HAMLET — It is time for spring baseball to be allowed to resume in Hamlet, the City Council decided at its meeting Tuesday.
Without disregarding the fact that COVID-19 remains a threat to community health and well-being, the Council was unanimous in its vote to let the kids play.
While no set schedule or registration dates have been established, it was noted that there is a general “openness” and relatively few-and-far-between occasions of direct contact interactions inherent in the nature of the game, as well as the fact that adjacent counties have already approved spring baseball in their municipalities, the Council members quickly voted to commence with the 2021 season of the Hamlet baseball program.
“We are excited to offer this activity to the kids,” Councilman Jesse McQueen said in a Facebook post following the meeting, noting that the city’s recreation department has been “shuttered” for the past year during the pandemic.
The city of Rockingham, on the other hand, is being more cautious.
City Manager Monty Crump said Tuesday that Rockingham’s recreational sports will resume “as soon as we possibly can,” depending on COVID guidelines.
“It’s not that we don’t want to,” he said, adding that they “want to be mindful” of the recommendations by the CDC.
Mayor Bill Bayless acknowledged the tireless work of Councilwoman Abbie Covington and the administrative staff in conjunction with recent “discussions” with county leaders in regard to how sales tax appropriations were altered last year, purportedly to the detriment of the local municipalities.
It was reported that, in light of developing accounting reports and projections, discernible progress was in fact being made toward a possible reversion back to the previous methodology.
Last week, Covington and Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue presented a joint statement from the county’s municipalities 11 months after the Richmond County Board of Commissioners “made a critical decision” to switch up from per capita, which is based on population, to ad valorem, which is based on property values.
The report featured an analysis by municipal accountant Ken Anderson showing the county’s sales tax revenues increased $1,975,879 over the prior year in the first eight months after the change — and are expected to be nearly $3 million for the year.
Commissioner Justin Dawkins, vice chairman, said his own analysis agreed with all the figures — within 1% — except the insolvency estimation.
Dawkins said he didn’t see enough evidence to support the claim of Rockingham, Hamlet and Hoffman’s insolvency within the next few years.
The Council also was provided with an overview of a recent innovation at the Hamlet Depot Museum.
Director Mechelle Preslar presented a “virtual 360 tour” of the Depot, announcing the availability of such at HamletHistoricDepot.org. According to Preslar, the interactive overview of the Depot’s details was the brainchild of longtime Depot associate Bill Matheson, and it was he who ensured the completion of the project from conceptualization to the final product.
Earlier in the meeting, the Council heard from a neighbor who described a parcel of property on Pine Street as having been long-neglected and dilapidated to the point of posing a safety hazard.
It was stated that the remnants of an old chimney had recently collapsed and that the present condition of the lot was such as to warrant immediate action.
City Manager Matthew Christian helped to address the situation. Noting that, although the property in question was under foreclosure and technically under the purview of the county, Christian indicated that the City of Hamlet could explore existing codes for a possible means of expediting corrective action. The attorney for the City concurred, noting that he could simultaneously confer with county officials as well.
The Council also heard the pros and cons of the proposed establishment of a railroad tie disposal plant near Hamlet.
Noting potential negative environmental aspects of such an operation, the resident was provided with direct contact information for a local group with similar concerns.
It was also reported that Christian has maintained continual monitoring and active attendance at recent hearings — including a virtual public hearing last week by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Division of Air Quality — that focused upon this issue and is thus well-informed of the day-to-day developments associated with such.
Councilman Maurice Stewart was not in attendance.
The next meeting of the Hamlet City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13 at 7 p.m.
William R. Toler contributed to this story.