After the minutes of previous meetings were approved, Mayor Pro Tem Susan Woodburn stated that she wanted to discuss the resignation of town council member David Trotti. However, Mayor Solomon stated that there was a quorum present and the item wasn't on the agenda and since it would be a busy meeting, she wanted to move forward. Woodburn stated that she wanted it "on the record" that she had wished to fill Trotti's position before the meeting started.
The mayor noted Woodburn's request but the meeting moved on as planned.
Woodburn and Mayor Solomon butted heads on several items during the nearly four-hour meeting, including a discussion of a park, which is being planned on Robinson Bridge Road, discussion of setting zoning fees, and most notably, a discussion on a festival that citizens had planned for Morven, called Unity Festival. During the Unity Festival discussion, Woodburn exited the meeting after implying that the mayor was lying about her recollection of a meeting to plan the now canceled October Fest. (See related story elsewhere in this edition.)
Park plans discussed
In the first item of business on the agenda, Terry Myers with Environmental Impact RC&D (Resource, Conservation and Development) presented preliminary plans for a proposed park for the town. Myers stated that he'd first become aware of the need for a park at a meeting with the Anson County commissioners. His role, he said, is to partner with the town. "You tell us what you want and where you want it and we'll help you find it," he said.
He reiterated that nothing about the plans is set in stone but that the proposed park may include a ball park, fence, basketball court, picnic shelter, water feature and walking trail. "It's open as far as your imagination will take you," Myers said.
Of course, the important question is how will the park be funded, he pointed out. There are funding partners, including several foundations, grants and the N.C. Division of Forest Resources, among others. The town also has the option to do fundraisers.
The entire process could take 20-24 months, including a design that could be completed in eight to 10 months.
After the mayor stated that she was excited about how far the park planning process has come, Woodburn asked if the town is definitely moving forward with a park.
"I have questions about park security, I have concerns about town liability," Woodburn said. "I just feel this should be investigated a little more."
Council member Annie Townsend stated that she has been on the board for five years and didn't recall ever voting on a park.
Morven citizen Rev. John Gatewood spoke up, saying that the need for a park had come before the board in 2001 and while other towns in the county have had parks built since then, Morven still has not. "All we ask is to have something for the children of Morven," he said.
After a bit of discussion, which occasionally got a little heated, the council decided to form a committee to look at some of the issues raised about a park and report back to the board.
Festival discussion gets heated
After a few other items of business were discussed, the agenda moved on to the proposed Unity Festival. After Morven's beautification committee canceled the town's October Fest, a group of citizens joined together to plan a new festival for the town, to be called Unity Festival. They were asking the town council to support their endeavor and allow the festival to be held on Main Street on Oct. 3.
After council member Alvin Solomon proposed a motion to allow the Unity Festival to move forward, no other council member seconded it and in effect, refused to allow the festival to go on as planned. At that point, several members of the audience became frustrated and left the meeting.
An argument also erupted between Mayor Solomon and Woodburn, and at a little after 10 p.m., Woodburn exited the meeting. A few minutes later, council members Rhonda Johnson and Townsend also left, while the mayor was still speaking. There was also a disturbance between council member Solomon and former council member Marjorie Cole, who was in the audience.
Only a handful of Unity Festival supporters, the Solomons and Cole remained when the meeting adjourned at about 10:40 p.m.
In other business at the meeting:
• Morven Elementary School was honored for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) and having a 100 percent proficiency rate.
• John Ratliff with the Morven Volunteer Fire Department stated that the department needs to purchase a $300,000-plus pumper tanker, which if the sale of property the department owns is completed, can be purchased fairly quickly. Michael Yankell has just moved to the community and would like to purchase the old gin warehouse in town and locate an indoor flea market inside. The mayor informed Yankell that he would need to fill out a conditional use permit form and have it approved by the council. She promised that the planning board and then the town council would try to move the process as swiftly as possible.