GARLAND — Garland Town Hall, which adopted abbreviated operation hours earlier this year, will be reverting back to its original hours effective at the beginning of next month.
The matter, tabled from last week, was quickly discussed — and the modification unanimously approved — at this week’s Garland Board of Commissioners special meeting.
“I suggest we go back to the normal hours we used to be on,” Commissioner Mike Toler said. Other commissioners agreed.
Effective at the beginning of March, the town hall changed its hours to 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. The town hall was previously open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After seven months, during which the town underwent an overhaul of its board and hired a new clerk and deputy clerk, commissioners voted to go back to its regular hours.
Commissioner Ralph Smith said he spoke with town clerk Pam Cashwell on the issue. “She would like to go 8:30 to 5 and each one of the ladies take a 30-minute break, alternating, and the office not be closed,” said Smith, referring to Cashwell and deputy clerk Teresa Frack.
“That’s the way it used to be,” Toler said. “That’s the way it was operating.”
The modified hours were approved and will take effect Monday, Oct. 1.
Along with the office hours, the Garland board took up another issue that received some discussion during last week’s special meeting — the matter of a toilet.
Board attorney Joel Starling said he and Garland mayor Winifred Murphy had been in contact with the Sampson County Health Department in recent weeks over health code issues and ensuring the town was in compliance, notably in regard to providing restroom facilities for park patrons.
Starling said he spoke with a gentleman at the Health Department, whose first response was that restrooms should be provided during organized events, whether that meant opening up the concession area and allowing people to use the restrooms there or providing a portable toilet.
“He said if it was just a pick-up game, that wasn’t necessarily the case,” said Starling, “but then later on he learned a lot of these pick-up games we’re talking about it can be potentially 30 or more people out there. He said in that circumstance we are definitely under an obligation to provide (a restroom). As it is right now, we can’t allow people to use the park without toilet access.”
Toler, echoing comments made by Smith last week, said a portable toilet will soon become a target.
“I think if we put porta toilets out there, we’re just asking for problems,” said Toler. “It’s my firm belief they will be turned over or vandalized.” Others shared the same concern.
Starling said if talking about 12 kids going out to the park after school playing around, the town is not under an obligation. However, when talking about any large crowd at the park for any particular reason — whether it is a scheduled event or not — the town could find itself in hot water and subject to a health violation if restroom facilities are not readily available to the public and there is a complaint. The parks are also subject to spot-checks by the Health Department every 10 days, town officials said.
“I’m just telling you, it’s a public park, and I’m telling you what the interpretation of the Sampson County Health Department is going to be if they get a complaint,” said Starling.
Mayor Winifred Murphy said N.C. General Statute also required the town to provide public restrooms at park facilities for public health and sanitary reasons. While some municipalities use portable toilets simply for special scheduled events, those town parks are often able to be closed off or locked up to the public. Garland’s is always open.
“We want people at the park, we want our park to come alive,” said Murphy, “but we also need to provide access to restrooms. We don’t have the staff right now for someone to go out there and open the concession stand. Until we have a problem (with the portable toilet), that’s what I would suggest. All we can do is try. It would be better to have it there then not have it.”
The board voted to approve having one handicap-accessible portable toilet set up at the town park. Should there be problems, the matter could be reevaluated, the motion stated.
In other business, the board again held off on awarding a bid for painting town hall. Two bids were presented by Commissioner Haywood Johnson, who threw his own hat into the ring for the painting job. Johnson had previously done some painting in the office area of Town Hall, but the town only paid for materials. Smith nixed the idea of awarding the bid to a commissioner.
“I think we ought to table this,” said Smith. “I can’t go along with you getting paid for that, as much work as I do for the town of Garland, I can’t see you doing that. That’s just my feeling.”
Toler suggested the matter be tabled, and said he would talk to some others in order to get more bid participation. The board agreed.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.