GARLAND — Mayor Winifred Murphy kicked off a series of forum Tuesday afternoon with a mission of moving the town forward.
During the daytime session, Murphy met with a few residents and discussed topics ranging from streets and duties for elected officials. A night session followed to accommodate the work schedules of residents.
“We need to move Garland forward together,” Murphy said. “As mayor it’s not a power thing to me. I grew up in Garland and I want to see it progress. All of the commissioners have a concern for Garland.”
She went on to say commissioners have different opinions about certain matters and encouraged residents to become more involved to voice their opinions. The informal meeting allowed residents and business owners like Randy Bartlett and Thomas Williams to talk about concerns. Bartlett said he would like to see street improvement such as parking striping near Rotary Park.
While talking about the Garland’s Board of Commissioners decision to move the police station to the annex building from town hall, Williams questioned if the department needed all of the space. The annex is currently being used for community gatherings and groups. Commissioners said business owners wanted to increase police visibility. Murphy, who was against the decision, said the abandoned ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) building could be used as an alternative, if repairs to the roof and floor are made. When the decision was made, the old fire department section next to town hall was also suggested.
“There’s a lot of work to be done before anything happens,” Murphy said.
Attendees also asked about the town’s financial situation and issues from the past, dating back to 2012. The town went through internal control issues and problems such as returned checks because of insufficient funds. Murphy applauded the work of Town Clerk/Finance Officer Pamela Cashwell for record keeping. She also mentioned the importance of record keeping and holding on to receipts.
“It’s about accountability,” Cashwell said about the messy mismanagement of the past. “You could have brought in 10 lawyers that were Harvard educated and they wouldn’t know what was what.”
For many months, public works has been an issue among commissioners, applicants and employees. According to information presented during the meeting, they issue may become resolved with new employees.Donald Lawson was recently hired and will be joined soon by Lynn Pope, who previously worked for the Sampson County Public Works Department. Currently, Envirolink provides licensed water/sewer services to the town, but after Lawson and Pope receive certifications, they will no longer need the company that has a $70,000 annual contract with the town.
The year is coming to an end, but Murphy stressed the importance of looking beyond 2018. She said a lot of towns associated with the North Carolina League of Municipalities are looking to 2030. The purpose is to have a vision for improvement, with help from members of the organization.
“Right now there has not been a lot of visioning honestly,” Murphy said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be in such poor shape with our infrastructure, with our roads and our streets.”
Water pumps, which are decades old, were also a concern. Some have been around for 50 years.
“Those things are priorities,” she said about improving the situation and problems such as potholes and unpaved streets.
Another session is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. An agenda includes discussion for public safety, streets, traffic, economic growth and citizen services. Throughout 2018, the meetings are set for 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.
(Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent)
(Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent)
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.