LUMBERTON — As Hurricane Florence bears down on Southeastern North Carolina, Lumberton residents are being strongly encouraged to sign up for the city’s CodeRed emergency information system.
Mayor Bruce Davis, who is looking at the second major hurricane during his tenure, and members of the City Council were updated Monday on the city’s hurricane preparedness by David Carroll, deputy director of Public Works. Residents may sign up online for the system that can send text, email or telephone messages or they may call the city to be signed up, he said.
Forecasters believe Florence will be a major wind event that will dump 5 to 7 inches of rain. Additional electrical and tree removal contractors are on standby for the expected power outages.
“This will not be another Hurricane Matthew,” Carroll said. “But, let me say this, you cannot predict what will happen.”
The Lumber River is at 7 feet, well below flood stage, unlike Matthew when it was at flood stage before the rain started, Carroll said.
“This is a powerful storm,” he said. “It went from a Category 2 to a Category 4 in just two hours this afternoon. It has winds of 140 mph now.”
Also in Lumberton’s favor, forecasters are seeing a slight shift to the north. It was aiming straight for a Wilmington landfall earlier Monday.
The first stages of the storm are expected to be felt Thursday morning, with the full force of the hurricane to be felt in the afternoon. The first shelter to open will be at Lumberton High School, and others will follow if needed.
Councilman Chris Howard, who was forced to seek shelter after Hurricane Matthew, said he witnessed considerable suffering, especially among the elderly.
“How can we do a much better job helping our citizenry this time?” Howard said. “We need to greatly improve service and not have the mix-ups when there was no food or water and people suffered.”
The city can do nothing but send requests to the county, which will contact the state, City Manager Wayne Horne said.
“The city does not manage the shelters,” Horne said. “We will work closely with the county on shelter operations.”
Flood mitigation projects at the water plant, which flooded and shut down following Hurricane Matthew, and at Jacob Swamp Dike, which allowed huge volumes of water to flow through its opening in West Lumberton, are still in the planning stages, Horne said.
In other business, City Planner Brandon Love was promoted to deputy city manager. Assistant Planning Director Artriel Kirchner will be interim planning director as the city replaces Love.
Love has served the city for 14 years, all as planning director. He is the longest serving department director currently on the city’s staff.
“Thank you for your confidence in me,” Love said. “I hope to work closely with the city manager on issues, including retail business recruitment, downtown redevelopment and Hurricane Matthew relief.”
Love is an N.C. State University graduate with a master’s of science degree in industrial design. Kirchner is a 20-year city employee.
The city honored three people with Pride in Lumberton awards on Monday.
Robbie Barr is a volunteer with the Robeson County Church and Community Center.
Harry Jhala, a volunteer with Britt’s Volunteer Fire Department, answered a call at 3 a.m. for a child who had stopped breathing. He administered CPR until emergency units arrived, and the child survived.
Kenneth Richardson retired as a Lumberton Police Department lieutenant with 20 years of service to the city and 31 years in law enforcement.
Among planning matters, the council members tabled the rezoning of five acres at 2485 W. Fifth St. The owners of Easy Recycling want to move their scrap yard from a smaller location on the street.
Neighboring businesses opposed the rezoning, said Easy Recycling owner Russell Mayes. The Planning Board was split on the question and offered no recommendation, according to Love.
Mayes requested that the question be tabled, and the council agreed.
Owners of the McDonald’s restaurant being built at 5000 Fayetteville Road were granted a conditional-use permit to operate all night.
Quality Oil Company was granted a conditional-use permit to move its above-ground storage tanks as the business moves to a new site at 1510 E. Fifth St.
Council members agreed to its 5 percent share of a $900,955 grant to construct a new terminal at Lumberton Municipal Airport. It also agreed to contribute $16,000 toward a new full-time position at the airport.
Elm Street, between 24th Street and Fayetteville Road, will be repaved after the state Department of Transportation removes 2 inches of asphalt. The project, which is expected to begin in December, will cost $197,000 in state Powell Bill funds. Barnhill Construction will do the paving.
Electrical lines on Carthage Road will be upgraded at a cost of nearly $800,000. The low bidder was Volt Power LLC.
Contractors will replace 1,000 feet of sewer line in South Lumberton. The sewer line was to be “slip lined” but was in too damaged and required replacement.
Council members also approved $16,340 in additional costs for the downtown Riverwalk.
Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]