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Albemarle City Council addresses traffic requests

Among the actions taken by Albemarle City Council during its final meeting of 2018 were approval of a number of agreements, ordinances and budget amendments as well as receipt of various reports from city staff.

Mayor Ronnie Michael opened the meeting by calling for a moment of silence in memory of Police Officer Cindi Rinehardt, who passed away on Saturday as a result of cancer.

Following approval of the Dec. 3 meeting minutes, a public hearing was conducted to consider an ordinance to approve a map amendment which would re-zone a tract between Crown Point Drive and Butler Street from R-10 (single-family residential) to R-8A (multi-family residential).

There was no public comment during the public hearing.

“The planning board considered this request at its meeting on Dec. 6 meeting,” reported Planning and Development Services Director Kevin Robinson, “and they voted unanimously (9-0) to approve.”

Michael asked if any opposition to the change had been registered at the planning board meeting, citing considerable opposition to a similar request at a nearby site several months earlier. Senior Planner Nasser Rahimzadeh and Robinson both reported that “no opposition was expressed” at the meeting.

Upon a motion by Councilman Chris Whitley and a second by Councilman Bill Aldridge, the board voted 6-1 (Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall dissented) to approve the map amendment.

Robinson, along with Centralina Council of Governments Senior Community & Economic Development Coordinator James Luster, provided an end-of-year update on minimum housing cases within the city. Robinson reported on a number of dilapidated buildings that have been removed or are on schedule for removal, in addition to presenting photographs of five additional structures identified for future removal.

Hall expressed concern upon learning that all owners of the identified properties had not yet been contacted.

“We have to perform title searches first, so as to be able to contact all who have interest in the properties,” replied Luster. “Once we have that information, we will proceed.”

In new business, Michael reported that agreements had been reached with the NC Department of Transportation for payment of the city’s share of water and sewer line relocation and sidewalk installation in the area of the N.C. Highway 24-27 widening project.

“Originally, we were to pay the entire amount in advance,” said Michael. “Under these agreements, we will be able to pay in installments. This will be less of a strain on our budget.”

Both agreements were passed unanimously by council, as well as budget amendments to appropriate funds for the city’s share during the current fiscal year.

In response to a recent request for installation of a caution light at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Richardson Street, city staff had placed the city’s traffic trailer, which records the speed of vehicles passing, at the intersection in order to gather data.

The data, gathered over the course of one week, indicated the average speed of vehicles passing the intersection was below the posted speed limit, with a number of vehicles traveling in excess of the posted maximum.

Mrs. Ernae Dunlap, who had brought the original request before council, was present at the meeting and observed that traffic through the area had become heavier as a result of drivers using the streets to bypass the construction along N.C. 24-27.

After discussion, the decision was reached to revisit the issue later in January, possibly after the completion of the N.C. 24-27 project.

In closing comments, both the mayor and City Manager Michael Ferris expressed appreciation to the city’s public utilities crews for their response in restoring power during the ice storm on Dec. 9, observing that city power was restored more quickly than that of customers of other utility providers.

Councilman Dexter Townsend expressed the need for the city and county to “be more inclusive in recognition” of local natives who have moved on to successful careers, noting the recent athletic accomplishments of R.J. Prince, Bryan Blanton, B.J. Hill and Denico Autry in comparison with the recognition afforded Kellie Pickler several years earlier.

“You can add (recording artist) Josh Baldwin, who is from Albemarle, to that list,” added Aldridge. “If you listen to K-Love radio, you will hear him often.”

Councilwoman Martha Hughes asked for a report on the status of FEMA funds to repair damage from Hurricane Florence, particularly that to city parks.

Ferris replied that Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Kiser had assembled “an excellent booklet, documenting the damage and costs” associated with the flood, and that he and she had met with FEMA representatives recently.

Hughes also noted she had participated in the annual Tour of Homes, which had been rescheduled to Dec. 16, and that the event was “enjoyable and well put together.”

Hall expressed appreciation to Kiser and her staff for “a great job” with the presentation of the movie “Polar Express” at Central School Auditorium on Dec. 14, and also announced the Community Christmas Dinner at Central United Methodist Church, inviting all to attend.

In other action, the council:
• Approved a street closure request by the Stanly County Family YMCA for the Hot Chocolate 5K on Jan. 5, 2019;
• Was informed that the Parks and Recreation Department has received a $1,000 grant from Target;
• Approved a new provider for employee dental insurance;
• Approved changes to the city’s personnel policy;
• Approved a continuation of the city’s contract with Stogner Architecture;
• Approved a number of write-offs for Public Housing tenant accounts; and
• Tabled approval of the city’s budget preparation schedule until January.

The next meeting of Albemarle City Council will take place at 7 p.m. Jan. 7.