The Hamlet City Council on Tuesday heard about false alarms — police and fire — an issue that Councilwoman Abbie Covington said she was concerned about because it takes away from limited personnel.
Van Billingsley, formerly of Hamlet and owner of Electronic Service Company (ESC), spoke to the board about how false alarms are handled. It was one of several topics heard by the City Council at its regular monthly meeting.
“We tend to favor the citizens of Hamlet,” said Billingsley about his company. “It’s a small town and we also deal with Charlotte and Myrtle Beach, but here we have minimal dispatch times. I look at it like my momma lives in this town, and she does. This is my policy and I have talked to the police chief of Hamlet, the sheriff and the chief of Rockingham and they all agree this is the way they prefer it to be done.”
Billingsley explained that when a building’s alarm goes off, the 9-1-1 dispatch is notified and officers are sent to the scene. If the alarm company gets notification that it is a false alarm, the company notifies the police and they can cancel their response. According to Billingsley, this all can take place within two minutes.
“If I need to change my policy, I am open to suggestions. We are still part of Hamlet,” said Billingsley.
Councilman Tony Clewis said, “At our church we had a lot of fire calls (from false alarms). I thought it was Van’s equipment, but it was our heating and air guy’s equipment. We’ve had a lot of false calls and we are trying to get it taken care of.”
Hamlet Fire Chief David Knight said he can’t turn his men away from a false alarm.
“When 9-1-1 dispatches us, we respond with four people and two trucks to a structure fire. We can’t stop a response or it’s listed as a ‘non-response.’ If we have two ‘non-responses’ in a 12-month period, we can be shut down.”
“That’s why I raised the issues,” said Covington. “With limited personnel, this was a concern.”
Covington went on to say that often, people who are competent set off their own alarms. Billingsley said that while a false alarm may cost residents, having caught a repeat copper thief with pine tree-top cameras has been ESC’s contribution to making sure the city residents didn’t pay a greater price.
On another matter Tuesday, the council was approached by Jean Strickland who represented the Boyd Lake Road community. She brought with her a petition she said was signed by 47 people in her neighborhood, asking the council to address issues arising from the nearby mobile home park.
“We ask for the demolition of all the mobile homes,” said Strickland. “They are run down, and unfit for living. They have glass broken out of the windows, there are eaves hanging down and it is very much an eyesore with weeds growing up to the windows. There are illegal drugs, prostitution, stabbings and shootings. The police and EMS are called two to three times a week. We believe our public servants have more important things to do than to respond to the same place. Several of our homes have been broken into and some of the items have been recovered from the mobile homes. Our community doesn’t feel safe anymore and we believe this decreases the value of our homes. We want our neighborhood back.”
“We’ve had Gail check on these houses,” said Clewis. “It’s not as simple as ‘take it down.’ We are working on it.”
“In July, I gave the property to the code enforcement officer,” said Tax Collector Gail Wise. She went on to say that the mobile home property was being sold.
“We appreciate you bringing this to our attention,” said Hamlet Mayor Jeff Smart to Strickland. “This sits beside one of our parks. We’ve had somebody try to break into our concession stand twice.”
“They tried to get in my grandma’s house two or three times as well,” said Councilman Johnathan Buie.
In other matters on Tuesday, the Hamlet City Council:
• Approved the rezoning of land along N.C. Highway 177, belonging to Norman R. Bland and Bland, Inc. from Industrial to Residential Agricultural and from Residential to Residential Agricultural. Smart commended Bland on his plans to build houses, which he has done in the past in Hamlet. The plots will stretch 290 feet back from the road.
• Adopted a resolution by the North Carolina Municipal Records Retention and Disposition Schedule, as updated by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, that dictates how long records are kept.
• Voted in favor of approving the November tax releases.
• Heard an update from Wise, who is temporarily filling the City Clerk’s vacant position. She spoke on behalf of Miranda Chavis, downtown coordinator, who revived the Memorial Bricks project and has found a supplier of bricks, which cost $50 per member and $60 for non-members. Forms for bricks can be picked up at City Hall or by visiting Chavis at the Hamlet Historic Depot & Museum, No. 2 Main St., Hamlet or by calling 910-417-7791. Wise also said she will soon open bids on two structures below the train tracks on Hamlet Avenue, which have had asbestos removed. She hopes demolition can begin Dec. 3. Asbestos removal cost $14,000 and the demolition will cost $13,000.
• Received an update from City Manager Marchell Adams-David, who announced an upcoming and first Parks and Recreation meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. at City Hall. She said contractors with S.T. Wooten would be there. She also said Nov. 22 and 23 City Hall will be closed to observe Thanksgiving holiday, and trash will be collected that Wednesday. The annual Tree Lighting ceremony will be held on Nov. 26 at the Depot Park and Ron Mayo and his wife will be lighting the tree. Dec. 6 at 3:30 p.m. the annual Christmas Parade will take place on Main Street, and the city’s Old-fashioned Christmas event will be held on Dec. 7 and 8.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.