BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Earlier in the day Monday, Tarboro Town Manager Alan Thornton raised his eyebrows and opined that sometimes a short agenda results in a longer meeting because participants feel their discussion I not taking time away from other issues.
Such was the case that evening when an agenda with one action item took a little more than 90 minutes to clear.
That item was an addition to fee schedules for Municipal Stadium and the Indian Lake Sports Complex.
Parks and Recreation director Cheryl Gay told council that the town currently charges $500 for four games plus another $125 each for additional games during baseball or softball tournaments that do not collect a gate admission.
Gay was before the council to establish a usage fee for non-profit organizations or benefit games. She said the addition was necessary because she currently had an application for a cancer benefit game and the town’s fee schedule did not cover that type of special event.
After some extended discussion, council agreed with Gay’s recommendation to charge $250 for one game for non-profit or benefits when they request to use facilities. The fee would be $500 for multiple games.
Council also voted on another issue — utility deposit/connection fees for customers who have had their utilities disconnected.
Council member Taro Knight (Ward 7) expressed concern that residents who work to pay their bills but, because of circumstances under their control, are put in a more tenuous situation by the town’s current deposit policy, which was based on multiples of the customer’s highest bill.
Knight pointed out that the town’s utility collection rate of 99.84 percent from the town’s 6,000 utility customers means there would be very little exposure by implementing a new deposit schedule for those customers who traditionally pay but, because of circumstances, wind up with their utilities being disconnected.
Knight convinced fellow council members to implement a cap of a $200 maximum deposit for the first time service was disconnected and $50 each subsequent time.
During the discussion Mayor Donald Morris questioned the presence of a customer service policy allowing extensions to pay bills.
“I thought we voted to discontinue that in 2009,” he said. He was told the extension policy had, indeed, been eliminated but “has crept back into use” since 2009.
Council was also presented with a letter from the office of Gov. Pat McCrory to police Lt. Keith Hale that informed the veteran police officer that Tarboro’s application to the Governor’s Crime Commission for a grant to fund the purchase of new firearms for the department had been approved and “tentatively authorized” in the amount of $7,500.
The letter said the department would be notified of the final amount once the Governor’s Crime Commission learns its official allocation from the federal government.
Council member Garland Shepheard (Ward 8) questioned the need to replace the department’s firearms — a stance he has taken before — as well as the cost of the weapons and the trade-in value being allowed by Lawmen’s Law Enforcement Supply of Raleigh on the 9mm Glocks being purchased by the department.
“If ours are worn out, how can they give us this much (trade-in)?” Shepheard asked Chief Damon Williams of the $1,870 being allowed for 34 weapons Williams explained that the Lawmen’s would recondition the weapons and sell them in their retail store. He also said the town’s matching portion of the grant would come from his department’s ammunition budget.
Council members also heard a presentation regarding the possibility of constructing a disc golf course in Indian Lake Park. Tarboro residents Shirley Wainwright and her son-in-law and current disc golf Masters champion Brian Schweberger continued a quest they began last summer with parks director Gay. (A follow-up story on disc golf and its possibilities in Tarboro will be in Friday’s newspaper.)