LAURINBURG — The Laurinburg City Council was charged on Tuesday with taking a whack out of juvenile crime — with a curfew.
“We have over 9,000 young people in this county, they’re our future and our present, and right now they’re being threatened with violence,” said Michael Edds, pastor of East Laurinburg Pentecostal Holiness Church.
Edds, who also serves as chaplain for the Laurinburg Police Department, cited the shooting death earlier this year of a 14-year-old middle school student on Commonwealth Street. He connected the incident and other crimes with an environment where young children play near the street with makeshift toys and youth harass the elderly.
“One of the challenges is these kids don’t have a whole lot to do in this town,” Edds told council members. “We need playgrounds for these kids… the reason gangs are proliferating is because there’s very little to do.”
Proffering a copy of a curfew ordinance adopted in Wake Forest, Edds proposed that youth 17 and under should not be out unsupervised after 11 p.m. on weeknights or midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. He suggested that holding parents responsible for their children’s whereabouts through fines or community service may also prove effective.
“The police are out there anyway, they see these kids doing that… it gives them more authority, it gives them probable cause to deal with these kids,” he said.
“We need to do something, or we’re going to lose this generation of young people.”
Mary Evans, a resident of the Washington Park area, echoed Edds’ request that council consider implementing a curfew.
“I am a grandmother of two preteen boys,” said Evans, a former school board member. “They live on East Vance Street here in Laurinburg where all types of criminal things are going on: people getting shot, homes invaded, and young people walking up and down the street at all times of night going who knows where without any type of supervision or direction.”
The council took no action on the delegation’s request.
In other business, council authorized city staff to execute a contract with Charlotte architecture firm Creech and Associates to design a new city hall and police department at a total estimated cost of $540,000 over a 2-3 year design and construction process.
The current city hall was constructed in the mid-1950s, with an addition in the 1970s. The design and construction of the building makes electrical and technological upgrades difficult and costly. A 2013 space needs analysis identified the need for 22,000 square feet to house various city departments. Between the current municipal building and the Barrett Building next door, the city has 15,000 square feet available.
Other concerns include the level of public access to the police department, asbestos flooring, and staircases too narrow to comply with current fire codes.
“This building was constructed with masonry load-bearing walls, so it’s hard to make modifications or renovations without extreme cost,” said general services director Harold Haywood.
The cost of design will be capitalized along with the cost of construction if the city ultimately decides to proceed with the project.
Council member Mary Jo Adams cast the sole dissenting vote, preferring to wait until later in the fall when the city receives its annual audit report.
Also on Tuesday, utility billing manager Tammie Simmons told council that the transition to reading all city electric meters once a month would necessitate up to 37-day billing periods for some electric customers in November and December.
In August, about 2,100 city electric customers received higher-than-usual electric bills as personnel issues led to an irregular meter reading schedule. That left some residents paying for up to 39 days of energy at one time, although city staff try to keep billing periods well below 33 days.
At the prompting of council member J.D. Willis, the board authorized Simmons to use overtime as necessary to keep monthly billing periods consistent without altering the current meter reading schedule.
“I just don’t want to have to go through another 36-, 37-day thing where it hurts people,” said Willis. “I’d rather see us stick with the same way that you’re doing it, use the same system, and then if something happens and you get behind you can use overtime so that you meet that same window.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.