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Despite being late with the August theater lease payment, the city has taken no position on whether that means the $1 million discount Lafayette Gatling will get for making timely payments at the end of the agreement will be applied.

“The lease is strong,” City Manager Paul Sabiston told The Spin this afternoon. “We don’t waive our rights.”

Sabiston in an email yesterday said the Gatlings and L&M Hospitality RR indicated the entire monthly payment of $250,000 was wired to the city. The payments were broken into three wires, Sabiston said.

Sabiston agreed the city walks a fine line between scaring the Gatlings off by enforcing the terms of the contract and protecting the integrity of the document which allowed the Chicago businessman to buy the theater. “We’re glad to get the money,” he said.

Sabiston noted in the email the Gatlings just returned to Chicago this week after spending the weekend in Roanoke Rapids for the recent concert.

Gatling signed papers in March to buy the theater from the city. Timely payments mean Gatling will get a $1 million discount off the $12 million price of the venue.

The city will still have to pay the remaining amount due on the $21.5 million bond package used to finance the theater’s construction, opening and infrastructure needs.

According to the contract, rent payments are considered delinquent if received after the 10th day of any given month. Tenant shall pay the landlord interest at the rate of 10 percent per annum — or such lesser amount as may be the maximum amount permitted by law — on all overdue payments of rent from the due date thereof until payment. Notwithstanding this foregoing, tenant shall not be considered delinquent until after the expiration of five business days following written notice from the landlord.

Sabiston said in the email, not including the August payment of $250,000, L&M Hospitality has paid more than $678,000 since entering the lease and purchase agreements. “The July and August payments alone are $250,000 per month,” he said. “These lease payments are used by the city to repay the debt for the Roanoke Rapids Theatre.”

Wednesday, 19 August 2009 19:51

Man drawing back cane doesn't mean assault

An elderly man’s act of raring back his cane at his wife did not constitute assault, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office said this morning.

His wife’s actions, allegedly hitting him in the head with a cast iron frying pan and leaving him with 50 stitches, outweighed her husband’s actions, Lt. Bobby Martin said.

Because of these factors, 85-year-old James Lewis of Enfield, was not charged.

His wife, Rosie, 71, who was released from jail yesterday, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

Martin explained to The Spin just because the man drew back his cane it doesn’t mean assault. Assault means someone was struck. Had the man swung and missed that would mean attempted assault.

It was possible, however, Mrs. Lewis did feel threatened by the act, Martin said. “She went beyond that,” he said. “She took it up another level.”

Martin said in domestic situations, officers look for certain signs, signs of a struggle, signs of injury to both parties. The only evidence was Mr. Lewis was struck, he said.

Had the man swung at her, Martin said, “We would have probably had two people in jail. It was an unfortunate situation, especially dealing with the elderly. The law is the law and we have to go by it.”

The situation stemmed from an argument over breakfast last Friday at the couple’s house in the 5000 block of Justice Branch Road.

Martin said yesterday Lt. Stevie Salmon learned there was an argument earlier in the morning, which is believed to have started over breakfast, when the victim did not like what was cooked for him.

Mrs. Lewis cooked the victim another meal. While this was going on another argument took place and escalated when Mr. Lewis picked up his cane and drew back in an attempt to strike Mrs. Lewis.

Mrs. Lewis picked up an iron frying pan and hit her husband on the head several times, knocking him to the floor and causing a head injury.

The victim was carried to Halifax Regional Medical Center in Roanoke Rapids where he received 50 stitches.

The last check of the victim was that he was doing well.

A 22-year-old Rich Square man was served arrest warrants last week for several breaking and enterings in Halifax County, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.

Detective Roy Rooks served the warrants to the man, Jesse Pugh, 22, while Pugh was incarcerated in the county jail.

Rooks charged Pugh with three counts of felony breaking and entering, two counts of larceny after breaking and entering, three counts of felony conspiracy, one count of felony larceny and two counts of injury to real property.

An investigation by Rooks, Detective Doug Pilgreen and Detective Jonathan Merritt revealed Pugh was involved in numerous breaking, entering and larcenies throughout the county.

The co-defendant in these cases, King Whitaker, 23, also of Rich Square, has already been arrested. Pugh was given a $50,000 secured bond and has a court date of Aug. 26.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 19:49

Middleton resigns as Halifax school head

From school system press release on its website

Geraldine Middleton, superintendent of Halifax County Schools, submitted her  resignation to the Board of Education at Monday night’s meeting.

Middleton became superintendent in July 2007. She was immediately faced with a financial crisis from the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years. This year, she has faced a state takeover due to low standardized test scores for the past five years.

“It is both with resolve and anticipation that I submit my resignation effective September 18, 2009,” Middleton said. “I have accepted an opportunity to further my current career goals and

achieve growth within a new adventure.”

Middleton said she has accepted a position as Chief Area Officer with the Chicago Public

School System. 

Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the United States with 408,000

students in 666 schools. Middleton said Chief Area Officer is the equivalent of being

superintendent to 30 to 40 schools within that huge district.

In a prepared statement, Middleton told the board and audience, “Two years ago, with a

vision, a dream, and mountains of faith, I accepted the job as superintendent of Halifax County

Schools. In this capacity, I served the children and the community tirelessly. I was vigilant in my

attempts to raise test scores, create positive learning environments, implement new programs and

create the financial stability of the district.

“Many times I was faced with difficult decisions and had to perform what seemed, the

impossible,” she continued.  “Difficult decisions are not always popular; however, if they are

made in the best interest of children, they become challenges you cannot, should not and must

not ignore.

“I will remain committed to cost effectiveness, innovative programs geared to 21st century

learning, research-based professional growth and development – all the while dedicated to

helping children overcome obstacles and reaching higher levels of achievement.  In order to

grow, we will always have to ‘navigate the winds of change.’

“To the children who attend Halifax County Schools,” said Middleton, “I continue to wish

that you will grow educationally and always strive to be excellent in all your endeavors.  You are

the future leaders.  As you ‘navigate the winds of change,’ keep in mind that if you are prepared

intellectually, there is no limit on what you can be.

“To the parents of the children who attend Halifax County Schools,” she continued, “I

challenge you to ensure that your children receive a quality education daily. By attending parent-

teacher conferences, PTA meetings, volunteering and by being an active participant in the

educational process, you can help to facilitate a new vision and a bright future for your child.  

“Underscored in this challenge is that you not just become active in times of crisis incited by

politicians,” Middleton continued, “but instead demonstrate responsible actions throughout your

child’s school years.

“To the teachers,” Middleton said, “I implore you to take advantage of the challenge to

educate all children and to fully embrace change because it is incapable of being avoided. 

Always bring new vitality to the classroom and fresh approaches to teaching.  Our children must

never be the losers in an educational decision, especially if those decisions benefit someone’s

political career and personal ambition.

“To the community,” she continued, “I encourage you to embrace the necessary changes

related to declining enrollment, budget cuts, and low student achievement as an opportunity to

use wisdom versus status quo, excellence versus mediocrity, strength and fortification versus

what is politically expedient for someone else and reason versus inappropriate tactics. 

‘It has been my genuine pleasure to work for Halifax County Schools,” Middleton concluded. 

“I have enjoyed working with the fine staff of professional colleagues and will miss my

association with them.  I will keep Halifax County Schools in my prayers.”

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 19:48

Arrest made in frying pan assault

An arrest was made following a Friday assault which apparently started over the victim not liking what his wife cooked for him.

Lt. Bobby Martin  of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release Lt. Stevie Salmon responded to an assault call in the 5000 block of Justice Branch Road in Enfield. 

EMS was already on scene treating the victim, James Lewis, 85, for head injuries. The man’s wife, Rosie, 71, was standing outside with EMS as they were treating the victim.

Martin said Salmon learned there was an argument earlier in the morning, which is believed to have started over breakfast, when the victim did not like what was cooked for him.

Mrs. Lewis cooked the victim another meal. While this was going on another argument took place and escalated when Mr. Lewis picked up his cane and drew back in an attempt to strike Mrs. Lewis.

Mrs. Lewis picked up an iron frying pan and hit her husband on the head several times, knocking him to the floor and causing a head injury.

The victim was carried to Halifax Regional Medical Center in Roanoke Rapids where he received 50 stitches.

The last check of the victim was that he was doing well. Mrs. Lewis was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and was placed in the Halifax County Jail under no bond under state domestic violence laws. Her court date is Aug. 26.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 19:47

Man arrested in pistol whipping

A Littleton area man was arrested yesterday in a Sunday pistol whipping, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning.

Lt. Bobby Martin said in a news release Roanoke Rapids Police notified the sheriff’s office they located Kendrell Robinson, 21.

Robinson was wanted in an assault on Justice Branch Road in Littleton where he allegedly struck the victim several times with a handgun causing severe damage to the victim’s head and face.

Detective Rich Somogyi investigated the case and was able to secure warrants on Robinson, who was jailed on $100,000 bond.

Robinson was charged with two counts of felony conspiracy, assault inflicting serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, two counts of communicating threats, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and larceny of a firearm. 

The victim is recovering well, Martin said.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 19:45

Man caught fleeing break-in scene

A Roanoke Rapids man was arrested last night as he was fleeing from a house he allegedly broke into, Police Chief Jeff Hinton said this morning.

Around 8:30 last night, police received a tip someone broke into a house at Third and Washington Street.

Hinton said police were able to catch Kevin Shorter Jr., 24, as he was running from the house.

Shorter was charged with felonious breaking and entering, felony larceny and possession of stolen goods. Bond was $7,000.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 19:44

Work going on behind the scenes

The Roanoke Avenue Business Alliance is busy as it waits to hear word on the city’s possible acceptance into the Main Street program, the organization’s president, Kim Simpson, told The Spin last night.

Last night was the alliance’s first roast where local businessman Phil Hux was on the hot seat. The roast, held at Timeless Tea, was packed and the next one will be at david’s Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

On Monday, one of the most crucial steps in the city’s possible inclusion in the Main Street program will be held as officials from the program come to Roanoke Rapids to visit the city, conduct interviews and go on a tour of the city, Simpson said.

It is part of the site selection process and will help determine what era best fits the Avenue, whether the accoutrements should from the 1920s or 1930s or some other decade, Simpson explained. “It’s very crucial because the report will be turned into the governor so she can make a decision,” Simpson said.

A decision on whether the city will be accepted into the Main Street program is expected by the middle of October.

Inclusion in the North Carolina Main Street Program  could help improve the business district through local and business participation, volunteer efforts, grant and state funding.

Meanwhile, the alliance will hold its regular monthly meeting Saturday at the Lloyd Andrews City Meeting Hall on Jackson Street at 9 a.m. The meetings provide an overview on alliance activities and the public is invited to attend.

Monday, 17 August 2009 19:43

Sabiston on the job

Paul Sabiston is here. Pete Connet is leaving.

Sabiston, the new Roanoke Rapids city manager started today, meeting employees, getting briefed by Connet, the interim city manager who will leave Thursday.

“Pete is updating me on various projects and issues,” Sabiston said today at city hall. “I’ve talked to the mayor. I’ve met with all the department heads.”

The new city manager also plans to meet with city council members before the panel’s next meeting, he said.

There are also routine matters he must take care of, learning city policies and procedures, development standards and codes. “We’re still going through things to determine the different projects and day-to-day operations,” the former town administrator of Shallotte said.

Connet said he has been answering questions and briefing Sabiston on issues such as the Brandy Creek community. Several matters like an odor in the community have been taken care of, he said.

Sabiston comes to the city as its fund balance improves, an improvement coming from actions taken by city council earlier in the year to keep it from falling below the 8 percent threshold required by the N.C. League of Municipalities. “It shows the staff and city council did the right thing,” he said. “We’ve got a good budget.”

Measures taken by council when the city learned in February it faced a $664,000 shortfall mean when it closed the books at the end of June, its fund balance increased 8.9 percent for a total of 17.2 percent. That represents a $1.9 million unreserved fund balance. Fund revenues for the year are expected to increase by more than $900,000.

Sabiston is also hopeful the budget situation will improve even more and expects the city’s audit, which is completed, to be a good one.

He said it is important to remember the good news about the fund balance doesn’t mean the city is in a position to do extra spending. “Hopefully it will get better. I think the finances are heading in the right direction.”

One of the first things Sabiston must do as new city manager is select a new planning director. “We’ve got some applications on file.”

Sabiston wants someone who will be able to run the entire department. “We’re still too small to have someone to sit in a cubby hole,” he said.

The welcome he has received thus far has been warm, he said. “I’ve got a lot of phone calls from people I don’t know telling me they’re glad I’m here. The family has enjoyed it.”

For Connet, it may be time to relax, although the league has already contacted him about another interim job, he said.

He leaves Roanoke Rapids feeling positive about the city. “Roanoke Rapids has a lot to offer,” he said. “There are still some bumps in the road.”

He believes, however, the Carolina Crossroads project will take off. “There’s a lot of positive things happening in the city. The national and state economy has hit all cities and counties across North Carolina.”