Wednesday, 10 January 2018 00:37

TOP STORY: Hamlet City Council Commences New Year with Mixture of Exaltations and Interesting Discussions

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Hamlet Mayor Bill Bayless. Hamlet Mayor Bill Bayless. Photo courtesy of the City of Hamlet.

HAMLET – Given the recent period of bone-chilling cold, perhaps it was inevitable; the warmth that initially emanated from the Hamlet City Council’s initial meeting of 2018 soon dissolved into a spate of discourse between individual council members.

The Hamlet City Council convened as scheduled at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 9, at the city’s Administrative Office Building.  The first such session of the new year certainly got off to a happy start, characterized by a frothy gushing of accolades and kudos for various city employees.

Mayor Bill Bayless called the meeting to order and, after the Invocation, the current agenda and minutes from the December meeting were adopted.

Moving on to comments from attendees, the Council was quick to agree to the request of a female Spring Street resident that the “No Through Trucks” sign be re-established at the point where that street intersects with Raleigh Street. 

Noting several truck-related mishaps and issues of significant magnitude, she was quite eloquent and thorough in her presentation, immediately convincing the council members of the necessity of such action.

Before moving on to the next denoted item on the agenda, however, Councilman Jonathan Buie abruptly asked for an interjection.  Upon recognition by the mayor, Buie called attention to the gathering of the members of the Hamlet Fire Department in the meeting room. 

“I asked them here tonight to offer thanks, both personally and on behalf of the City, to these guys,” said Buie.  “I have never seen nor heard of a fire department, regardless of size, that is as professional and wonderful as what I witnessed from these guys last Friday night at the Methodist Church fire.”

Buie’s sentiments were reiterated by each of the other council members, all of whom noted in one way or the other how quickly, how well, and how professionally the Hamlet Fire Department personnel responded to what could have easily been a major disaster.

City Manager Jonathan Blanton was also quick to extol the virtues of not only the fire department, but city employees in general. 

“The public works department was phenomenal,” said Blanton.  “I can truthfully say that each and every city employee was hard at work, in some capacity, to help us get through the snow and the terrible conditions that ensued.”

And how would he know – because he was right out there with them.  Mayor Bayless let the audience know that, although Manager Blanton was too modest to advertise it, he was in fact out in the weather “for a lot more than eight or nine hours” (as had been mentioned by another council member).

It was further noted that the city manager himself had personally gone out with the public work crews during the height of the snow and cold to ensure that everything that could be done was indeed being implemented to minimize the negative impact of the inclement weather.

The manager’s report concluded with an “apology” to the citizens for any delays in garbage collection services and other weather-related situations, but the need for ensuring the safety of the city’s employees and to avoid taking unnecessary risks in the inclement conditions was noted.

Subsequent to an approval of a rezoning request for property on Gin Mill Road and the rescheduling of a mid-year work session meeting, business continued to an even more interesting level with the individual comments of the council members themselves.

Essentially, one council member had been challenged at a previous meeting in regard to specific aspects of multiple issues (e.g., the vintage 1920’s Jacksonville train car possibly being located at the Depot, the Councilman David Lindsey’s donation of land to the city for Seaboard Festival usage, etc.) and subsequently felt compelled to voice his side of the situation. 

During the progressive course of the “discussion” between several councilmembers, however, innuendo and negative comments were overheard, to the point where the mayor called a “five-minute recess” to allow the re-establishment of “professional decorum.”

Also noted at the meeting was the matter of the possibility of Lindsey’s “conflict of interest” surrounding his donations to the Seaboard Festival, which his wife, Kim, is president. This was the first time in several sessions that Lindsey was present for a meeting.

In a letter written by Frayda Bluestein, who specializes in conflicts of interest investigations at the University of North Carolina School of Government, and read by Blanton, it was determined after a thorough investigation that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove any conflict of interest.

Cooler heads prevailed and the council returned to the business of running the city, with the individual members continuing their respective comments and reports regarding how well the city has provided services, the dedication of its employees, and the objectives for the upcoming year to, in the words of Councilwoman Wendy Massagee, “make and keep the city great!”


Last modified on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 14:46

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