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By: Erin Smith

Badly needed repairs for Elm Street were the topic of discussion during the Bladenboro Town Board meeting on Monday. Lloyd Hayes, who resides on Butler Mill Road addressed the board during the Open Forum section of the meeting regarding issues with the condition of Elm Street.

“I rode down to the end a while ago and it looks like somebody has fixed the holes,” said Hayes. He said the area to which he was referring to is located in front of the senior citizens center.

Hayes said it was his understanding the town is responsible for paving the roads and he would like to know if there are any funds available to pave that road. Hayes said you can’t drive on the street without seeing a pot hole or running over a tree root.  “What I want to know is, is there any money to fix this road?” asked Hayes.

“I know we get Powell Bill money. It’s so much a year from the state that is collected off the tax on gasoline. Anything we spend above that we borrow or we try to put into a budget to use it. We try to use our Powell Bill money because it is a fund we either use or lose during that year. So we use our Powell Bill money every year for road maintenance,” said Mayor Rufus Duckworth.

Town Administrator John O’Daniel said there are no additional grants that he is aware of for road maintenance.

Hayes asked if anyone has checked on the cost to repair the road and remove the tree roots and repave it. O’Daniel said it was something the town staff have started to look at and it would require the removal of some trees along the road. He said if the trees were left, they would continue to grow and continue to cause the road to buckle. O’Daniel said the town would have to remove the trees first before it can be paved and it is a project the town will look at in the fall.

“So you are saying it’s going to be awhile before anything is done about it?” asked Hayes.

“I mean potentially in the next fiscal year,” said O’Daniel.  Mayor Duckworth said the new fiscal year begins on July 1, 2017.

Town Commissioner Gene Norton said, “The problem with that street is, on the cost, is those trees have got to be taken out, pre-approval from the land owner has to be obtained before they (the trees) can even be cut down. A certified company that can be bonded will be the only ones allowed to cut them. So it’s going to be a lengthy process just to get the trees taken out.”

Hayes asked if it would be a problem for town staff to go ahead and study how much it would cost to do the work on the street. O’Daniel said as soon as the town starts getting its Powell Bill funds in, the staff will start looking at the project. He added it will  also be part of the upcoming budget discussions and workshops.

“You did say Elm Street is a top priority?” asked Town Commissioner Cris Harrelson.

“Yes, it is one,” said O’Daniel.

Also addressing the board was Don White who noted the four-way stop sign between Poplar and White Streets has been installed on Ash Street and it is working and the traffic is slowing down. He requested the town consider what can be down about an abandoned home on the street which is overgrown and is obstructing the view of at least one stop sign.

Tina Inman spoke during the Open Forum session and requested to meet with the board in a closed session regarding a matter with the Bladenboro Police Department. She said she is the victim of two criminal incidents of identity theft. She told the board the investigating Bladenboro Police officer failed to turn in at least one report to the District Attorney’s Office in a timely manner resulting in at least one criminal case being dismissed on May 4. The board did meet with Inman and Bladenboro Police Chief Chris Hunt in a closed session due to it being a personnel matter and no action on the matter was taken in open session.

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