Maxton OKs pact for school gym

Kelly Mayo Staff writer

August 20, 2013

MAXTON — The Maxton Board of Commissioners approved a non-binding three-year contract with the Public Schools of Robeson County for the use of the Townsend Middle School gym, a facility the town has sought for about two years.

The vote was 2-1, with Commissioner James McDougald in opposition.

Nick Sojka, the town’s attorney, said the contract contains the conditions that the town assume all operating expenses and that the building will be fully operational within one year of the lease’s signing. He called it a “a bare-bones outline of key terms of the proper lease,” and that the town and the school board will develop a final contract.

McDougald said the town cannot afford the project.

“Our kids do need a place to go, but we cannot jeopardize the functions of this town,” he said. “Our budget is already tight. We can’t afford to put air conditioning in the police station.”

Mayor Sallie McLean said the board can come up with creative ways to pay for work at the gym.

“Once we come to the table, we can see how we can fine tune it,” she said. “We’ve got to think outside the box.”

Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, a Maxton resident and school board member, said the town should make every effort to restore the gym. She said grant money should be sought.

“If you can’t attain this goal, at least you tried,” she said.

In other business, Town Manager Angela Pitchford detailed how the town responded to a threat of E. coli in the water supply last week, which included an advisory for residents to boil water.

“I followed exactly what the state agencies told me to follow,” Pitchford said. “We now know how to use the reverse-911 system for emergencies.”

The system enables the town to make an automated calls to residents with information on the threat.

The water on Aug. 13 tested positive for E. coli, but subsequent tests showed the water was fine. It remains unclear where the E. coli came from.

Ray Oxendine, a Maxton resident and former commissioner, said news of the threat was slow to reach him.

“I didn’t hear anything until Saturday when I tried to go into a restaurant for something to eat,” he said. Oxendine said the Health Department had closed the restaurant.

But town resident Lillye McNeill Dumas-Wells said the board kept people informed.

“I commend the commissioners for the way they handled the water situation and getting the news out,” she said.

In other business, McLean said two rabies vaccination clinics will be held next week, one at Maxton Southeastern Fire Department on Tuesday and one at Queheel Fire Department on Aug. 28. Both will run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The vaccine will be available at the discounted cost of $5.

“Tell your neighbors, tell your friends, tell your family members,” McLean said.

In other business, the board on Tuesday:

— Approved a Solid Waste policy that maintains current base rates for water, sewer and garbage fees.

— Appointed Samantha Chavis to the Maxton Housing Authority Board.

— Heard a report from Police Chief Tammy Deese, who said National Night Out on Aug. 6 “was a huge success” and that Maxton started a “Booze It and Lose It” campaign on Friday that will run until Sept. 2. Deese also said a box has been placed in the lobby of the Police Department for residents to dispose of old or unwanted medicines, which will be destroyed at no cost to the town.

— Accepted a North Carolina Governor Highway Safety Grant for $7,500 for three police radars. Deese said Maxton will have to pay 25 percent of the cost of the radars.