LUMBERTON — The Lumberton City Council on Monday gave unanimous approval to an $81.4 million budget that takes effect July 1.
The vote was taken with no discussion of the plan that keeps the current tax rate of 63 cents per $100 of property value, has a 3 percent pay hike for employees, bumps water and sewer rates by 4.9 percent and maintains the power rate, stormwater and sanitation fees.
The only budget-related item discussed before the vote was Councilman Leon Maynor’s motion to have city staff study the idea of finding an outside company to collect unpaid fees for the mowing of private lots. Maynor said the city has unpaid mowing bills that range from $60 and up.
“The collection rate is poor, it’s very poor,” Maynor said.
After the meeting, Maynor said the city cuts the grass on private lots all across the city. Some are rental lots where the occupants and the owners are not cutting the grass and some are unoccupied properties. Many are in southwest Lumberton, which was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew.
The grass must be cut because snakes and rats get in the tall grass and pose a health and safety hazard, he said.
Maynor’s study motion was approved.
The council approved without discussion allowing Brandon Love, director of Planning & Neighborhood Services, to advertise for administration services of the city hazard mitigation grant program. Love will seek an outside company to administer $13.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to deal with 106 homes damaged by Hurricane Matthew.
Also approved without discussion was a resolution setting in motion the steps needed to fill Burnis Wilkins’ Precinct 3 seat on the City Council. Council members approved unanimously a resolution scheduling a special election on Nov. 6, which is the General Election.
Wilkins won the May 8 Democratic primary race for Robeson County sheriff. He faces no Republican challenger in November.
The resolution calls for candidates to file no earlier than noon Aug. 31 and no later than noon Sept. 21.
Also on Monday, the council accepted a $24,950 bid from Specialized Concrete Inc., of Lumberton, to remove and replace the concrete bay floor at Fire Station 2, on Bailey Road. Specialized Concrete’s was the lowest of three bids.
In another money matter, the council members approved granting two facade improvement grant applications totaling $15,000 for work in the Lumberton’s Downtown Improvement Zone. One was sought by Allan Campbell and the other by St. Alban’s Masonic Lodge.
Council members approved declaring property at 125 Dresden Ave. surplus and selling it. City Attorney Holt Moore said the city obtained the property through foreclosure. The property will be be placed up for bid.
“This will put it back on the tax roll,” Moore said.
After three pubic hearings, the council members approved:
— A request from Robert Wade Antone to rezone property at 4828 Fayetteville Road from office residential to business community.
— A non-contiguous annexation petition from Robert Earl Sampson for property at Pine Log Road and N.C. 72.
— A request from El Nueve Renacer Church, on Oak Street near Roberts Avenue, to close a portion of Madison Avenue, which runs by the church.
The church owns the property on both sides of the area delineated as a street, according to the request documents. Granting the request allows the the church to take title to what is now the paper right-of-way.
Before the council members entered the business portion of its meeting, Mayor Bruce Davis read a proclamation declaring June 11, 2018, as Patrick Adam Pait Day in Lumberton, in honor of the deceased county attorney. Pait died June 3 in a traffic accident in Fayetteville.
“If I don’t get through this bear with me,” Davis said as his voice cracked with emotion.
Davis presented the framed proclamation to Gregg Pait, Patrick Pait’s brother, and offered the city’s condolences to members of the Pait family present at the meeting.
All present rose and applauded.
Maynor helped Davis present a Pride in Lumberton Award to West Lumberton Kiwanis Club. The club has assisted the elderly, built handicap ramps and helped victims of Hurricane Matthew get back in their homes, Maynor said.
Maynor then presented the club’s members a check for $1,000 on behalf of the city. The money is to be used to buy materials so the club can continue its good works, he said.
The council members also increased the amount of Community Revitalization Funds donated to Community Programming at the Bill Sapp Recreational Center. The council members originally had donated $700. But, Councilman John Cantey said some council members may not have realized the significance of the programming and asked that they be given an opportunity to give more.
The council members chipped in another $600.
In other business, the council:
— Appointed Sharon Oxendine city tax collector.
— Referred the rezoning petition for properties on Branch Street and Lowery Street to Planning Board for its review.
— Accepted the donation of 0.17 acres of land in the McLean Subdivision from Rene Perry.
— Approved the write-off of more than $340,000 in delinquent fees and taxes that are 3 to 10 years old.
— Designated $400 of Community Revitalization Funds to Wycliffe East Homeowners’ Association; $1,200 for Godwin Heights Family Fun Day in Precinct 3; $1,000 of Community Revitalization Funds to the West Lumberton Kiwanis Club; and $250 of Community Revitalization Funds to St. Mary Holiness Church for Pastoral Event.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]