ROCKINGHAM – The Rockingham City Council held its regular monthly meeting at City Hall Tuesday night, which saw its political discussion overshadowed by the recognition of a local detective.
Reverend Gene Alexander, Pastor of First Assembly of God, opened the meeting in prayer. Mayor Steve Morris then completed routine monthly business with all items being approved by the board.
John Massey, City Planning Director, brought two items to the board for review. The first was a rezoning request on behalf of Eric Altman. The property is located at 404 E. Franklin Street, and is currently zoned Central Business (B-2). The request is to rezone this parcel of approximately .73 acres to High Density Residential (R-7).
The request, according to Massey, “is actually to undo a zoning change that was made in 2009 by the previous property owner. The need for rezoning is being requested due to lenders involved with refinancing having an issue with the zoning being commercial rather than residential.”
Massey also stated that the rezoning did not create any non-conformance issues with the current use of the property (law office and residence).
“The planning board reviewed it at their meeting last week and they recommended unanimously that we rezone it back to R-7 as he has requested,” Massey said. After some discussion, a motion to set a public hearing on the matter during the October meeting was brought by Councilman Bennett Dean and seconded by Councilman A. Eugene Willard. The motion passed unanimously.
The second planning item brought before the board was a right-of-way abandonment and dedication request. This change is needed to move the new Richmond Community College downtown campus project forward. It involves abandoning a portion of an alley behind the former R.W. Goodman Company Building and dedicating a new 12-foot wide alley across the rear of the property located at 111 E. Franklin Street.
According to Massey, there are a number of existing utilities located in the alley and the appropriate agencies have already been contacted about the need to relocate these services. Massey noted that this request had been reviewed by the planning board and they recommended proceeding as proposed. The council then passed a motion to set a public hearing for this request during the regular meeting next month on Oct. 10, 2017.
Police Chief Billy Kelly brought news of a grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program in the amount of $43,000. According to Kelly, Rockingham normally receives a grant in the amount of $20,000 annually as a result of Kelly’s participation in this program as a coordinator for a nine-county region. This year, the grant money will be used to install in-car cameras.
Additional funding of $23,000 has been granted to purchase a drunk driving simulator for each region. This will take the place of the old golf cart and goggles simulation used in the past, and is expected to eliminate safety concerns as well as give a more realistic experience to the participant(s). Mayor Morris thanked Kelly and acknowledged the $150,000 in grant money Kelly has brought to the area through his efforts in this program over the last seven years.
Chief Kelly then recognized Detective Ronald Brigman, Jr., for the completion of the N.C. Justice Academy’s Criminal Investigation Certificate Program and completion of the Tactical Training Certificate Program.
“I’ve been with the police department for 25 years,” Kelly said. “And I really can’t think of any police officer in the department receiving two certificates, let alone at, or about, the same time.”
Kelly went on to say that the Tactical Training program began at the N.C. Justice Academy in 2001, and 171 officers have signed up, while only 90 have completed the program. These two programs each require 500 hours to complete. During the time he has been working on these certificates, Brigman has also been busy working on his bachelor’s degree and has only 2 classes to finish to reach that milestone.
Chief Kelly thanked Brigman for his hard work and dedication, as well as his family for supporting him in completing this training. Mayor Morris then presented plaques commemorating these accomplishments and read letters of congratulations from the academy. Brigman then thanked the mayor, the council and the chief for the training and equipment they provide local officers. He said “interactions with officers from other municipalities at training have shown him others are not always as fortunate with this level of support.”
City Manager Monty Crump followed up Brigman’s recognition with a recommendation to reject all bids received on August 9 for a project to improve aeration and electrical at the wastewater plant. The bids came in at $500,000 over budget.
Crump believes the contractors have an abundance of work right now and are likely, “just not hungry for the job”. This was evidenced by the fact that only two contractors bid on the job. Crump recommended moving the unused funds into the next budget year and rebid along with some additional planned work at that time. The council acted on the motion and rejected the bids unanimously.
Final comments included a reminder from Councilwoman Anne Edwards of the upcoming Veterans Day Parade. She indicated that there have been 143 entries to date, and the event is expected to be even bigger than last year. Councilman Deane commented on how exciting it is to drive down Washington Street in the evenings and see all the cars parked with lots of people enjoying downtown Rockingham.
Mayor Morris finished the evening with two proclamations. The first was for Constitution Week September 17-23, as this is the 230th anniversary of the drafting of the United States Constitution. Members of The William Henry Harrison Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution are encouraging Americans to join the Bells Across America Program by ringing bells at 4 p.m. on September 17, the time when the constitution was signed.
The second proclamation was for Chiari Malformation Awareness Month to raise awareness and funding for a cure. This disease primarily affects teens and young adults, and causes the cerebellum to be pushed out of the skull. It is not preventable and cures are difficult.
Mayor Morris left the group with encouragement to enjoy the fall season and make plans to attend the final Plaza Jam on Thursday, October 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For additional information concerning this city council meeting contact Rockingham City Hall at (910) 997-5546.