Smoking, use of gym highlight town discussions

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By David Meade – Editor

During their regular Monthly meeting Monday, some councilmembers had second thoughts on a smoking ban ordinance and reservations about allowing a church to use the town’s gym for services.

Council approved second reading on a smoking ordinance but only after considerable discussion and with a 3-2 vote. During discussion, Councilman Rockey Burgess expressed concerns about the infringement of government on liberties of private business owners.

“Who are we to legislate a private business owner,” he said about the town’s new smoking ordinance which prohibits smoking in parks, recreational areas and businesses.

Mayor Mack Durham said he was also concerned about personal liberties, but added that “businesses have a choice to locate within our population.”

“We are trying to create a destination community. There is equal responsibility on the part of businesses to enduce that kind of community,” he said.

Durham said people “have the right to a safe, clean healthy environment.”

Burgess said the orginal intent of the ordinance was to prohibit smoking in parks and recreation areas and the ordinance now affects business on private property. “Where do we stop,” he said. “Do we ban sugar at McDonalds?”

Councilman Burgess and Councilman David Harvell voted against the new smoking ordinance which is now in effect.

Council unanimously agreed to table establishing Rules of Council until additional information could be gathered.

Town Attorney Robert King stated he needed more information and would like for each coucilmember to contact him with their specific concerns or recommendations regarding the ordinance.

“Once we vote, it will be very difficult to change it,” he said.

Council decided to leave a non sufficient funds (NSF) fee at $35. The town was considering increasing the fee to $50.

Councilman Tony Hagood said increasing the fee because of a few problem customers “was punishing other people who are not responsible for those actions.”

Councilman Scott asked that the town look into an electronic check system.

A request and proposal by Revive Church to use the Municipal Center Gymasium for church services led to a lengthy discussion.

Co-pastors Jonathan Elrod and Jeremy Sargent presented a proposal that included church members making improvements in exchange for a one year lease for use of the building for services on Sundays.

Elrod said the church would make improvements including new paint, sound proof enhancements, sound equipment, sanding the wood floor and possibly adding stadium seating.

Elrod said the church currently meets at Spearman School and has outgrown the facility there. Their lease there is up in November.

The seating is available from a renovation project in Fountain Inn.

Councilman Rockey Burgess questioned bolting the seating to the wood gym floor.

Mayor Durham said, “The seating is available. This would be a great physical improvement to the gymnasium area. With the seating in place it could become a ticketed venue.” Durham said that becoming self supporting is a goal he has for many of the town’s events and festivals.

Councilman Scott also expressed concerns about the seating, stating that it would affect use of the gym for weddings and other special events. “This building is history,” he said. “You are defacing the history of the building.”

Durham responded that with the recent acquisition of the armory, that building becomes available for public weddings and receptions. “We would move to the armory,” he said.

Councilman Burgess also expressed concerns, stating that the addition of stadium seating was transforming the building from the original use of the gym.

During the discussion, Elrod repeatedly said the proposal was just for council to consider and that the church wanted to leave the town “better than it is.”

Elrod said even without making any improvements, the church could use the facility. “We can use it exactly as it is,” he said.

Councilman Tony Hagood said he saw the proposal as a win-win for the church and the town. He added the ministry had received a blessing of many people and that perhaps the town would receive the same blessing in exchange for use of the gym.

During the discussion, Attorney Robert King pointed out several legal points that will need to be addressed in the final proposal. King asked for a more specific proposal to clear up ambiguity in the contract.

Following the discussion, Mayor Durham withdrew his motion to accept the proposal and the issue was put off until the next meeting.