By David Meade
During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council named a new attorney, addressed bat problems in a shed in the park and approved Hospitality Tax funding for a new sidewalk project which was just completed in the park. Council also tabled first reading on a new sign ordinance, and approved a request by the planning commission allowing them to request information on projects, set dates for the next election.
Following a brief executive session to discuss a contract matter, council returned to open session and in a 3-2 vote, named G. Lee Cole the new town attorney.
(Editor’s Note – The original story incorrectly stated the savings to the town for legal services. The should have read as follows)
According to Mayor Durham, Cole’s proposal for legal services for the town at $1700 per month will also provide broader services. The contract will save the town $3600.
After some discussion the mayor made a motion to name Cole the town attorney. Councilman Scott made a motion to consider current attorney, Thompson and King law firm.
The vote was 3-2 in favor of Cole, with Councilmen Harvell and Scott opposed.
Councilman Burgess said Attorneys Richard Thompson and Robert King had represented the town through some difficult times. “The town has had a long and great relationship with them and the vote in no way reflects any lack of service to the town.” Burgess said it was about a cost savings.
Mayor Durham said the attorney had been representing the town without a contract for some time.
The Sign Ordinance was tabled after Councilman Rockey Burgess brought up a concern about the unintended impact some wording in the ordinance may have on landlords.
The ordinance is intended to give property owners and law enforcement a way to deal with renters or other people in a home known to be involved with drugs.
Burgess said there was no formal means of notification to property owners and it was up to interpretation whether the owner knew drugs were being sold in the house or not.
Town attorneys will look at the wording and present a new version in August.
Planning & Zoning
The Town’s Planning and Zoning Board Chairman asked council to allow them to send questionnaires to contractors or other parties involved in projects within the town. Marion Middleton, Jr. said the request was one thing the Board could do as part of a comprehensive master plan for the town and to help it grow.
Middleton said that statistics show the 18 and under population and the over 65 population in the town is growing, but the middle third has lost population.
The Planning and Zoning Board wants to be able to send a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) and Request For Proposals (RFP).
The Board will review the responses which will help them make recommendations to Council on specific projects.
Council approved the request 5-0.
Kempie Shepard, Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee recommended that the town provide funding to cleanup and make repairs to the “long shed” in Mineral Spring Park. The shed has become the home to bats that are causing problems. Ceiling boards in the shed will be removed and the building pressure washed and cleaned and other repairs will be made. Acting on a motion by Councilman Burgess, Council unanimously approved the request and will bid the work.
Sidewalk Project Concerns
There was considerable discussion between the mayor and some members of council about a sidewalk project in Mineral Spring Park.
Mayor Mack Durham asked council to amend the agenda to discuss funding for the project which was completed last week.
Councilmembers Burgess, David Harvell and Otis Scott all expressed concerns that council was not told about the project and that funding was not approved prior to it being done.
The funding was approved 3-0 with councilmen Harvell and Scott not voting. (See separate story)
Main Street Banners
Council approved a funding request from the Main Street Williamston program for new banners.
Main Street Williamston Executive Director Caroline Alex requested $5000 for 50 banners and brackets. The canvas banners will feature new branding artwork and will have a five year warranty and are UV resistant, Alex said.
Alex said the banners will help the town begin to implement the new “branding” and will replace old faded banners.
Acting on a motion by the mayor, council approved $2,500 from the town and $2,500 from the Main Street budget for the banners.
Council also unanimously approved use of an employee breakroom in the Municipal Center for additional space for Revive Church. The church is presently renting space to hold services in the building and needed additional space for small children.
Council approved first reading on an election ordinance for the Ward 1 and 2 seats. The election will be held along with the Nov. 4 general election. There was some discussion about when a candidate petition could be picked up and turned in.
Council approved several proclamations including: Town of Williamston Reading Day July 23
Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting a local match for a CDBG grant for the Pinecrest community infrastructure project.
They also approved a resolution in support of the display of the National Motto “In God We Trust”.