Laurinburg needs voice in consolidation

Matthew Block - Contributing columnist

Before getting to the meat of the message, I want to extend on behalf of Laurinburg, congratulations to the organizers of Laurinburg’s first Temafest held downtown this past weekend.

It was great to see so many Laurinburg citizens, young and old, enjoying themselves on a sunny Saturday in downtown Laurinburg. It also showed what a great spot Atkinson Street, where the stage was set up at the old Pope’s, is for future outdoor events. Thousands attended and, other than the $8 we paid for two lemonades, there were no crimes committed.

Now on to Laurinburg city matters. I want to put in an early plug for continued robust attendance at City Council meetings. I believe those citizens who have attended recent meetings have found them not only worthwhile but eye-opening. The upcoming meeting on Tuesday Sept. 20 promises to be as well. Here is a preview.

In keeping with our new policy of responding to citizen’s public input by the following meeting, two issues that were brought up at the August meeting will be discussed and hopefully acted on. Those issues include the request for opening council meetings with a prayer instead of just a moment of silence, and the other is exploring the idea of having city’s Barrett Building placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

In response to the perception that there is an increasing amount of gun violence and shootings, I have asked that two items be placed on the agenda; consideration of enacting a curfew and contacting the schools to see if the old, and as yet, unsold Washington Park School could be turned over to the city for use as a satellite police station. The recent shooting of a 12 year old one evening last month in Washington Park was the 15th gunshot victim this year in Laurinburg. This is a rate of almost two per month, or 50 percent higher than in 2015. Gun violence reduction is a complex problem without one single solution. It must be addressed from all angles; the home, the community, the police. Pinehurst has the lowest violent crime rate of any town in North Carolina, and they don’t have a curfew, a satellite police station or more police officers per resident than we do. But we are not Pinehurst. I hope we are all interested in any and all ideas for preventing another youth or any citizen from being the next victim. A curfew or a satellite station are not my ideas, but I personally think, given the recent shootings, they deserve serious consideration now.

Lastly, at this meeting, I will ask that Laurinburg City Council join me in weighing in on the Scotland County Schools consolidation plans. The school’s plans to continue to close all of Laurinburg’s neighborhood elementary schools in order to build one new big one (site unknown) is going to be a big issue for our citizens and our neighborhoods. And, in talking with many, many Laurinburg citizens of these neighborhoods, they are completely unaware that the schools are planning to close IEJ, North Laurinburg, Covington and South Scotland. And when they are told of the school’s plans, the vast majority do not want to see these schools closed. I feel we, as advocates for our city and its neighborhoods and residents need to be ‘at the table’ and make sure the city’s viewpoint is taken into serious consideration.

Closing these schools will have major consequences for our neighborhoods, and it may have major consequences on jobs if an out of county charter school, which is currently bidding to buy the old Washington Park, is successful at purchasing IEJ or North Laurinburg. This issue, in my view, is an issue that the citizens would like us to be involved in to make sure the Laurinburg citizen’s interests are being given the consideration they deserve.

There will be other important items on the upcoming agenda as well. I hope people will continue to make an effort to attend, to offer their opinions and to be involved. It is your city just as much as it is anyone else’s.

Matthew Block

Contributing columnist

Matthew Block serves as mayor of Laurinburg. He writes a bi-weekly column on the city and municipal issues.

Matthew Block serves as mayor of Laurinburg. He writes a bi-weekly column on the city and municipal issues.

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