Laurinburg pastors to speak out over chaplain dismissal

By Scott Witten - [email protected]

LAURINBURG —A delegation of ministers will address the Laurinburg City Council next week over the dismissal of Rev. Michael Edds as chaplain for the city’s police department.

City Manager Charles Nichols told council members at Tuesday night’s agenda workshop that the pastors had asked to speak at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Edds was relieved of his duties with the police department late last month after writing a column critical of a proposed new City Hall.

Edds in an guest editorial in The Laurinburg Exchange on Feb. 19 said the money spent on a proposed new municipal building could be better used to help reduce crime and violence. Edds, senior pastor at East Laurinburg Pentecostal Holiness Church, has also voiced his opposition to the proposed multi-million facility at City Council meetings.

“The city has the fourth highest violent crime rate in the state,” Edds wrote in the column. “Youth are being beaten and slaughtered on our streets. The five gangs in the city are proliferating. Will the new city building solve this? What could be done with $5.5 million to address this critical issue?”

City officials have declined to say why Edds was dismissed from the volunteer position. He has served as chaplain for five years.

The pastors told city officials that they wanted to be on the agenda to express concerns about the dismissal and the proposed new City Hall.

In a related matter, Nichols said council would get a recommendation at it regular meeting from the Potential City Hall/Police Station Selection Committee on a construction firm to provide an estimated cost for the facility.

But Mayor Matthew Block questioned why council was “trying to nail down costs” on the project when the focus should be on gaining citizen input for the facility first.

“It seems like we’re sending mixed messages,” said Block, who is opposed to the project.

Council member Drew Williamson said city officials do not have a clear estimate of what the final cost of the building might be and the construction firm would help determine that.

“We’re not sending a mixed message,” Williamson said. “It is premature to have citizen input, when we can’t even tell them what it might cost. Let us do our due diligence.”

In other business, council said it planned to review a request to hold a two-day festival in downtown Laurinburg.

The event called the Tema Fest is expected to be “celebration of African American culture and heritage articulated through art, music, dance, food, and community.”

“The Tema Fest serves to expose and educate all people to the individual talents and contributions of the African American culture,” said Nuekie Aku Opata, president of the African American Cultural Society of Scotland County Inc., the group organizing the festival.

The Tema Fest will include musical performances, art, literature, cultural cuisine, dancers, drummers, marching bands, a step competition, a pageant, speakers, vendors, special awards, recognitions, a Zumba-Thon and in the future a 5k Fun Run. It is planned for Labor Day weekend.

Council asked festival organizers to meet with staff this week to discuss logistics before coming to council again on Tuesday.

“There are still a lot of questions,” Council member Dee Hammond said.

The council is also expected to consider at its meeting next week a request for a conditional-use permit to operate a carnival at 1681 S. Main Street. The carnival is expected to run from from March 31 through April 10.

Council will hold its regular meeting March 22 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building at 303 West Church St.

By Scott Witten

[email protected]

Reach editor Scott Witten at 910-506-3023.

Reach editor Scott Witten at 910-506-3023.

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