Graffiti repair brushed aside


First Posted: 1/15/2009

Gena Smith
Staff writer
LUMBERTON — When it comes to cleaning up graffiti, city councilman seemed willing to jump on Councilman John Cantey Jr.’s bandwagon — at least until it got costly.
On Wednesday, during a policy meeting of the City Council, Cantey asked permission to use $400 of his community revitalization funds for paint to cover up gang graffiti around Lumberton, but his request was brushed aside before it was voted on.
Councilman Don Metzger made a motion to grant Cantey’s request, but withdrew it after there was discussion and before there was a vote.
“I want graffiti removed period,” Mayor Ray Pennington said. “I just don’t know if you need to use your community revitalization funds … I think it ought to be a citywide effort.”
Cantey said he thought a newly-revised policy on how the community revitalization money could be used to clean up graffiti around Lumberton, and not just in his precinct.
City Attorney Robert Price seemed wary, especially of using the money on private property.
“What’s going to happen when 12 people call and ask for money and you only have enough for three?” Price said.
Police Chief Mike McNeill said he would see whether money from the Project Safe Neighborhood grant could be used.
“A lot of this stuff needs to be removed immediately,” Cantey said.
McNeill suggested talking to the private business owners and said he would have police take care of public property. When Cantey asked for a time-frame on when that would happen, the discussion warmed.
“He will take care of it,” Councilman Robert Jones said. “Let him take care of it — he said he would.”
Councilman Leon Maynor suggested that Cantey organize an effort to cover the graffiti.
“You put a time together and I’ll go help remove it,” Maynor said. “I’ll buy a can of paint.”
Councilman Wyatt Johnson said he would take the issue to the Neighborhood Restoration Committee he serves on.
Cantey’s request that City Manager Wayne Horne research the possibility of a city ordinance on graffiti that would provide for tougher punishment was unanimously approved by the council.
In other business, the council asked the city staff to explore allowing Adam Walls, an art professor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, to display his sculptures on city property.
“They look like large plastic toys,” Walls said.
If the council approves a contract with Walls, 10 of his sculptures could be displayed for nine months.
“I’m a member of this community,” Walls said. “I’m not looking to make money off the community — I just want to share my work.”
Becky Thompson of the Robeson County Arts Council and Connie Russ, the downtown coordinator for the city, had suggestions on where to place the sculptures, including the abandoned water plant on Water Street that they want to transform into an arts center.
Also Wednesday, the council took the following action, which must be voted on Monday night during its regular meeting:
— Approved Koonce-Noble and Associates as the engineering firm for the Sadie’s Landing Apartment Complex on McPhail Road.
— Approved the Lumberton Airport Commission’s request to budget $2,763 as a 5 percent match for a state grant for the new airport hangar.
— Approved borrowing $164,260 from BB&T for pay for a street sweeper.
— Approved a contract with S. Preston Douglas and Associates for auditing services for the next three years at a total price of $90,750.
— Approved Councilman Don Metzger’s request for $200 of community revitalization funds for the Lumberton High School cheerleaders and $500 for renovations at the Carroll Middle School gym.
— Approved Councilman Jackie Taylor’s request for $200 of community revitalization funds for Carroll Middle School.
— Approved Councilman Robert Jones’ request for $300 of community revitalization funds for Carroll Middle School and $600 for a handicap ramp at School View Mobile Home Park.

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