LAURINBURG — In a regular meeting of record brevity — 13 minutes — on Tuesday, the Laurinburg City Council approved changes to the utilities chapter of its code of ordinances.
According to Tammie Simmons, who manages the city’s consumer billing, the amendment shifts greater responsibility to landlords for electricity and water fees incurred by their tenants.
“The gist of this amendment is to add additional guidelines for landlords,” she said. “It basically requires the landlord to be the contracting party if three tamperings occur or consistent issues that would cause high electrical or water usage as a result of negligence on the part of the landlord.”
The amendment also stipulates that delinquent utility accounts be paid in full before a new service can be established, and that land owners are responsible for costs incurred due to meter tampering that took place while the property was vacant.
In other business, City Manager Charles Nichols brought council up to date on conversations with the N.C. Department of Transportation regarding the placement of pedestrian signs on West Boulevard near the U.S. 74 overpass and Walmart shopping center.
“We can make the signs, but it being a DOT owned and maintained road, we have to have permission from them,” Nichols said.
That area is frequently used by pedestrians travelling to Walmart from residential areas both east and west of U.S. 401. Due to the heavy traffic and lack of sidewalks, Nichols said, DOT is avoiding promotion of the area as a safe pedestrian zone.
“They won’t allow any pedestrian signs because that would promote, in their eyes, that we’re saying that it’s okay for pedestrians to walk here,” said Nichols, who added that the city’s community development director has applied for grants to add sidewalks in the area, which is likely to become even more congested with the addition of a restaurant and additional shopping at the U.S. 401 and West Boulevard interchange.
“But they are reviewing the bridge and the issues in that area, especially with the construction going on now. They did clear the lot for the Zaxby’s today, so it’s not going to get any better.”
“When everything’s finished there, it may be considered a no-brainer to put sidewalks,” council member Drew Williamson interjected. “There may be more pressure.”
Also on Tuesday, council:
— Voted to endorse the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority’s application to the N.C. Department of Commerce to name Laurinburg a North Carolina Certified Retirement Community.
— Received an update from Nichols on the city’s progress in negotiating to build a new city hall. Earlier this month, a selection committee comprised of city council members and city staff selected Creech and Associates, PLLC of Charlotte from the three architecture firms interviewed for the design of a new city hall.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.