City’s landmarks regarded, new traditions enacted

by Daniel Bowden
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

At its Nov. 7 meeting, Wilmington City Council proclaimed Nov. 15 America Recycles Day. This proclamation came at the request of Keep America Beautiful, and was put in place to encourage Wilmington residents to recycle and be more aware of what they, as citizens, can do to help protect the environment.

Council also proclaimed the week of Nov. 5 through 11 to be Employ a Veteran Week.

City traffic manager Don Bennett conducted a presentation proposing improvements that would protect historic Kenan Fountain at the intersection of Fifth Street and Market Street downtown. The past five years have seen 20 instances of cars crashing into either the fountain, bench or wall at the intersection.

Out of those 20 crashes, 17 have been at night, 10 were confirmed to be related to alcohol, three were weather related, three were related to avoidance maneuvers and three were the result of a distracted driver. Bennett proposed a series of both short term and long term solutions to the problem.

Short term solutions examined by Bennett included increasing lighting, installing additional signage or raised reflectors in the road and installing flexible posts along the approach to the intersection.

Long term solutions included installing rumble bars or textured pavement approaching the intersection,  reducing Market Street to a one-lane road, building a roundabout and and relocating the fountain.

In the immediate short term, Bennett recommended increasing lighting around the intersection by switching current street lights to newer, brighter LED lights which will increase visibility and draw the attention of distracted drivers back to the road.

“This fountain is not just something that happens to be in our way,” said Councilman Charlie Rivenbark. “For several generations, this has been a very historic landmark. ... Are we going to continue to put it in harms way or are we going to protect it?”

No action has been taken as of yet.

An ordinance making supplemental appropriation from NC drug tax monies in the amount of $22,355 to the special revenue fund for the Wilmington Police Department passed unanimously. This supplemental appropriation will go toward the purchase of protective ballistic vests for the SWAT team and canine units.

Council also unanimously approved a resolution designating a tree near the Rotary Wheel in Greenfield Lake Park as the new location for Wilmington's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. This will be the second location for the ceremony since the city decided to abandon “The World's Largest Living Christmas Tree” due to the poor health of the live oak tree in northern Wilmington's Hilton Park.

Councilwoman Laura Padgett said she approved the resolution “with great nostalgia and sadness.”

The ceremony has taken place in Wilmington every year since 1928, with the exception of 2010 and one year during World War II. In 2010, the event was cancelled due to safety concerns resulting from construction at the nearby Sweeney Plant.

In 2011, the event was moved to Riverfront Park downtown, where Mayor Pro Tem Earl Sheridan lit a 30 foot artificial tree. The city also planted a tree in Legion Stadium with the intent of establishing that location as the new venue for the tradition. However, that changed this year when the Rotary Club approached the city and offered to provide the holiday tradition near the Rotary Wheel in Greenfield Lake Park with minimal support from the city.

In addition to this years' official Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Greenfield Lake Park, the city will light the tree in Legion Stadium. The downtown business alliance will also continue to light last year's artificial tree downtown in Riverfront Park.

“We're going to be lighting up trees all over the place,” Sheridan said. 

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