BLADENBORO — Before town officials tackled their agenda on Monday, they hosted a group of local students billed as “the future leaders of Bladenboro.”
Visiting the boardroom were a good portion of the 46 Bkladenboro Middle School students who attended the State Junior Beta Club Convention in Greensboro recently.
“This is our future leaders,” Mayor Rufus Duckworth said. “We want to give these students, their teachers and parents a lot of credit for how they represented Bladenboro.”
During the annual convention, the club earned a number of awards — including a first-place in banners and second-place finished in T-shirt design and science.
After a round of applause from the town board and a standing-room-only crowd, the club’s sponsors — Angie Campbell, Polly Hancock, Linda Parnell, Randi Harrelson, Jennifer Kaiser and Vitha Nemeroff — were introduced.
The Bladenboro Middle Junior Beta Club will now set its sights on the National Convention in Orlando, Fla., in June. The club plans to hold a spaghetti dinner and other fundraisers to help with the cost.
Toward the end of Monday’s meeting, during the town administrator’s report, the subject of inmate labor was brought up by Town Administrator John O’Daniel.
“After looking into the possibility of using inmate labor to assist with things around town, it seems like they would be very limited in what they can do,” he said. “They can’t ride a mower or tractor; anything they can do with their hands is OK — and they would need to be closely supervised at all times.”
O’Daniel also said that the hourly pay for inmate labor was hardly different than what the town pays for its temporary summer help — $7.50 per hour versus $8.50 per hour.
“Based on all that, I can’t recommend we go forward with this,” he concluded.
Board member Sarah Benson said she disagreed with not moving forward.
“I’ve done my homework on this too, and from what I’ve been told, inmate labor would be very beneficial to us,” she said.
The board asked O’Daniel to bring a breakdown of the costs and what inmates are allowed to do to the next meeting.
In other town business, the board:
— Unanimously passed an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance that focuses on outdoor storage such as sheds and parked vehicles in yards. The town’s Planning Board recommended approval, but O’Daniel wasn’t sold.
“I don’t feel what the Planning Board has recommended will address the problem, and it will make it more difficult to enforce,” he said.
Sarah Benson disagreed.
“We could have decided this ourselves, but we sent this to the Planning Board and asked for their opinion,” she said. “I think it would be disrespectful not to go along with them.”
Board member Billy Benson had other ideas.
“Yes, we asked for their opinion, but it doesn’t mean we have to go along with it,” he said. “I think we have to make up our own minds based on what they told us.”
— Heard from Don White with Boost the ‘Boro concerning the amount of sand, dirt and trash accumulating in gutters and drainage areas. White asked the board to look into the purchase of a street sweeper. He also asked the board to consider painting parking lines in the downtown lots.
— Were told by Dan Hester that motorists are using the back streets of town, specifically Ash Street, as a short-cut and “a drag strip.” He said some are going up to 60 mph through the neighborhood and asked the board to consider larger speed limit signs, more police presence and/or a “No thru traffic” sign.
Board member Cris Harrelson, who lives on Ash Street, said he could verify what Hester was saying and was also concerned because of the number of children and people who ride bicycles in the neighborhood. He, along with board member Jeff Atkinson, suggested the town look into installing speed bumps.
— Approved a special use permit for a solar farm along Forrest Drive with the requirement that the two parcels be combined to one.
— Approved a $1,000 request from the Bladen County Law Enforcement Officers Association for a monument at the new county detention center.
— Heard from O’Daniel that the siding on the Depot had been completed and that the roof work would be next.
The meeting was continued until Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. to discuss bids for tub grinding at the landfill.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.