Because of a large and vocal response by Holly Springs residents – 15 residents spoke during the public comment period at last week’s meeting, and the mayor mentioned emails – the mayor emphasized that no ordinance was written yet, that the council might not vote in favor of any ordinance, and that the council’s focus only was on recreation devices.
“There was no mention at the last (original) town council meeting of this being a problem of items being left in the street overnight,” said one resident during last week’s meeting, who said she watched footage of the council’s original discussion. “It was to ban items from being on the street.”
“If you ban the equipment on the street, that necessarily bans the children from being on the street,” she said.
“Because we’re considering something doesn’t mean that we’re in the direction already,” said Mayor Dick Sears, “because we haven’t seen the proposal from the town attorney. I have the feeling that there will be more than one proposal to look at, and I think we all will be relatively pleased with what we come up with. That’s why we’re here.”
After last week’s meeting, when asked what the council was thinking about prohibiting, Sears responded, “We were talking about a lot of things, but the whole issue is we haven’t seen the proposal.”
At last week’s meeting, the mayor complained that the heading Recreation on streets may be outlawed for the article about the council’s original discussion on the topic was over the top, too aggressive.
Common sense would question how a child could shoot baskets on the street if the basketball goal was prohibited.
After the meeting, Sears suggested a different header: “Town board is considering reacting to a local citizen who made some requests,” he said.
The citizen’s concerns primarily were about children playing in cul-de-sacs and on streets. The council does not always vote in favor of proposed ordinances, however, as Sears noted. But, on the other hand, the council also does not always request that an ordinance be drafted for consideration after a resident asks for change.
The public comment portion of the original meeting, which is when that resident spoke, can be viewed on the town’s website at http://www.hollyspringsnc.us/media/jul20/index.htm, as well as the council’s discussion of the issue, which fell under the other business portion of the meeting. Click the film icon next to “8. Other Business” to listen to the council’s comments, which begin two minutes into the footage.
After the Aug. 3 meeting, Sears noted a few incidents when a town vehicle struck a basketball hoop and was damaged. Sears also said, when asked if children playing in streets can be safe, “that would depend on the street.”
Sears said his quote in the article from the previous meeting about the police chief being anxious to support the ordinance was taken out of context.
“He (the police chief) laughed, I laughed, we laughed – it was a joke,” Sears said about his comment. While no laughter can be heard at that moment on the footage for that meeting, Sears’ clarification that his comment was a joke can be trusted. Perhaps the punch line might have something to do with the ordinance resulting in more than a few complaints, making enforcement more than problematic. Sears repeatedly was asked what a potential ordinance might prohibit. Repeatedly, Sears did not provide clarification – no ordinance is written yet, he said.
Councilman Chet VanFossen was more specific during the meeting:
“One of the things that’s got blown out of proportion is this whole kids playing in the street thing,” VanFossen said. “That was never brought up. The only thing we talked about was the basketball goal getting left out overnight. That was the only thing that was talked about.” “But we can’t help what the newspaper writes,” said Councilwoman Linda Hunt Williams.
Discussion originated with basketball goals. But, what about the suggestions from council members to include hockey and soccer goals, to be all-inclusive in the ordinance? Sears said “stickball” when other councilmen were suggesting inclusions to the possible ordinance. What about a councilman saying, “No playing in the street” at that original meeting? The footage is on the town’s website. No one mentioned when recreation devices could be on streets. If council members wanted to keep possible restrictions to basketball goals or only to have devices removed from streets at night, these suggestions should have been vocalized by the council in a manner that was clear to the public.
Perhaps certain council members meant for possible restrictions only to include basketball goals and only overnight, but unless council members articulate their thoughts, unless Sears can make his jokes more obvious, misunderstandings will happen, sadly.
Also, until the council speaks clearly and specifically about what might be prohibited, under what circumstances it might be prohibited, and where it might be prohibited – or until the council announces that it’s dropping the issue – residents will continue to have questions. In other meeting business last week, former Planning Board member Mark Shank addressed the council about board dismissal policies.
A town document said Shank was dismissed from his duties on the Planning Board last January because of absenteeism. During the council meeting discussing the dismissal, Councilman Tim Sack said Shank missed a third of Planning Board meetings in the previous year. Since the meeting, rules for dismissing board members have changed.
At last week’s meeting, Shank said he felt that his dismissal “was an inside job” and that his absences were excused. He said he was dismissed by letter, before the council spoke with him, and that his replacement on the board lives in Sunset Ridge.
Also at the meeting, the council entered into a $16,000 contract for a study of police station space. A consultant will evaluate the police department’s current space and programming needs and plan for future needs for the next 10 years. Councilman Parrish Womble said he wanted to be kept abreast of the study and said he had some suggestions for the study, including the location of a new police station.
Public meetings will be held as part of the study, also.
The council voted 4-1 to establish changes to the town’s personnel policy. One of the changes involved prohibiting employment of relatives. Womble voted against the motion.
“If I’ve got a relative that’s qualified to do a job with the town and there’s an opening, what conflict is this going to have if this person is hired?” he asked.
The policy changes are not retroactive.
As part of its consent agenda, the council approved spending more than $24,000 to continue monitoring Harris Lake for possible future discharge of the town’s treated wastewater into Utley Creek and approved an agreement to begin allowing the 12 Oaks Golf Course to use reclaimed water for irrigation.
And, two town vehicles, a folding machine and a trimmer were declared as surplus property.
The council approved $40,100 for an engineering firm to prepare a repair plan for the Ballenridge outfall. Staff discovered the outfall was damaged by gasses.
Suzanne Christiana, the new coordinator for the town farmers market, was introduced. The market, in its fourth season, is open on Saturdays on Main St. across from Town Hall in the parking lot at the Baptist church.
Eight graduates of the town’s second leadership academy were recognized. The recent Holly Springs L.E.A.D. Academy covered various aspects about town government and growth, including public safety and infrastructure, as well as promoting quality of life.
Also, during the public comment period, a resident voiced concerns about the mayor’s recent increase in pay, which comes during a fiscal year when town staff did not receiving a cost of living increase.
“We are all the face of Holly Springs, not one individual,” she said.