HAMLET — The Hamlet City Council held its July meeting Tuesday night at council chambers located at 201 Main Street in Hamlet.
In the first city council meeting since the cancellation of the Fourth of July events, constituents and city employees filled the chambers to hear a variety of reports of the city’s well-being. In an atmosphere that can be defined as “calm, cool and collected,” the council was readily prepared to discuss last week’s holiday events.
Overseeing the meeting was Mayor William Bayless, and he was accompanied by council members David Lindsey, Eddie Martin, Wendy Massagee and Jesse McQueen. Council member Jonathan Buie was not in attendance due to being out of the country.
Before conducting any official business, Bayless opened the floor to any attendees who would like to address community concerns. Hamlet resident Marie Cummings took to the podium to commend the city council for its swift handling of the Fourth of July threats. She also offered her opinion on what needs to be done next with Hamlet’s growing concern with gang activities.
“That was the best thing you could have done,” Cummings said of cancelling the fireworks. “But we need to make the people (of Hamlet) aware that there are gangs. They need to be made aware because innocent people could get shot.”
City manager Jonathan Blanton, who was one of many who helped make the decision not to host the fireworks, offered his apologies to the public, adding that taxpayer’s money was not wasted, as the city would have paid an independent contractor had the show been held. He also made a point that the Hamlet Police Department did an “excellent job” in handling the situation.
“I express my great disappointment and frustration,” Blanton said. “The city spent a significant amount of time and energy planning the event. But I want to assure everyone that although alternatives were explored, and the decision was difficult and unpopular, it was indeed necessary.”
Hamlet police chief Scott Waters added that the HPD is working diligently with state and federal authorities to address growing complications in the city related to gang violence. He added that the goal is to make citizens feel safe again, and guaranteed that local law enforcement will continue to combat the issue. Blanton made note that in March alone, 18 arrests were made and over 20 pounds of marijuana was confiscated.
Also addressing the council was Richmond Community College president Dr. Dale McInnis. In a message of appreciation, McInnis applauded the city for its efforts to help contain a water main break at the Cole Auditorium on RCC’s campus. Over 200,000 gallons of water flooded the venue, and McInnis expressed how Hamlet’s actions helped save the night.
“I cannot say enough about the support, the dedication and hard work that the city of Hamlet’s leadership and staff provided to us,” McInnis said. “From Mr. Blanton, to the water department, police department and the fire department; because of their quick action and help, we were able to mitigate the damage.”
In regards to official business, the council first discussed and settled old business from June’s meeting. All members were in agreement to approve Resolution 2017-04, which gives $500 to Hamlet Parks and Recreation for usage of their fields and facilities from outside leagues. The council also approved Ordinance No. 2017-03, which designates profits from the 2016-2017 timber thinning and removal project.
New business conducted includes the unanimous approvals of: Resolution No. 2017-05, which allows the sale of city surplus property via online bidding; the release of the city’s tax information, per the county; and an increase in the city budget, which includes $27,750 to be used for the Hamlet Public Library.
Hamlet Parks and Recreation soccer sign ups are still ongoing. Anyone interested in signing their child up may visit city hall. The cost is $35 per player before July 21, 2017, and rises to $45 per player after this date. The Downtown Hamlet Farmer’s Market, located at Hamlet Depot Park, will continue to remain open from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
In closing the meeting, council member McQueen made a promise to constituents and city employees to be better prepared for any possible future event that parallels the severity of the Fourth of July incident.
“You learn from situations,” McQueen said. “Now we know we need to proactively plan for situations such as this. This council understands that, and we’ll work with the (city) manager, fire department and police department to have a plan in place for next year if something does come up. Next year, I can say with a great deal of certainty, that we will be prepared.”