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Bladenboro Has Short But Highly Productive Meeting

By Blake Proctor

The Town of Bladenboro met at their new hour-earlier schedule, on Monday, August 10th, with a full platter of important long-term items on their agenda.

The meeting was gaveled to order by Mayor Rufus Duckworth at 6 p.m. sharp. There followed in quick order, the invocation and pledge of allegiance; as there were no comments from the public, the Board quickly dispatched the consent agenda and got down to business.

First up under Old Business, the Commission considered bids for the construction of the McLean Park softball field; with the recent termination of the DG Jackson Construction contract for this work, the Board unanimously awarded the project to Zyvek Civil out of Pinehurst for a turnkey price of $41,236.34.

The second bid award was a contract for the demolition of the old Optometrist store at 104 S. Main Street; this is the lead-in project for the Town’s planned downtown renovation program. Hickman Utilities of Bladenboro won this bid with a quote of $21,950; the project will consist of asbestos abatement, building demolition, and removal of the concrete slab.

A resolution was adopted that removes recently-retired Town Administrator Blake Proctor and adds new Administrator Oryan Lowry as a document signatory for two Community Development Block Grants dating from 2015 and 2017. This was needed to ensure the grants flowed seamlessly through the state system.

Under New Business, the Board approved a service agreement with Beco Electric Inc, out of Teachey, NC, to provide periodic maintenance service to the standby generator at the Police Station.

On a request from Commissioner Jeff Atkinson, the issue of the need for Town crews to cut grass on private lots was put on the agenda for discussion. He was decrying the high grass conditions of not only vacant lots throughout town, but homes as well, both vacant and occupied. There was some discussion, with no decisions, no motions.

Town Administrator Lowry presented a letter from Ms. Jan Hester Maynor, Special Projects Planner for the Lumber River Council of Governments (LRCOG), detailing the Census shortfall in Bladen County thus far in the nationwide population count mandated by the U.S. Constitution to be undertaken every 10 years. With the exception of Elizabethtown, no town in Bladen County – including the county itself – is even halfway through with the count. (READ THE LETTER)

The Census Bureau in Washington DC has hinted that Census operations, originally scheduled for completion on October 30th, may actually end as of September 30th; this means that the County and its towns have less than two months to ensure all residents are counted. Grant monies flowing to towns and counties from both Federal and State are directly affected by population counts. Average annual losses in assistance funding for every person not counted is $1,600, or $16,000 per capita for the 10 years between Census counts.

Lowry next provided an update on the progress of upgrading the Town’s old website in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); this will specifically include providing the ability of residents to make utility and tax payments online. Lowry continued that he had hopes that the cost of this project will be underwritten by state COVID-19 funds.

Lowry ended his report by reminding the Board that Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 155 will continue the COVID-19 Phase 2 process to at least mid-September.

Before gaveling adjournment, Mayor Duckworth announced that there will be a called meeting on Monday, August 17 at 6 p.m. to approve quotes on a new patrol vehicle, and also, with the use of an NC Public Safety Grant, to approve the purchase of five laptop computers for patrol cars.

With that, the meeting was adjourned at 6:30 p.m.

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