FAIRMONT — After swearing in three commissioners and a mayor, the Fairmont Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to take the first step toward establishing a youth center.
The board members voted to accept the gift of the former post office at 105 S. Main St. from Don Ray, a Georgia resident. The commissioners instructed Town Manager Katrina Tatum to get estimates for renovating the building for its new use.
Ray stipulated the building be used for a youth center in perpetuity. He also stipulated that Commissioner Charles Kemp be appointed director of the facility. That posed a problem.
The Institute of Governments advised the town that an elected commissioner cannot hold another position with the town, thus being his or her own employer.
“It is the potential for conflict between the two positions that is important, rather than whether or how frequently a conflict actually arises in practice,” the institute advised, citing “Ethics, Conflicts, and Offices; A Guide for Local Officials.”
“Under common law, a person generally cannot hold two positions when one of them is subservient to the other,” the institute noted.
Kemp withdrew his name from consideration as youth center director.
“In order to facilitate this matter, I am withdrawing my name from consideration,” Kemp said. “We need this building. We’ll never get this chance again.
“Our youth need this program,” he said. “This is the right place and the right time. I am excited.”
Kemp endorsed Mayor Charles Townsend’s proposal of appointing an advisory board to oversee the youth center.
After the meeting, Kemp said the building’s owner would accept the counter offer. Kemp had brokered the gift arrangement with Ray.
“The advisory board idea is wonderful,” Kemp said. “We are getting a sound building that will take $20,000 to $30,000 to renovate.”
Kemp met Ray by chance on the streets of Fairmont and proposed the gift idea.
“He and I struck up a conversation and hit it off,” Kemp said. “At the time, he was trying to decide what to do with the building.”
Townsend wants the youth center to have a science, technology, engineering and math program.
“Our schools are not getting the scores that we need from our children,” Townsend said. “I would like to introduce a STEM program to you in January.”
In other business, Town Manager Tatum advised residents with hurricane damage claims to apply at the county office for funding from a Community Development Block Grant program.
District Court Judge Judith Daniels administered the oath of office to Mayor Townsend, and Commissioners Terry Evans, Monte McCallum and Felicia McLean-Kessler before the business portion of the meeting began. All were re-elected Nov. 7 to four-year terms.
Townsend spoke to the people gathered in the South Robeson-Fairmont Heritage Center on Main Street after the induction ceremony.
“This is our town,” he said. “We need to come together to make progress because only we can do it by working together.
“I will be mayor for all the people of Fairmont.”
Staff writer Scott Bigelow may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 910-644-4497.