Water problems continue to plague town residents

Last updated: August 05. 2014 2:51PM - 625 Views
By Imari Scarborough iscarbrough@civitasmedia.com

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The Wadesboro Town Council amended a vote it had unknowingly made last month during Monday’s regular meeting.

When the Taste of the Pee Dee Festival committee asked the council to allow festival attendees 21 and older to purchase alcohol from Oliver’s and drink it within a specially-marked area from Washington to Wade streets, the council was split. With Councilman Fred Davis absent, the vote was tied 2-2, and Mayor Bill Thacker broke the vote with a nay, resulting in the council turning down the request.

Or so the council members thought. The council unknowingly approved the vote last month thanks to a technicality that counted Davis’ absence as an automatic “yes” since the council didn’t hold a vote to not count his absence vote.

The council discussed its options, with Thacker wondering if he could overturn the council’s previous vote and declare it null and void. The council’s legal counsel, Jeff Carpenter, summed up the situation: “The vote has been cast, but if members of the council want to vote on an amended change, they can do that.”

The vote had approved the consumption of alcohol within marked boundaries, as long as alcoholic beverages were in a special cup purchased from Oliver’s and the customer wore a wristband indicating he or she was old enough. The original vote held that the consumption of alcohol on the street would be allowed from 1-9 p.m. on Oct. 11, but the council amended that during Monday’s meeting to be only from 5-9 p.m. The change moves the hours to a time when fewer children will be out and shortens the period in which a customer may become inebriated. This vote was split 3-2, with Councilmen Bobby Usrey and John Ballard against allowing alcohol on the street.

Additionally, the vote does not allow a temporary change in the city ordinance, which would make the city liable for any accidents. The vote affects the sidewalk dining ordinance as it pertains to Oliver’s, essentially temporarily expanding its sidewalk to encompass the street. This move makes Oliver’s potentially liable rather than the town.

The council also voted to begin a recycling program. While the town cannot afford curbside recycling pickup, a large receptacle will be provided behind the Tollison building near the police station, allowing citizens to drop their recyclables off on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. This will be a trial run, and may be discontinued if the system is abused by citizens depositing regular trash into it. The bin will be monitored by the Wadesboro Police Department. The council hopes to have the program in place sometime in September.

The council heard from several citizens on various matters. David Harrington asked that the council install pipes on Ingram Street to reduce flooding and street erosion. Joan Taylor complained that certain Section 8 houses were being used for illegal purposes, including bootlegging and allowing unauthorized tenants to stay. She asserted that the Housing Authority board and the Wadesboro Police Department weren’t enforcing the rules.

Ann Huntley approached the council to complain of the city’s inferior water quality. She presented verbal and old newspaper accounts of times when citizens had complained about the water over the years to no avail. “We need some answers,” she said. “We don’t need them later, we need them now. I think over 15 years of dirty water is long enough.”

Thacker assured Huntley that both he and the council are well aware of the problem and are working to fix it. Bill Lester, an engineer with LKC Engineering, provided a brief report detailing his update on the water system, and plans to present a list of options and alternatives within the next several weeks.

Public services director Hugh James apprised the council of a smoke test he is doing on the Burns Street pump station. The test, almost entirely paid for by the North Carolina Rural Water Association, blows smoke through the pipes to reveal problem areas. The pump has overflowed during heavy rains, and while the test has so far revealed only minor problems, James is hopeful that it will show the larger problem leading to the overflow. The town has notified 911 to let them know that the smoke will show in openings in the pipes, possibly including in some citizens’ homes.

After the meeting, the council went into closed session while several citizens who had attended the meeting stood outside discussing the issues of the alleged bootlegging house and the town’s dirty water. “What Ann did tonight, I did in September of 2011,” Linda McCormick said. “They told me the same thing they told Ann tonight.” She said she’d also written a letter to the editor in The Anson Record on Sept. 22, 1999 about the same issue.

Both McCormick and Huntley said that over the years, the town has said the dirty water is from a plethora of issues ranging from old pipes to stagnant water in the City Pond. “It’s a Catch-22,” McCormick said. “They tell us they can’t afford to fix the pipes, but if that option’s off the table, we need another solution.” Both she and Huntley agreed that the town should switch to using county water, an expensive option that the town may investigate as the engineer looks into options.

James and the council have said before that the water problem stems from century-old pipes and a stagnant pond, but that an answer will come.

The council moved will hold its next regular meeting on Sept. 8 at 5 p.m to avoid meeting on Labor Day.

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