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City puts police HQ expansion plans on hold

Council splits on hiring school resource officer

Plans for major renovations and expansion to the Lincolnton PoliceDepartment were put on hold Thursday after months of debate.

Meanwhile, a new School Resource Officer will be added to the city’s payroll, despite sharp dissent among City Council members.

The two contentious items dominated the discussion at Thursday’s Lincolnton City Council meeting.

After much deliberation, council members decided to table plans for the expansion and renovation of the police department.

The decision came after Dennis Williams of Willams Design presented the council with a status update on the project. His found the buidling to be in “very poor condition” and outlined the blueprints for proposed phases of construction.

Among other things, Williams pointed to the presence of asbestos. He said hazardous materials would have to be removed.

Williams said construction documents were completed Thursday prior to the meeting and the bid package was also ready.

Council member Devin Rhyne asked about local partcipation in the construction, and Williams said the state mandates it be at least 10 percent.

“I agree we should have as much local participation as we can,” he said.

Williams also recommended that the city prequalify general contractors, since many end up being financially unstable. He concluded by putting forth a timetable for opening bids by Dec. 14.

He acknowledged contention surrounding the issue but said he doesn’t understand it. He warned that delaying action would only cost more money down the road and pointed out that one in every nine dollars in the economy is from construction.

However, Mayor John Gilleland restated his position that it is “not the right time.”

Both he and Rhyne maintain that there are other options, such as abatement of the hazardous materials and fixing up the original building.

Rhyne, who is a project manager for a construction company, also dismissed the notion that costs would be “that much more exuberant over time.”

“I would rather redesign what we have,” Gilleland said.

Council member Larry Mac Hovis, however, stressed that the project could be completed without raising taxes and that he thinks it is the right thing to do for the citizens. He added that the topic could be beat to death, but it would have to be done somewhere down the line.

Council member Dr. Les Cloninger said he knew what he wanted to do, but he wanted to make sure that it was right. He suggested having a work session for further discussion of the topic. A motion to table the item and move forward with a work session was then passed unanimously.

 

Resource officer

The next item on the agenda was the consideration of adding a School Resource Officer to Lincolnton’s list of budgeted positions. It resulted in a 3-2 vote, with Heavner and Hovis opposing and Gilleland breaking the tie in favor of the motion.

Police Chief Rodney Jordan presented the request for the officer position at Lincolnton High School, with Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter also present.

Jordan outlined how the school, with money received from the state, would pay for 10 months of the officer’s salary and benefits, while the city would foot the bill for the two months the school would be on summer vacation. The officer would be allowed to work other duties during that time.

He also said he would fill the position in the school with an in-house officer with experience, and then fill that position with an entry-level person.

Gilleland emphasized that the city would be paying for the replacement, who would be receiving an entry-level salary.

Both Heavner and Hovis stressed that the issue was a responsibility of the county, not the city.

However, Carpenter said there was nothing in writing that assigned it to either and pointed out that it has been a jurisdictional issue since 1997. City Manager Jeff Emory added that it is “done differently in different jurisdictions.”

Cloninger concluded the discussion by reviewing the facts and saying he would have to differ with Heavner and Hovis because he wanted “to do what’s best for the 900 kids.”

In other City Council action:

  • A public hearing for allowing construction of an accessory parking lot at the Lincolnton campus of Gaston College proved unnecessary, as the conditional use permit application was withdrawn Thursday morning.

  • Bids for lawn maintenance at City Hall and the police department were awarded to Edwards Landscape Co. on a unanimous vote.

  • The Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan Memorandum of Understanding was unanimously approved.

  • A motion to approve an agreement between the Department of Homeland Security and Lincolnton for a potential grant for a Vehicle Exhaust Extraction System for a Fire Station 2 upgrade was passed unanimously.

  • The request from Lincoln County Emergency Medical Services to relocate Medic One to the Lincolnton Fire Department was presented by Fire Chief Mike Lee. When asked whether he had any apprehensions about it, Lee joked that it would be like “having your mother-in-law move in with you.” Nonetheless, he said it would benefit citizens in the southern part of Lincolnton, and council members voted 3-1 to sign off on the request, with Heavner opposing.

  • The list of nominees for the 2011-2012 Lincolnton Student Advisory Council was approved unanimously.

  • Planning Director Laura Simmons presented an update on the status of Phase III of the Marcia H. Cloninger Rail-Trail Project. She said city staff members were informed that they had inadvertently failed to secure approval of the contract from FHWA, meaning it was now null and void. They will have to start the bid process over and request an extension for the grant.

SARAH LOWERY, Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Seth Mabry

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