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Change in election style passes final hurdle

The long-running issue of converting city elections to a non-partisan format was also put to rest with the only split vote of the evening during Albemarle City Council’s meeting Monday.

A change in the city’s charter, which would make municipal elections in Albemarle non-partisan, passed its final hurdle by a 4-3 vote late in the meeting, but not without creating some discussion.

“In order to institute this change, we are required to take a vote at the first regular meeting following its introduction,” Michael said.

Councilman Chris Bramlett added: “If I were a troublemaker, and I’m not, I’d propose that we fulfill this same obligation by instituting term limits. But I’m not a troublemaker, so I won’t.”

Michael said term limits would be separate issue that can be considered if the council desires.

Bramlett, along with council members Shirley Lowder and Dexter Townsend, voted against the non-partisan election measure.

City Council also acted on a number of planning and zoning issues and received updates on a number of city programs.

Approval of a Conditional Use Permit for a day care facility at 135 Leonard Ave. followed a brief presentation by Dr. Rickie Baldwin, who spoke on behalf of the Rev. Arnette Wall, who plans to open the facility as Eagle Academy, in affiliation with Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

“Changes in the local Head Start program have resulted in a need for additional day care opportunities,” Baldwin said.

Other planning and zoning changes included approval of a map amendment which would reclassify a structure at 201 Old Charlotte Road to Central Business District, approval of ordinance 19-37, which eases a number of requirements for installation of new sidewalks as part of facility renovations, and approval for use of a city-owned building at 405 Davis St. for use by the Head Start program, which is in transition from a previous partnership arrangement with Rowan County.

A change order to update the elevator system at the future Albemarle Police Department headquarters led to discussion among council members as to the available options.

“The elevator’s certificate has expired, and we will need to bring it up to code,” Mayor Ronnie Michael said.

Michael said while the elevator could possibly be brought to code with no extensive renovations, its age creates a major concern.

“Both the building and the elevator are 60 years old,” Michael said. “If we do the minimum now and the elevator breaks down after the renovations, it’s going to create a lot of additional expense.”

“I think we need to do the job right, right now,” Councilwoman Martha Hughes said.

The council unanimously voted to approve the change order.

Albemarle Public Works Director Ross Holshouser gave a progress report on the first phase of parking improvements along Third Street as the meeting’s final item.

“With Pfeiffer’s Health Sciences program coming to downtown, we discussed at a work session in August the need for parking that will be created as a result,” Holshouser said. “With that, we began to explore vacant lots and other parking in the area, and we also saw that a re-design of current on-street parking could be done as well.”

The first phase of the parking plan will create additional on-street parking on Third Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Street to North Street, and will increase available parking by 22 spaces, from 69 to 91, with additional phases to include other streets.
Holshouser said the scope of the entire parking plan extends from Martin Luther King Jr. Street to Montgomery Avenue.

“When we implement the entire plan, we should be able to net 207 total parking spaces,” he said.

In other business, council members:

• Met facilitators for upcoming strategic planning session;

• Approved fee waiver and street closure for upcoming cruise-in events;

• Approved employee incentives for the United Way program;

• Met new Interim Fire Chief Ernie Hiers;

• Heard a report on the upcoming Autumn Extravaganza;

• Were informed that Albemarle has received a FEMA grant for replacement of self-contained breathing apparatus equipment;

• Discussed renewal of the city’s lease of soccer fields at Stanly Community College;

• Received an update from Waste Management on leaf pickup;

• Heard a presentation on proposed city walking routes; and

• Were informed that the city’s finance department has received a GFOA award for the second year.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.