salaries rank 10th out of 12 jurisdictions that were used as comparisons. Among those cited, only Greenville ($8,700) and Concord ($10,649) — both of which are smaller cities than High Point — pay lower council salaries.

Several larger jurisdictions were cited in the comparison, including Greensboro ($25,657), Winston-Salem ($25,700), Durham ($36,608), Guilford County ($31,200) and Forsyth County ($26,494).

When it comes to mayoral salaries, among the localities that were cited, only Greenville pays less ($13,900), while some smaller cities like Asheville pay more ($24,644), as do larger Triad cities, including Greensboro ($33,224).

Williams — who is not running for reelection in this year’s municipal races, when all eight council seats and the mayor’s position will be on the ballot — said he arrived at the proposed pay raise amounts by averaging what the other 11 jurisdictions pay.

The adjustments would move High Point from 10th to sixth in council salaries and from 11th to seventh in mayor’s pay.

During his three terms in office, Williams said, the council has expanded its role with outside nonprofit and economic development organizations.

“There’s more work to do,” he said, adding that he also took into account rising costs of performing council-related duties, such as gas in traveling to meetings and cellphone usage in conducting business.

“Pretty much, your office is your cellphone. We don’t have personal staff, so a lot of the work you do yourself,” he said.

Holmes, who is running for reelection to the Ward 6 council seat, said at the meeting Thursday that he thinks the council needs to revisit whether to raise its salaries on a regular basis.

“Because, let’s be honest, guys, when people see that we’re going to move this much, the question is going to be, ‘They’re giving themselves a raise.’ They’re not going to care that it’s been 15 years since that happened,” he said.

Jones said Monday that he understands the justification for the raises but didn’t like the way the issue was handled.

He said he had to leave Thursday’s budget session early and did not know the subject was going to be broached.

“The optics of it aren’t the best. Something as important as this should have been handled at a regularly scheduled agenda for council,” said Jones, who is running for mayor this year. “The downside of increasing salaries is, you’re going to recruit people looking for an income, versus people looking to make an impact through public service.”

Arie Miller, right, a first-grader at Florence Elementary, reaches out to congratulate seniors from Southwest Guilford High School as they march the school halls in their graduation caps and gowns. The seniors were recently greeted by parents, staff and students with congratulatory signs and cheers as they paraded through the school. Southwest Guilford’s commencement takes place Saturday, June 10, at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Future Southwest grads visit Florence Elementary

City reopens Qubein Avenue

HIGH POINT — After a year-long closure, the city has reopened Qubein Avenue to through-traffic following substantial completion of a major construction project.

Contractors have finished a series of improvements along the corridor between N. Main and N. Centennial streets, including installation of new underground water and sewer utilities, replacement sidewalks, new asphalt and pavement markings and new crosswalks.

The city in May 2022 closed Qubein Avenue to through-traffic between N. Hamilton and N. Centennial to accommodate the work. Construction barricades were removed and the road was fully opened on Friday evening.

“There are a few minor items pending completion, but these items will be addressed either outside of the roadway or under intermittent lane closures over the next couple weeks,” said city Engineering Services Director Trevor Spencer.

Detour routes for through-traffic are no longer in effect, and the Oakwood Cemetery main entrance on Qubein Avenue, which had been closed during construction, is open.

The city and High Point University are evenly splitting the $7.4 million construction contract cost.

The project connects to one of the university’s entrances and passes by the Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum.

Spencer said the prime contractor, JSmith Civil LLC of Goldsboro, completed the project within budget.

There were unanticipated delays beyond the contractor’s control, which extended the project a few months, he said.

These included conflicts with privately owned utilities during construction, as well as some additional work that the city required for extra sidewalk width on the north side of the project between N. Main and Blain streets.

Spencer said additional improvements to the corridor are coming, as High Point Electric, Spectrum, Lumos (formerly North State) and Century Link are each installing new underground utilities.

“Once all overhead utilities have been converted to underground, the existing utility poles will be removed, and the remaining concrete sidewalk areas will be poured at those locations,” he said. “The goal is to have all poles removed by fall of 2023.”

High Point’s growth exceeds big neighbors

HIGH POINT — High Point experienced a higher rate of population growth during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic than either Greensboro or Winston-Salem, according to new population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

From April 1, 2020, to July 1, 2022, High Point gained 950 residents, or 0.8%, to reach a population of 115,067, the Census Bureau said.

By contrast, both Greensboro and Winston-Salem grew by 0.7% during the same period.

Both Guilford County and Forsyth County saw their greatest growth outside of their large cities, though. Guilford’s overall growth rate during the period was 0.9%, and Forsyth’s was 1.7%.

Small towns in the High Point area similarly had higher growth rates than the Triad’s two biggest cities:

Thomasville grew 0.8% to 27,399 people; Archdale grew just under 1% to 12,0003 people; Trinity grew 1.2% to 7,103; and Wallburg grew 2.7% to 3,142.

North Carolina’s fastest-growing cities mostly are still in the Raleigh and Charlotte areas. The only two among the 10 fastest-growing that are not are Wilmington at the southeast coast, which grew 4.3%, and Burlington, which grew 3.5% and benefits from being halfway between the Triangle and the Triad.

Nationally, the new estimates show that large metro areas that saw growth stall early in the pandemic because of fears about how the coronavirus spread in densely populated areas saw it rebound strongly in 2022.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area grew the most in 2022 among U.S. metros, jumping by six-digit figures for a second consecutive year, as it gained another 170,000 residents last year. Metro Dallas-Fort Worth’s 7.9 million residents made it the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, behind only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, all of which lost population last year but with much smaller losses compared to the first year of the pandemic.

Other metropolitan areas which saw the largest growth in number were Houston, adding more than 124,000 residents; Atlanta, with almost 79,000 new residents; Phoenix, with an additional nearly 73,000 people; and Orlando, Florida, adding almost 65,000 new residents.

Metro Phoenix also surpassed the 5 million-person threshold for the first time last year.


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