Opponents use petitions to halt city hall project


LAURINBURG —Critics of the proposed Laurinburg City Hall are hoping petitions will show city officials just how much opposition there is to the project.

But some members of the Laurinburg City Council said they may be more swayed by a report on whether the city can afford to pay for a new City Hall that could cost nearly $11 million. Council could consider that report at its meeting next week

By Wednesday night, there were more than 680 signatures on the online petition that can be found at https://www.change.org. The following is the text of that online petition:

“Laurinburg city council wants to waste millions of dollars to build an unnecessary building! By doing this we will be greatly affected by it. We will have to pay back the money for this building, not them. This city needs to be fixed not to waste money. Please sign. By signing this petition you are AGAINST this new “palace ” the city council wants to build for themselves! Why should our town suffer from the acts of selfish individuals out to make a name for themselves!”

There is a separate printed petition being circulated with about 1,700 signatures. That petition asks the City Council to immediately stop spending money on planning the construction of a new City Hall and that the city begin exploring the possibility of a centrally located Laurinburg Recreation/Community Center.

According to that petition, “It has not been explained why the city needs a … new City Hall or how it will be paid for. I feel a new Recreation/Community Center is a better investment of my money than demolishing the current Police Station/City Hall to build a new one …”

Frank Evans, who along with his wife, Staci, launched the online petition, said residents don’t want a new City Hall.

“We made it a point to have this discussion online so everyone can be included,” said Frank Evans, whose Facebook page said he plans to run for an at-large seat on the City Council in 2017.

The couple also started a separate online petition to measure those in favor of the project. It had nine supporters in a week, as of Wednesday night.

Mayor Matthew Block, who opposes building a new City Hall, has posted links to the petition on his Facebook page.

He said the petitions will be presented to the council if necessary.

“I’ve been hoping they would back away from plans for the new City Hall,” Block said. “The citizens don’t want it.”

Council member Mary Jo Adams said she has not seen the petitions and will make up her mind after reviewing the financial report. Adams, who serves as mayor Pro Tem, said the numbers on the report, not petition signatures, will be what she considers when making a decision.

“We want to keep taxes at a level we can afford,” Adams said. “We are studying the feasibility of the project. This may be a good time for it.”

City Manager Charles Nichols said he plans to include the report on Tuesday’s agenda anticipating that the firm handling the preliminary cost study, Davenport and Company, will have it in time for the meeting. The council had directed Nichols to have the firm get the report done as soon as possible.

The report will show the city’s overall financial help and how much money the city could borrow without raising taxes.

Council’s July meeting begins Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Council member Curtis Leak said the council has been talking about building a new police station for 20 years which led to the idea of constructing a new City Hall that would include the police and all other city department.

Leak added that his constituents in District 1 have expressed support for the project, as long as taxes don’t go up.

Leak said it was doubtful that the city will build a recreation center, if the municipal building is not constructed.

“We don’t have a recreation department,” Leak said. “The county handles recreation.”

Like Adams and Leak, council member Dee Hammond said the report would help her decided how Laurinburg should proceed.

“We agreed to research the prospect of a new City Hall,” Hammond said. “We want to do what we can without raising taxes.”

Block argues that the only way to pay for the project is to raise taxes or utility fees on residents.

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By Terri Ferguson Smith

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Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-506-3169.

 

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