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February Council Review

by Lisa Wilbourne

036-001Greenville’s City Council held three regular meetings (Feb. 11, 14, 25) instead of the usual two this month. The following is a breakdown of what they did. Split vote decisions are listed first (watch for a separate article on the debates surrounding these votes); unanimous votes second. Items council did not vote on are last.

Split votes

In preparation for this year’s municipal elections, the Pitt County Board of Elections asked the city on if they would like to pay for additional one-stop early voting sites (the county provides two — one at the Agricultural Center located north of the river, the other at the Community Schools Building south of town), and where they would like those sites to be. On the 25th, council unanimously agreed to pay for two additional sites — one at the Drew Steele Center on Elm Street, the other at the PATS Conference Room at the West Fifth Street county government complex. The additional sites will operate for one week beginning October 28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The estimated cost of each site is $2,919. Though the council came to a unanimous agreement, this item was a topic of debate at both the Feb. 14 and 25 meetings. [PDF, video 1, video 2]

In a 4-2 split on Feb.14, (Rose Glover, Max Joyner, Dennis Mitchell, Kandi Smith for; Marion Blackburn, Calvin Mercer against) council designated six Economic Development Initiative Zones to help prioritize economic development programs, projects and incentives throughout the city. The zones — airport, center city, Dickinson Ave., East Tenth St., medical district and West Greenville — will let the private sector know the city wants to increase economic development in those designated areas. [PDF, video]

On Feb. 25, council approved a series of workshops to be held in City Hall Conference Room 337 (a room without video capability) in March and April on sanitation, budget, economic development, stormwater and the comprehensive crime plan in a 4-2 vote (Glover, Joyner, Mitchell, Smith for; Blackburn, Mercer against). These workshops are considered special meetings of the city council, and councilors can vote during them. [video]

Unanimous votes

After hearing on Feb. 25 about the $10 million in immediate needs for repairing and the future $2.5 annually for maintaining the city’s roads, council asked staff to present plan and funding source options during the budget planning process. Mayor Allen Thomas shared a preference for the funds not to be found through increasing property taxes since only 38 percent of the population is subject to those. [PDF, video]

Council amended the standards for convenience stores, tobacco shops and hookah cafes on Feb. 14. This change redefines “convenience store” and the creates definitions for “hookah cafe” and two classes of “tobacco shop.” Class one tobacco shops sell tobacco products; class two shops sell smoking paraphernalia and are more limited in where they can be located. Joyner requested staff examine a relationship between the class two shops’ hours of operation and crime statistics. [PDF, video]

Council asked staff on Feb. 25 to contact all potential partners for creating a medical research park and to present options for the park in three months. [PDF Part 1, Part 2video]

Just over an acre at the corner of Evans and 8th Streets, where the old Ham’s Restaurant is, was rezoned from Downtown Commercial Fringe (commercial/retail/restaurant use) to Downtown Commercial (restaurant/office/multi-family use) on Feb. 14. Staff determined the request is in compliance with the Horizon’s Community Plan, the Future Land Use Plan and the Center City Revitalization Plan. [PDF, video]

Scheduled improvements to South Greenville Recreation Center’s energy performance will not take place (Feb. 25). The improvements would have cost the city an estimated $67,893, and would largely have been lost in the renovation or replacing of the building in the next two to three years. [PDF, video]

Council adopted a budget ordinance amendment increasing the General Fund by $6,391 and the Public Transportation Fund by $848,041 on Feb. 11. The Public Transportation Fund money is for the city’s ten percent share in the purchase of two buses. These items are already part of the budget; the amendment allows the money to be moved for use. [PDF, video]

In two votes on Feb. 11, council annexed roughly seven acres of land — just over four acres at the end of Rockland Drive, west of Eastern Pines Road; and just over three acres at the end of Rounding Bend Road, north of Thomas Langston Road. [PDF, video]

No Action Taken

Fifteen citizens shared their thoughts with council during the public comments periods, including gratitude for support in Uptown development, news that more opportunities to enhance Uptown are in the works, opinions on the Uptown business district speed bumps, and encouragement to develop the city in accordance with the master plan (video 1); concerns about neighborhood associations disenfranchising the renting population by not allowing them votes (video 2); and input on early voting sites (video 3). [video 1, video 2, video 3]

Traffic Engineer Rik DeCesare gave council a historical overview of traffic calming in the Uptown area and an update on the current approach on Feb. 11. He said the speed cushions are temporary structures, chosen through research and assessing the needs of the area, including easy passage of emergency vehicles. DeCesare also said his department is collecting data so they can judge the effectiveness of the cushions. [PDF, video].

Two city boards, the Board of Adjustment [video] and the Human Relations Council [video] updated council on what they have accomplished recently, what they’re currently working on and what their goals are.

Council went into closed session in two of the three meetings (Feb. 11 and 25).

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