Tuesday, 07 February 2017 20:53

Vow to continue fight comes as pool repairs shot down

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Nearly eight months of intense debate ended this evening as three members of Roanoke Rapids City Council shot down a motion to fund repairs of the Chaloner Recreation Center pool.

Councilman Carl Ferebee, who championed the repairs throughout the months of deliberation and made the motion for them, said, however, the matter is not over.
“I’m disappointed in my colleagues, even more so them closing their eyes and turning their backs,” he said following the meeting, in which his motion to fund the $300,000 in repairs through installment financing was defeated by a 3-2 vote. “It’s not over. We’re going to look at another game plan and another proposal.”
Councilwoman Carol Cowen supported Ferebee’s motion while Wayne Smith, Suetta Scarbrough and Ernest Bobbitt voted against it.
Gorham Spencer, one of several people who spoke during a public comment section of the meeting, said while she was disappointed, “I’m standing firm in the word. We’re going to endure and continue to keep pressing forward.”
It is an issue which the Halifax County Chapter of the NAACP may take interest in, its president, David Harvey, said afterward. “I thought it would be recognized by (comments from) the speakers, that his (Ferebee’s) colleagues, that they would do the right thing. We may have to look at other actions to make them understand the importance of this to the people.”
Harvey said the people from District 3, who Ferebee represents, “are to be commended. They have stood on the right side.”
Referring to Ferebee, Harvey said, “We support his decision to take the right position and support his constituents.”
The vote on the matter came following debate mainly between Ferebee and Smith, who have been at odds on the proposal since it first surfaced last July.
The task of council was to consider a resolution and budget amendment which would approve financing terms with BB&T to fund the repairs for six years at an interest rate of 2.16 percent.
The amortization schedule for the payments were broken down by city Finance Director Leigh Etheridge as follows:
$56,480 in the first year
$55,400 in the second year
$54,320 in the third year
$53,240 in the fourth year
$52,160 in the fifth year
$51,080 in the sixth year
With interest the total amount financed would have been $322,680.
Smith, in his opposition to the proposal, brought up several factors which has influenced his decision to vote against the matter.
He contends theater payments will increase to $74,000 and the city still owes $108,000 from money it borrowed to buy police cars and other equipment for department heads. “That’s going to be about $185,000 plus the $300,000 we lost in privilege license fees from the state and the county went up $100,000 on the 911 Center. All those figures together, we’re talking close to a half-million dollars.
“Then we had to borrow $500,000 from the reserve fund to balance the budget, so you can see what we’re facing right now.”
Ferebee contended, however, the city’s financial situation, while tight, is not as dire as Smith has said throughout the debates on the issue, and that by the time the first payment on pool repairs is due, slightly more than $300,000 in debt will be paid off.
“We find money money when it’s outside District 3,” Ferebee said, citing funding for a new dehumidifier for the Aquatic Center.
District 3, Ferebee said, “Represents $97 million in tax base. They’ve never asked us to do anything in 50 years. I’ve been a good council person. You have to show yourself friendly. The Chaloner pool is no different than any other facility in Roanoke Rapids, whether it’s T.J. Davis, the skate park, the Aquatic Center or Jo Story.”
He said to his fellow council members, “I have been a team player for years, and years and years. I may not have felt the same way, but I supported you. I’m asking for you to support me one time.”
With the vote made to not fund the repairs, parks and recreation Director John Simeon said afterward, “We will prepare to do a full maintenance review of the pool and pumps.”

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