“I applaud you all for coming back and facing the bear today,” said Mayor Jeff Smart to the department heads and staff, who had been joking good-naturedly about hearing each other’s voices all day long during the planning retreat.
The council discussed the recently renewed issue of fire district boundaries with Fire Chief David Knight.
Lavell Anderson of Fox Road had approached the Richmond County Board of Commissioners on March 2 in regards to a petition that has been in some form of circulation for at least the past four years. The petition proposes Hamlet’s release of an area within their fire fee district - generally defined as the intersection of Fox Road and U.S. Hwy 1 - to the Northside No. 2 fire tax district.
Property owners in the affected area would receive an insurance break by being within five miles of the fire station that is assigned to protect them - which is not the case at present. They would, however, be moving from a fee district to a tax district, which has the potential to add expense.
Knight wanted guidance from the council as to how he should vote when the issue, which he said could “snowball,” comes up for approval from the Fire Chiefs’ Association.
According to County Manager Jim Haynes, the petition in question did not meet the legal requirements - full listing of names and addresses for 2/3 of the property owners within a clearly defined area - that are necessary for the Commissioners to approve it. Once those conditions are met, the Commissioners will verify the new petition and send for approval by the Fire Chiefs’ Association. It will then be sent back to the Commissioners for a vote, but only after a public hearing.
The council concluded Tuesday night that this is not an issue involving Hamlet until the process is complete, and they trust the Chief to make the judgment that he feels is best with citizen safety being everyone’s top priority.
The council is presently applying for grants to fund several projects, one being for the engineering study and subsequent repairs/construction on Water Lake dam. Funds are also being sought for a SCADA system, which would enable Hamlet Water Treatment officials to monitor levels at the East Rockingham facility without having to physically travel there.
Police Chief John Haywood announced that he will be applying for stimulus money in hopes of better-staffing the department - especially on the night shift - and giving current officers vacation time.
Hamlet Senior Center Director Susan Sellars announced upcoming activities and classes at the center, the success of its recent free tax preparation event, and the proposal of a once-per-month “Coffee with the Mayor” event.
According to the Mayor and Council, a decision on how to proceed with the controversial Main Street tree situation will be made at the Small Town Main Street Meeting on March 17 at 6 p.m.
Other mentions included the following: A bid awarded to a Lenoir-based company that will take on phase one of the Sewer System Rehabilitation Project; the selection of Mayor Smart and City Manager Marchell Adams David as Golden LEAF representatives; and the upcoming March 13 demonstration of a street-sweeping machine that city is looking to purchase. Greg Henson of the city shop was able to find the machine at a discounted rate because it has been demonstrated once.
In light of the high volume of complaints that Town Hall has received about the blocked railroad crossing downtown, David and City Clerk Tammy Kirkley said that they had been in constant contact with CSX and were working to speed the process along. According to them, CSX is waiting on tempering to finish the job.
“You don’t go on the job site until you have all the necessary equipment. People can’t get to businesses down there, like the produce stand. We are doing everything we can to get it back open,” said David, adding that she encourages concerned residents to call CSX as well.