Public input proves beneficial

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2005

AHOSKIE – When Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn took office late in 2003, one of her top priorities was to allow citizens and business/property owners an opportunity to take a more active role in municipal government.

Based upon action taken by the Ahoskie Town Council earlier this week, it’s apparent Mayor Blackburn’s plan is working.

At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Ahoskie’s municipal leaders took action on a pair of concerns as expressed during the public input period.

Andre Lassiter Sr., who owns businesses on 210-214 West Main Street, voiced his concern over the 30-minute limit parking spaces in front of his establishments.

&uot;All I’m asking for is the same courtesy extended to other business owners in the downtown district – an opportunity to park without facing a time limit,&uot; Lassiter stated as he addressed Council members.

Town Manager Tony Hammond responded by saying that any changes in the Ahoskie’s parking ordinance must first be approved by Town Council.

Hammond added there were only two options in his opinion, either remove all the parking limit signs or install parking meters on all of the approximate 300 spaces in the downtown shopping district.

&uot;Those meters run about $300 each, so that’s a very expensive proposition,&uot; Hammond noted.

Years ago, Ahoskie used parking meters, but, according to Town Attorney Larry Overton, they were removed in order to make the downtown area a &uot;shopper friendly district.&uot;

&uot;What’s the problem in removing the (parking limit) signs,&uot; Councilman Ronald Gatling inquired.

&uot;None that I can see,&uot; Hammond responded.

Councilman Malcolm Copeland said if the parking limit signs are removed, he would like to see the town send a letter to every business owner on Main Street, asking each to make sure their employees do not use the spaces in order to leave them open for shoppers.

Hammond suggested no limit parking on Main Street with the exception of the spaces directly in front of Town Hall. They will remain with a 30-minute limit. The reasoning was linked to the fact that most individuals transacting business in the Town Hall take less than 30 minutes to do so.

Gatling motioned to accept Hammond’s suggestion and the measure passed unanimously.

In another matter heard during the public input period, Randy Lassiter addressed the town’s ordinance dealing with flat fee charges for water/sewer services.

Lassiter, who just recently purchased the old Mitchell Building where he plans an upscale development, urged Council members to consider changing the ordinance. He said he was paying a flat fee for multiple hook-ups instead of one fee for all.

Hammond agreed with Lassiter, saying the old ordinance, dating back to 1967, did not take into consideration commercial property. It only dealt with multiple family dwellings.

Hammond went on to explain that a base charge (flat fee) is billed on each sub-unit plus a fee for the water flowing through the main meter. He expressed concern over the possibility that the Mitchell Building is not the only commercial property being billed this way.

&uot;Are there other commercial units out there not being billed fairly,&uot; Hammond quizzed. &uot;This is an issue that Council needs to take a look at.&uot;

Hammond then said the entire ordinance needs to be looked over. He added it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see how other towns similar to Ahoskie handle this type of situation. Based upon that knowledge, Council members could decide to make amendments to Ahoskie’s old ordinance.

Copeland motioned for Hammond and Town Clerk Evelyn Howard to collect the information and pass it to the town’s Planning Board who, in turn, will make a recommendation to Town Council. His motion passed without objection.