Staff photo by Allison Potter
Tim Owens attends his first board of aldermen meeting as the town manager of Wrightsville Beach on Thursday, Jan. 10.
WB to fund SRO, relo Farmers’ Market
Newly hired town manager Tim Owens was sworn in by Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti at his first public meeting on Jan. 10.
Following the approval of the consent agenda, Cignotti requested to move the board’s discussion of whether to fund or provide a School Resource Officer for Wrightsville Beach School to the beginning of the regular agenda. As directed by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, the town of Wrightsville Beach was asked to either provide the county with $28,500 to fund an SRO from the NHC Sheriff’s Office for the remainder of the current school year, or provide an officer from the Wrightsville Beach Police Department for the assignment. The same request was made by the county to the town of Carolina Beach and the city of Wilmington to cover the schools within their respective corporate limits.
Tim Burgess, NHC’s assistant manager, said this solution was not intended to be a long-term commitment and that another solution would have to be developed for the next school year and beyond. For this year, Burgess said providing the manpower from the sheriff’s department was an issue for the county, and that if the town elected not to assign one of its own officers the $28,500 would be used to fund the overtime pay for the sheriff’s deputy assigned.
Manpower would also be a problem for the WBPD, since stationing an officer or two at the school would detract from the coverage of other areas around town, said WBPD Chief Dan House. If off-duty officers were required to rotate the assignment, House said he would be concerned about the poor morale it could create within his department before the busy summer season begins.
Following House’s arguments, the board of aldermen unanimously voted to provide the $28,500 to the county to fund an SRO for WBS. Cignotti and the rest of the board voiced its support for this option for this school year only, because WBS is part of a county school system.
“I’d like to see us support this monetarily in the short run but not with manpower or for the long term because we already pay county taxes,” Cignotti said.
In addition to the SRO that will be stationed at WBS, the board determined that House could direct his officers to assist while on duty. In a memo to the town’s department employees on Jan. 11, House stated that officers on patrol would conduct a walkthrough of the main school building and the Wrightsville Baptist Church annex every two hours while school is in session.
The board of aldermen also unanimously agreed to move the 2013 Farmers’ Market to the grass field to the east of Town Hall in front of the old fire station from the market’s past location on Old Causeway Drive.
Traffic congestion and pedestrian safety were the main concern of the board as well as the Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, which recommended the move.
Expansion of vendors will now be allowed at the new location and the board voted to approve the market to bring in craft vendors. Previously the market had solely been comprised of local food and beverage vendors. Charlotte Muchison, parks and recreation advisory committee member, said the committee did not want to detract from the food vendors but thought the presence of a few quality local craft vendors would enhance the market.
The board of aldermen set a limit on the number of craft vendors allowed, which will not account for more than 20 percent of the market’s total vendors.
At the end of the board’s meeting, Cignotti and town attorney John Wessell presented the board with the resolution requesting a local bill to be sponsored in the North Carolina General Assembly allowing all applicable New Hanover County municipalities to enforce ordinances like the smoking ban between the mean high water mark and the mean low water mark on ocean beaches. Currently the town is not able to enforce such ordinances in that area because it is the state’s property.
Wessell said Representative Ted Davis Jr. would be the bill’s sponsor and that while the request previously only applied to Wrightsville Beach, Davis requested the other county beaches be included to take care of all of them at once because Carolina Beach’s smoking ban could face the same issues pending approval of its ban by the General Assembly.