First Posted: 1/15/2009
ROWLAND — By this fall, the Rowland Chamber of Commerce will have a new home — its first, actually.
The chamber has been around for years but never had a central location. The chamber has been meeting at a senior citizens center in town.
But work is under way to renovate a small and historic downtown building to house the chamber.
Town leaders are planning a grand opening that will join the event with a kick-off celebration of an economic development program funded by a state grant. At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the town Board of Commissioners approved a request from the chamber to join the two events, with a tentative date set for Sept. 20.
“We do want something very nice,” said Suzanne Malloy, manager of the Lumbee Bank branch in Rowland who represented the chamber.
Last year the board agreed to turn over a vacant one-story brick building to the chamber for its headquarters. The building at 208 E. Main St. was constructed in the early 1930s and housed the first public library in Robeson County, according to Commissioner Bob Lowry. His wife Dessie is the chamber president.
Lowry said renovations began this spring. The work includes a new roof, new floors, fresh paint throughout and more. The heating and cooling system is next on the list of work, he said.
The town received a two-year NC Step Small Town Economic Grant of $130,000 from the state’s Rural Center to help boost economic growth.
“We were very excited to receive it,” Mayor Elizabeth Hunt said.
In the grant program’s first year, the town will be receiving $30,000 for leadership, planning and development costs, Hunt said.
The mayor liked the idea of joining the chamber’s grand opening with the grant kick-off.
“It would be easy to do both of those together,” Hunt said.
The grant allows the town to spend up to $2,500 for the kick-off event. “So we could have a nice one,” Hunt said.
In other action Tuesday, the board again debated adopting a curfew.
Commissioner M.C. Shooter suggested modeling it after Fairmont’s curfew, which has different times for youths 16 and younger and those 18 and younger.
He said he is concerned about youths causing trouble in town after hours.
Commissioner A. Jean Love questioned whether the town’s small police force — it has five full-time officers — is enough to enforce a curfew. She’s also worried it would lead to harassment of youths.
“If we don’t have enough law enforcement to enforce it, I have a problem with it being out there,” she said. “We do not have a juvenile problem in the town of Rowland … . Our problem is with older people.”
Shooter said there’s nothing that can be done about adults out late at night. “This is America — you’re allowed to walk the streets,” he said.
Commissioner Paul Hunt said he agreed with Shooter and Love.
“Can we enforce it?” he said. “Are there enough (officers)? I know that’s going to be a problem. But I also agree with Mr. Shooter — we’ve got to start someplace.”
The board decided to table the proposal and discuss it again at its annual workshop set for 6:30 p.m. July 23.
Also on Tuesday, the board:
— Met in executive session for about 15 minutes to discuss a real estate transaction and personnel matters.
— Heard a report from Police Chief John Reaves about the crime statistics for the town for 2007. The report showed an overall drop in the crime rate of 13.3 percent; a drop in violent crimes of 50.3 percent; and a drop in property crimes of 7.9 percent.
— Heard that the Public Works Department plans to begin spraying to control mosquitoes next week.
— Discussed implementing a purchase order system to keep better track of expenditures.
— Listened to Bob Lowry remind department heads to advise all town workers that they are not allowed to use town vehicles for personal use.
— Considered how to go after property owners with overgrown lots. Letters will be sent to violators, advising them that hey have a certain number of days to clear off their land or the town will do it for them and bill them. The board considered allowing property owners 15 days, but agreed initially to allow up to 30 days for action.