LUMBERTON — Citing phone calls from disappointed constituents, the Lumberton City Council on Monday night reversed its decision to cancel its annual Family Fourth event, which was not held as scheduled because of weather.
All but two council members, Erich Hackney and Don Metzger, voted on Monday to hold the fireworks on Aug. 30 in honor of Labor Day. On Wednesday, the council, meeting as the Council Policy Committee, voted 7 to 1 to nix the event, saying it would save money and that many residents may be out of town for the holiday.
Councilman Leon Maynor, the only councilman to originally vote in favor of rescheduling the event, said at Monday’s meeting that he had been approached by other councilmen who wanted to “reconsider” their vote.
“Everybody doesn’t go out of town; Some people, let’s say less fortunate people, who don’t have nothing, they enjoy the fireworks. So after receiving numerous phone calls, I changed my mind and I hope you all do the same,” said Councilman John “Big Wayne” Robinson.
Councilman Burnis Wilkins said he received at least 30 phone calls from residents around the city.
“I think the general public will be appreciative of having such a show. It’s been proven in the past when we have the fireworks it draws people from every angle of this county and some adjoining counties,” said Mayor Raymond Pennington.
City staff was working this morning to see if the event could be rescheduled as planned for July 3, or if just the fireworks display would be revived.
Tim Taylor, director of the Recreation Department, said the original program — including fireworks, an invocation by Donnie Paschall of Vertical Church; a rendition of the national anthem by Will Britt and Laura Morgan; a presentation of the American flag by the Robeson County Fireman’s Association Honor Guard; and a parachute jump by the All Veteran Parachute Team — would cost about $20,000. An additional $3,400 will be needed to pay police working the event.
The city had a $15,600 contract with Pennsylvania pyrotechnics company Zambelli Fireworks. In canceling the event, it stood to lose half of that investment — $7,800.
“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that voting to waste taxpayers’ money is irresponsible, especially on the heels of a property tax increase,” Councilman Erich Hackney, who voted against rescheduling the event, said an message sent to a reporter after the meeting.
A time for the rescheduled event has not been determined.
The council also presented the Pride in Lumberton award to Mark Reif, the head of Human Resources and Community Relations for Mountaire Farms.
“They are the leader in community projects and they are the first to step up to the plate,” said Councilman John Cantey, citing the company’s athletic scholarships program and food donations.
In other business, the council:
— Held a public hearing on a $1,195,778 Community Development Block Grant to repair failing sewer pipes in the Lambeth Street area and voted to apply for the grant, as well as provide a $50,000 match to make the application more competitive. The total project cost was estimated at $1.245 million.
— Approved a request to rezone property located at 3000 E. Elizabethtown Road for use as a store.
— Approved a request to rezone properties located at 700 Roberts Ave. and 2101 E. Seventh St., removing their Business General Commercial and Business Community designations, but maintaining their Office-Residential zoning. The application was brought by Wilkins because residents complained about noise and violence while the Roberts Avenue location was being used as a restaurant and bar. The request was protested by the property owner, William Rowan, who said he did not intend to open a bar or restaurant but may rent or sell the space.
— Approved the concept for a performance shelter in the downtown plaza, authorizing city staff to work with Revitalize Downtown Lumberton on the design.
— Deeded easements at the intersection on Water Street and Elizabethtown Road between Fifth and Eighth streets to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to construct a roundabout.
— Designated the following Community Revitalization Funds: $500 to the Godwin Heights Community Watch Program; $1,200 to Academic Excellence & Encouragement Ministry for a back-to-school event; $200 to Communities in Schools; $100 to the B.B. Thompson Community Choir; $100 to the Rape Crisis Center; $100 to the March of Dimes; $300 for a wheelchair ramp at a residence on Hollywood Drive; and $1,350 to Knights of Pythagoras to go towards a benefit plate sale for Lumberton police Sgt. Shawn Byrd.
— Accepted $243,766 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to replace the Lumberton Fire Department’s outdated Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses.
— Approved engineering services contract with Wooten Company for $99,250 to continue mapping the city’s sewer infrastructure. A $50,000 Technical Assistance Grant from the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources will be put towards the project.
— Approved a a conditional-use permit request from the Robeson County Arts Council to use a building located at 910 N. Walnut St. as its office and for art classes and exhibitions. The request will go to the Planning Board before a public hearing is held.
— Allocated $1,300 for Lumberton’s Dixie Youth 12U girls softball team to assist with travel, lodging and food during Dixie Softball World Series in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
— Approved a $126,504 change-order for the Phase 3 and West Lumberton Sewer Rehabilitation Project.
— Voted to purchase and install a $127,500 grit removal system at the Lovett Road Lift Station.
— Allocated $7,958 to replace a deflector plate at the wastewater treatment plant.
— Voted to purchase a $52,451 Ford F-450 utility truck for the Public Works Department.
— Approved three subdivision plats in The Oaks neighborhood and set a $55,000 bond for completion of the project.
— Accepted a $7,788 general-use grant from the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services for the Pine Street Senior Center.
— Amended the city’s ditching and piping policy so that a single property owner can request installment of drainage pipes.
— Granted a commercial solid waste franchise to All Points Waste Services Inc. of Laurinburg to operate in city limits.
— Approved an $18,000 contract with Retail Strategies Inc. to attract new businesses to Lumberton .
— Approved a job description for the position of Management Information System administrator.
— Voted to allow an awning at 405 and 407 N. Elm St.
— Voted to give $15,000 to Robeson County Teen Court.