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Emergency Services receives grant for gear

Albemarle Fire Marshal Michael Roark told the Albemarle City Council at its Oct. 2 meeting that emergency services within the county won a grant designed to help the department purchase protective gear for hostile situations.

The $12,000 is courtesy of a Cannon Foundation grant.

“Several, several months ago, some of us at the fire department, we formed a task group with Albemarle Police Department and Stanly County EMS and Stanly County Emergency Management as far as the city’s response to any type of an active shooter situation,” Roark said.

“It’s a hot-button topic in the world for emergency services, so we wanted to look at our current capabilities and response,” Roark added. “One of the biggest shortfalls that we noted was the fire department’s lack of personal protective equipment for those situations, being ballistic vests and helmets.”

The grant will cover the cost of ballistic vests and helmets, which will help firefighters in hostile situations, Roark said.

Richardson Street

Richardson Street resident Howard Spencer asked the council to trim trees along the road, adding he has seen many dead trees on that street.

“It’s dangerous,” he said. “I like to walk a little while. Sometimes I take my grandchildren for a walk, but I’m scared to walk down through there because of the trees that are dead down there. I don’t need no rainforest, and that’s what it looks like to me, a rainforest. I don’t care nothing about a canopy. We have dumping down there. A lot of that is because you can’t see.”

Spencer said he and his neighbors want to clean up litter on the street but don’t due to concerns about falling limbs.

“Sometimes you can’t even see the sidewalk because of the overgrowth down there,” he said. “It’s in terrible condition.”

Mayor Ronnie Michael said the sidewalk area would likely fall under the responsibility of the town’s public works department, though he noted a tree in a photo Spencer provided may be on private property.

Spencer said either way, he is concerned that dead trees and saturated soil create a dangerous situation.

“Looking at this first picture, there’s a utility pole stuck right in the middle,” Councilman Benton H. Dry said. “There’s a wire going across from right to left — you all have been fortunate to not have some other things occur.”

Dry said he wanted to find a solution as quickly as the board could to help Spencer and his neighborhood.

“We want to clean the street up, but we don’t want to put our lives in jeopardy, either,” Spencer said.

ABC system audit

Durham Lewis with Lewis and Lewis CPAs presented the audit on the Albemarle Alcoholic Beverage Control board for the Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Lewis read an opinion statement to the board, saying his office believes the financial information provided “present fairly in all material respects the financial position” of the city’s ABC board as of the period of the audit.

“That paragraph indicates that I have issued an unqualified opinion on these financial statements, which is the highest level of opinion that can be issued, meaning in my opinion, the financial statements are fair and not misleading and free of material mistakes,” Durham said.

Durham directed the council to condensed financial statements from the last three years in their packets, noting that the ABC board experienced a 33 percent increase in its current assets and a 7.5 percent increase in net profit.

The net operating revenues and taxes increased while operating costs stayed about the same, he said, later adding the board stayed within its budget.

Housing public hearing

The council held a brief public hearing about possibly modifying the “various regulations and definitions about dwellings” open from a previous meeting, Michael said.

When no one spoke, the public hearing was closed seconds later. The council did not vote on the issue.

Michael said the topic has prompted him to ask the council to work on similar concerns outside of regular meetings if necessary, saying he and Kevin Robinson, director of the Planning and Development Services Department (PLAN), have discussed many items Robinson plans to bring back to the board.

“As we do this, we really need to have work sessions rather than an open meeting to talk through this,” Michael said. “We spent 45 minutes on this at the last meeting and we didn’t ask any questions. We need time to ask questions. We will have public hearings, but we need to do work sessions previous to those.”

When no board members commented, Michael asked about having a work session an hour before a planning and zoning board meeting.

Other business

The council unanimously approved its consent agenda after removing the task of looking at possible dates for the Planning and Zoning board dinner meetings.

Michael suggested rescheduling the meeting to a different date due to a conflict. A council session was rescheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 22, with a planning and zoning meeting following at 6:30 p.m.

When Michael asked for an update on a planned bamboo farm on Mountain Creek Road, Robinson said that he had been told on Sept. 28 that the buyer had dropped out.

The council also briefly discussed approving a $316,670 contract with Chambers Engineering for the design of the Albemarle Business Center, but tabled it until the next meeting.

Council concerns

During the time for council member comments at the end of the meeting,

Councilman Dexter Townsend asked whether double-wides are allowed in city limits, noting he had seen one in town. Robinson said that assuming they meet certain standards, they are allowed in districts zoned R-8.

Townsend also noted a helicopter that has been frequently landing in the shopping area on N.C. Highway 24-27 recently.

“Also, I’m not used to seeing helicopters flying around and landing in a general use area like behind Office Max,” Townsend said. “How can we allow that?”

Robinson said he is trying to coordinate being at the site when the helicopter lands, noting that there are nearby power lines and other safety hazards.

Mayor Pro-tem Martha Sue Hall said that with Pfeiffer University expanding to downtown Albemarle the council needs to be responsive, thanking her fellow members for being “proactive” with the project.

Michael said that the town agreed to add parking to accommodate Pfeiffer staff and students, adding that the city is waiting for a survey to be completed before receiving a final design for one parking area. That area is currently designed to hold 70 spots, but Michael said more spaces may be possible depending on the survey and design results.

The council will hold its next regular meeting on Monday.

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.