LAURINBURG — Laurinburg’s city council gave Police Chief Darwin Williams the green light on Tuesday to repaint about half of the Laurinburg Police Department’s patrol fleet, while also allowing progress in repairing the Sanford building to continue.
The $38,600 in the department’s budget compiled from lapsed salaries and $13,000 designated to remodel the department’s dispatch area will also pay for equipment, including replacement of outdated duty vests. The eight cars to be repainted from blue to white will be model years 2011, 2012, and 2013, as older cars will soon be rotated out of use. With one new car added to the fleet this month, the department will have nine white cars.
By switching to white, Williams said, the police department’s patrol cars will gain uniformity.
“I went to the fleet expo in Charlotte back in September and I went to speak with one of the vendors from Dodge,” he said. “He advised me that the color of the Dodges are not based on law enforcement, it’s based on the consumers. We have to buy whatever’s popular out there in the consumer world.”
He added that the money spent on cars will not detract from the department’s usual operations.
“It won’t take away from any programs that you may have to come up or training that you may have to do with your officers,” councilwoman Dee Hammond queried. “Our officers are important and we need to take care of them and if something comes up and we don’t have the money because we painted cars, we would not be happy campers.”
As the department is still expected to come in under budget this year, councilman J.D. Willis suggested a budget amendment to transfer funds from the police department to the city’s building maintenance fund to cover costs of mold remediation and other repairs to the Sanford building. Once repairs are completed, the building will be used to house police evidence.
That amendment would enable the city’s general services department to reallocate the funds currently designated for the Sanford building to remodeling the police department’s dispatch area as originally budgeted.
“In three months, we can pretty much look at that budget and then make the decision as to whether or not we want to do a budget amendment to do the Sanford building so that Harold will be able to go on and continue the maintenance on the projects he has laid out,” Willis said.
Council took no action, as mold remediation in the Sanford building’s basement is currently underway.
A public hearing originally scheduled for Tuesday night proved unnecessary, as the city’s planning department withdrew its petition to revoke the conditional use permit for a salvage yard at 13841 Dixie Guano Road.
A Friday inspection found that the salvage yard has constructed visual barriers in compliance with city ordinances. Though that business has been in operation for more than five years, planning director Brandi Deese said that city staff is making an effort to be more proactive in enforcing city codes.
“I think lots of times that if somebody complained someone would go check,” Hammond said of the department’s past approach. “In my opinion, it should be more proactive than complaint-driven.”
Council also heard from Brian Bednar of Birdseye Renewable Energy, who provided an update of a solar farm the company plans to build on land it is leasing from the city. The company has a 20-year lease of the land, located near U.S. 74, with the option to extend it for up to 15 years.
“When we first came to Laurinburg, we looked at this site because it’s zoned industrial, the city owns it, and it’s surrounded by heavy industrial, an abandoned fertilizer plant, so there’s really no residential impact,” Bednar said in response to a query by councilman J.D. Willis. “It won’t be visible.”
“As long as he stays back there in the woods, I’m all right,” said councilman Curtis Leak.
ElectriCities has contracted with Birdseye to buy the energy produced by the 45 acre farm for at least 15 years.
In other business, council:
— Awarded a $2.4 million contract for FCC Sewer Contract 4.0 to Sanford Contractors, Inc.
— Authorized the mayor and city clerk to execute a master agreement for indefeasible use of fiber with Broadplex, LLC.
— Authorized the mayor and city clerk to execute a lease agreement for use of dark fiber with FCC in the amount of $32,232 per year.
— Passed a resolution opposing the 35 percent increase in Scotland County homeowners insurance rates filed by the N.C. Department of Insurance.
— Set its annual citizen input session for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the A.B. Gibson Education Center.
— Appointed Fred Fox to replace Leroy McIntyre on the city’s beautification committee.