ST. PAULS — The town Board of Commissioners on Thursday awarded a conditional-use permit to a businessman who wants to hold fundraisers and other functions at his business to pay for a computer lab where young people can access the Internet for education purposes.
Jimmy Robinson, owner of Soul Food on the Go on East Street, plans to hold fish fries and socials in a picnic area behind his store in hopes of making enough money to support the computer lab.
Thursday was Robinson’s fifth appearance before the Board of Commissioners in a year — the board has denied his other requests, which included requests for a conditional-use permit to turn his convenience store into a restaurant and approval of the sale of bottled alcohol. Currently, he sells only beer.
After a heated discussion about drug problems in the neighborhood and the chances of on-site consumption of alcohol bought at his store, Robinson assured the town’s Planning Board and the commissioners that he would keep the area under control and would notify police before any event to ensure their presence.
Robinson told the board that he has constructed a privacy fence around the picnic area of his store so the only access was through the store.
“Drugs are a problem on that side of town, but that’s what we’re trying to do is turn our children around,” Robinson told the board. “There is no money from nobody funding nothing on that side of town. We’re just trying to make funds to keep that computer lab going and give our people a chance.”
Also on Thursday, the board received a clean audit from Brian Scott of Thompson, Price, Scott and Adams.
Scott said that the town is in solid financial standing because of its increased tax-collection rate and strong fund balance. The audit was sent to the Local Government Commission, which must review it, this month.
Scott told the town that its water and sewer fund is barely breaking even and that it should consider increasing its rates and working to increase its collection rate.
In other business, the board:
— Approved a text amendment to the town’s zoning in Residential/Agricultural 20 to allow solar farms as a conditional use. It also approved a conditional-use permit for the properties at 721 and 669 N. Railroad St., whose owners have been approached by Strata Solar, of Chapel Hill, about building a 40-acre solar farm on their properties.
— Recognized Tammy Williamson for 15 years of service as a dispatcher with the St. Pauls Police Department. She also is a volunteer with the St. Pauls Fire Department.
— Heard a presentation from Shelia Mitchell, the manager of the St. Pauls Medical Clinic, which is one of Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s clinics. Mitchell told the board she wanted the clinic to become more involved in town functions.
— Authorized Porter Scientific, a Pembroke engineering and consulting firm, to begin looking for grant money to update the town’s water and sewer infrastructure. The company offered its grant-writing services for free until a grant is procured.
— Approved a $3,720 project to light the parking lot by City Hall and the Police Department.
— Approved the use of the R.E. Hooks Community Building for a men’s fellowship meal on Nov. 21.
— Approved the purchase of 200 brochures that promote economic development in the town at the cost of $220.