LUMBERTON — The Lumberton City Council on Wednesday discussed measures that would help the city regulate electronic gaming establishments if they were legalized by the state.
A citywide moratorium on sweepstakes cafes is set to expire on June 10.
The council, meeting as the Council Policy Committee, heard a proposal to limit the hours, locations and size of sweepstakes cafes so regulations would be in place if the state Supreme Court were to overturn a December 2012 ban on the establishments, or if gaming operations found a way around the ban.
The council agreed to discuss amending the moratorium at its planning conference on March 26 and March 27, as long as it clears the city’s Planning Board during its March 25 meeting. If the ordinance is approved by both, a public hearing would be held on the matter during the council’s regular meeting on April 14.
“You don’t want to fight a problem with one mechanism when you have five or six at hand,” said interim City Attorney Rob Price, referring to the moratorium.
Moratoriums are intended to be temporary, Price said. Lumberton’s has been in effect since 2010.
Among other regulations, the amended ordinance would require an electronic gaming operation to obtain a conditional-use permit before opening in a district that allows for such businesses.
Hours of operation would be limited to 8 a.m. through 10 p.m., although Councilman John Cantey asked that the council and Planning Board consider cutting all Sunday hours or limiting them to afternoons.
The ordinance also states that an electronic gaming operation could not be located within 500 feet of some establishments, including another sweepstakes cafe, a single-family residence, a church or a school.
Councilman Erich Hackney expressed hesitation about whether that distance is sufficient and if the proposed limit of 40 on the number of machines allowed is too many.
The council also voted to endorse negotiations for the sale of ElectriCities assets to Duke Energy. The endorsement allows the council to hear an update on those talks during a closed session at either its March 17 meeting or during the planning conference. The closed session would allow the potential contract to remain confidential.
Duke Energy entered into negotiations with the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency in February to purchase ownership interests in four power plants that serve 32 cities and towns, including Lumberton and Red Springs, that operate their own electric systems.
If a deal is reached, proponents say local utility customers could see their bills shrink. ElectriCities manages the power agency.
In other business, the committee:
— Adopted a resolution supporting a county dumping ordinance that prohibits municipalities from transporting waste outside of Robeson County so that the county doesn’t lose tipping fees. The adopted resolution makes an exception for recycling because Lumberton’s recyclable materials are taken to Fayetteville.
— Approved a request from the Electric Utilities Department to purchase a tree bucket truck for $172,545. All but $2,545 was included in the capital budget. That amount will come from the city’s contingency fund.
— Declared 34 pieces of Electric Utilities Department equipment surplus so that it could be disposed of as part of a system upgrade.
— Awarded a bid for wastewater treatment plant repairs to Heavenly Creations. The repairs will cost $48,470, all but $3,47o of which was included in the capital budget. That amount will come from the city’s Water and Sewer Fund.
— Approved a two-year odor-control service contract with NRP Group at a rate of $1,200 a month. The company will treat a wastewater lift station located on Harrill Road near Wesley Pines, which has caused neighbors to complain about a bad smell.
— Approved a request from Sign City for a hospital sign to be placed at 395 W. 27th St.
— Voted to extend Lumberton’s contract with accounting firm Collins, Kemp and Patterson to do the city’s audits.