RED SPRINGS — Commissioners here took steps Tuesday to receive more than $1 million in long-awaited hurricane relief money.
During the regular meeting that was closed to the public because of COVID-19, the commissioners approved a resolution to accept a $1,024,608 loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Hurricane Florence relief, and a separate $500,000 grant from the N.C. Emergency Management.
“These are just two resolutions stating that we are going to take the money,” Town Manager David Ashburn said.
He expressed gratitude to the state legislators who helped secure the money.
“We want to thank Sen. (Danny) Britt, Rep. (Charles) Graham and Rep. (Brenden) Jones for support in our efforts to get this grant and loan,” Ashburn said.
The town received a $31,000 FEMA payment Monday to replace money spent preparing the town for Hurricane Dorian and in conducting emergency response operation to the September 2019 storm. That money will be placed in the town’s reserve fund. The town also will apply for funding to cover COVID-19 related expenses.
Commissioner Neil Lea’Kes joined Tuesday’s meeting by video because he has contracted COVID-19.
“This coronavirus is no joke,” he said.
Lea’Kes said he was diligent about wearing a mask but “still ended up with the virus.”
He urged residents to continue taking precautions to avoid contracting the virus.
“I want everyone to take care of themselves and wear your mask,” he said.
In other business, the commissioners approved an indoor air quality asbestos policy, a reaction to a complaint filed recently with the N.C. Department of Labor by a member of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.
The anonymous complaint alleged a “smell” in the Red Springs Police Department and that caused the Sheriff’s Office employee to get sick.
Samples were taken from ceiling tiles at the police department and from the courtroom’s floor to be tested for asbestos.
The courtroom floor sample had an asbestos content of 2%, Ashburn said. The sample from the ceiling tiles contained no asbestos.
All air tests at the police department have been negative for asbestos.
“We have had the air tested repeatedly,” the town manager said.
The town has made repairs to ceiling tiles in the courtroom that showed evidence of leaks or “air holes” and to the drywall, Ashburn said. No asbestos was discovered in the wall. Ceilings in the police department are also being repaired.
No complaints were filed with the town or police department, he said.
“I don’t know of any problem that anybody else had prior to this,” said Brent Adkins, Red Springs police chief.
The commissioners also learned Tuesday that pre-construction meetings for three contractors who placed bids for construction of the water treatment plant are scheduled for Aug. 12.
After coming out of a closed session, commissioners voted to eliminate the police administrative specialist position.
“To meet the budget of the police department, that position has been dissolved,” Ashburn said.
The person holding that position will be laid off, he said.
Shortly after voting to eliminate the position, the commissioners created an Office Assistant 1 position within the police department.
Also on Tuesday, the commissioners approved declaring as surplus property a 2012 Dodge Charger, a 2013 Dodge Charger and a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, all previously used by the police department. The commissioners also approved declaring two street sweepers surplus property.
The purchase of two Ford Explorers at a cost of $81,762.40, to be paid off over five years, was approved by the commissioners. The vehicles will be used in the police department.
The commissioners also OK’d buying a street sweeper, to be paid for in five annual payments of $50,178.12, and spending $141,000 on a grapple truck for use by the Sanitation Department.
The commissioners voted to charge American Indian Mothers, Inc. $170 in late fees for more than $1,000 in unpaid utility bills.
“My recommendation is they pay the late fees because that’s still a great deal for them,” Ashburn said.
Mayor Ed Henderson agreed with the decision.
“If they choose to have it (power) on, then they choose to have a bill,” Henderson said.
Also approved Tuesday was the sale of a grave plot, consisting of eight graves, at the discounted price of $1,200 to Rev. Don Oxendine of United Pentecostal Church of Red Springs. The church was given the discounted price because its leaders agreed to pay to develop the land where the plot is located and build it up to standards.