Town Commission holds first meeting in new town hall

Raymond Hait, of the Military Order of the Purple Heart presents the organization’s plan to place a Purple Heart memorial at the Park on Fairview. PHOTO BY DEREK LACEY

 

Thursday, October 26 marked the first meeting of the Mint Hill Town Commission in the new town hall.

The commission heard presentations from either side of the “CONNECT Our Future: Vibrant Communities—Robust Region” program, which is a process for local government, businesses, and other organizations to create a regional plan for development.

The program is support- ed by a $4.9 million dollar HUD grant and a $3 million of local public and private matching funds, and affects a 14-county area, including Mecklenburg, Gaston, Stanly, Union, and Cabarrus counties. Lynette Rinker, mayor pro tem and commissioner of the town of Cornelius, gave a presentation on why Cornelius denied joining the program, citing federal control of local issues.

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Board presented with public arts ideas

The Board of Commissioners was approached by two organizations last Thursday about displaying public art in and around the new town hall building.  On the agenda at the last board meeting, Nicole Bartlett of the Arts and Science Council and Tony Billotto, Laura Sussman-Randall, Marta Brown, and Romie Mizell of Mint Hill Arts asked the board to consider representing Mint Hill through art.

Bartlett explained that many cities and towns install permanent pieces of public art for their communities.  Charlotte has numerous pieces, including the typewriter keys at Imaginon.  The Writer’s Desk, as it is called, is a monument to local writer Rolfe Neill.  She also offered examples from Rock Hill, Davidson, and other Charlotte locations, as well as types of art, including statues, plazas, photography, and tapestries.

Bartlett said one of the most important aspects of public art is the connection to the community; it is very local.

She outlined a basic plan for the creation of public art for Mint Hill.  Funding would come from the county, the Arts and Science Council would manage the project, and the design would come from a volunteer board of citizens from the town.

Mint Hill Arts representatives asked the board to consider letting them display art in the two gallery hallways in the new town hall building.  They offered some details as to how the town could partner with the organization for professional displaying and no extra work for the town.  The arts group currently displays work in the old town hall building.  Mizell presented professional hanging devices that would eliminate the need to put nails in the walls.  Billotto explained the intake process for their monthly art shows, demonstrating the professionalism and detail-oriented organization of Mint Hill Arts.  The all-volunteer group is made of dedicated artists who would jump at the opportunity to display local work in the new space.

“I got an the opportunity to go into the new town hall, and wow, was I blown away.  We have been looking for a new facility that was larger where we could really exhibit art the way it needed to be exhibited, where people could come in from the community and see it.  And here it was, two beautiful galleries built one above the other that had great lighting, a beautiful place to hang it,” said Mizell.  “That’s why we are requesting the opportunity to do this for you and for the community in this facility.”

They also presented the board with the idea of a permanent piece of artwork with the working title theme of Life in Mint Hill.  Mint Hill Arts and the town would ask artists to come forward in a juried show where the board was the panel.  The winner would receive the prestigious award of having artwork forever displayed in the town hall.  Billotto suggested the area around the grand stairway as a good location for such a display.

“Public art is the expression of the spirit of the community in which it takes place,” said Sussman-Randall.

The mayor thanked the arts representatives for their presentations and ideas, and said they will continue the conversation in the future.

The public is invited to get involved with this month’s Mint Hill Arts show during Mint Hill Madness.  Last Friday was the opening reception of the new show, but winners were not announced.  That’s because the public has not yet voted.  It’s a people’s choice show, and everyone is invited to cast a vote.  Visitors can see the gallery, located at 11205 Lawyers Road, Suite A, to gain an understanding of what Mint Hill Arts is, what local artists are doing, and how they can get involved.

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Mint Hill supports Kilah’s Law

Commissioners passed a resolution presented by the Justice for Coalition to support Kilah’s Law. The board supported the resolution unanimously. So far, eight other towns have passed the resolution, and they aim to present Kilah’s Law to the N.C. General Assembly.

The law aims to increase penalties for child abusers like Kilah Davenport’s stepfather, Joshua Houser, who is facing 44-92 months in prison after breaking the toddler’s clavicle, fracturing her skull, and causing severe brain damage.

Jeff Gerber of the coalition said Houser could potentially walk free within four years, while Kilah sustains life-long injuries.

“This sentencing guideline is an insult to mankind,” said Gerber.  “We feel strongly that Kilah’s Law should be in line with that of a pedophile, being 25 years to life.”

Patty Freeman, the first person to respond to the scene the day of Kilah’s injury, called it a “horrendous crime.”

“It falls in the same category as if someone hurt an animal.  Our children deserve to be put above God’s other creatures,” said Freeman.

The resolution reads: “Be it resolved that the Board of Commissioners of the Town of Mint Hill, North Carolina, hereby fully supports the spirit and efforts to create this law which will bring tougher penalties to those who inflict permanent debilitating physical injury to a child and encourages all citizens and elected officials of the State to join us in our efforts.”

In other matters:

  • The board approved the consent agenda: they accepted a contract with Rowell, Craven and Short to audit accounts for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012; they adopted an amendment of an increase of $52,000 in the General Fund for the 2013 budget; they authorized the town manager to purchase a street sweeper for the Public Works Department; and they approved the rescheduling of the public hearing on a petition for a text amendment to the downtown overlay code authorizing administrative variation of sidewalk width.
  • 10 students from Independence High School were inducted as Dream Team members, promising to abstain from drugs, alcohol, and violence.
  • For Constitution Week, the board presented a proclamation to a representative of the Clear Creek Militia Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Mayor Ted Biggers proclaimed September 17-23 to be Constitution Week.
  • Nicole Bartlett of the Arts and Science Council presented on the topic of public art.  She encouraged the board to consider displaying a permanent piece of public art at the new town hall building.
  • Representatives from Mint Hill Arts presented ways to display local art at the new town hall, and asked the board to consider their ideas.
  • After heated discussion, the board voted four to one to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation to accept the petition requesting exception for front parking and screening for the future Mint Hill Police Department at 7151 Matthews-Mint Hill Road, also known as the old town hall.
  • The continued discussion on the Centralina Council of Governments’ CONNECT Project was canceled.
  • The board discussed signing an agreement with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark Commission. Town attorney Kevin Bringewatt said he was concerned about the agreement not having an exit plan.
  • Town clerk Beth Hamrick announced her retirement.
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Moving day for Mint Hill Town Hall

The Mint Hill Town Hall made its official move last weekend to 4430 Mint Hill Village Lane.  Movers worked through the weekend to deliver newly ordered office furniture and boxes of files and supplies.  The town posted the moving plan on its website, stating the phone system could go down, but it made efforts to continue providing a high level of customer service to Mint Hill residents.  Monday was the first full operating day in the new building.  Staff will unpack this week and settle in.  Town Hall meetings will continue to take place at the old building.  The order for the new chairs for the assembly room is delayed and may not be ready until October or even as late as November.

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Aqua N.C. president talks with local customers

Private water service customers gathered in the Mint Hill Town Hall last Friday to hear from Aqua North Carolina president Tom Roberts regarding water quality.  Residents of Ashe Plantation have recently become vocal about a problem they say is decades old.

Meeting organizers invited Jeff Tarte, recently elected to the N.C. State Senate, N.C. Representative Bill Brawley from Mecklenburg County and member of the Public Utilities Committee in the House, and N.C. Public Utilities staff member David Furr, and Roberts had with him two Aqua North Carolina representatives with knowledge of the problems.

Tarte mediated the conversation and explained the focus of the conversation was on water quality, although he acknowledged that local customers were also upset about customer service and rates.  He allowed Aqua to explain what they are doing with Ashe Plantation’s wells, and followed that with some questions from residents.

“We already know what the problems are, so what we’re hoping to hear is what Aqua North Carolina is doing to remedy the situation,” said Tarte.

“One of the primary things that I do is meet with customers.  If I’m invited I will come.  Mrs. Decker and I have had a number of conversations, and I’m happy to be here tonight to have you hear from us,” said Roberts.  “We realize we’ll have to talk about some history, but what we’d like to do is look forward and talk about the future and where we think we’re going from our point of view.”

The Aqua representatives explained that an Ashe Plantation well experienced a malfunction earlier this summer, which caused a disruption in filter performance.  After the well was back in service, problems continued due to accumulated mineral deposits.  Aqua cleaned, flushed, and tested the water storage tank and flushed the distribution system.

To avoid future water quality problems, the company is monitoring water color leaving the filters by having installed sensors that will send an alarm and shut down the well.

The water company also ensured its customers that water is routinely tested and meets state and federal drinking water standards.

Aqua representative Michael Melton offered specific numbers regarding water quality and contaminates, though the customers said the numbers had no context or meaning to them.

A reoccurring topic during the conversation was the affect of bad press on the neighborhood.  Homeowners said realtors are avoiding the neighborhood, which is an “economic opportunity cost.”  Roberts responded saying he doesn’t “have that power over the press,” and recommended real estate agents call Aqua.  He also said he would like to talk with them.

“What is it going to take to get our water system up to a Charlotte quality water system so that it will attract new homeowners into the community and displace everything that we’ve seen in the news already about the water quality?  They’ve gone on the news already and said how poor the water quality was.  I think that the water needs to be fixed correctly today and then go back on the news and say how it was fixed and put together these bottles with clean water.  But if you can’t produce bottles with clean water then everything you say tonight is not going to mean anything,” said a customer.

“We love to do success stories, too,” said Roberts.  He suggested having the media cover the solution to the problem.

“We need a success story,” the customer responded.

Another customer said he has lived in Ashe Plantation for 24 years and has never had clean water.

“You’re not going to fix that well.  You either need to drill another well or let us have city water.  I know that’s your call,” he said.

“The technology exists for us to fix that well,” said Roberts.

Ashe Plantation homeowners’ association president Sharon Decker said she would like to have another meeting with Aqua to address other issues like rates.  She knows Aqua is willing to meet with them again.

“We appreciate everything the town of Mint Hill has done for us,” said Decker.  She was happy to hear about the resolution the town passed to ensure good water quality and service, and she appreciated being able to meet at the town hall.

“This is an inconvenience; it’s a health issue,” said Ashe Plantation homeowner Janis Barnett.  “They’ve done a good job of giving us more information than they had before, they told us what they’re doing to get that well back.”  She said she’s feeling hopeful about the situation.

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Christmas tree will not move to new town hall

As the construction of the new town hall building comes to an end, the Board of Commissioners and Mint Hill residents want to know what will happen to the Christmas tree at the current town hall.  The tree has been part of Mint Hill tradition for over 25 years.

Town Planners Dana Clukey and John Hoard investigated the option of transplanting the tree and hired The Maplewood Company for an expert opinion.  Paul Yandle of The Maplewood Company said the evergreen was “a transplantable candidate” and offered a variety of ways to move it.  His equipment has moved trees up to 10 inches in diameter.  The town’s tree is 14 inches in diameter.  To move a tree of that size, Yandle estimates his equipment would give a 20 percent chance of survival with no guarantees, and the work would cost about $3,000.  To excavate the tree and root system by hand would offer the best chances of survival, 70-80 percent, and would cost $10,000-12,000.

Yandle also suggested the town leave the tree and purchase a new one for the new town hall.  He offered to find a tree between six and eight inches in diameter and between 16 to 20 feet tall.  It would cost $3,000-4,000 and would be guaranteed for two years.

“My unsolicited opinion, coming from more than 30 years of transplanting experience, would be that you choose to leave the tree where it is now and to consider having our company, or some other, furnish, properly plant, and warrant a completely new tree for the new Town Hall.  That would be the safest choice on many levels, probably the most cost effective, and the one option that would include a guarantee of survival with the investment made,” said Yandle in a letter to Hoard.

“While I would love to move the tree that we have to the new site, I’m not much of a gambler, especially with taxpayer money.  If that costs around $12,000 and it gets up there and dies, I’m going to be really disappointed.  My recommendation is to leave the tree in place where it is,” said Mayor Ted Biggers.  “I would take the recommendation to get a new tree.”

The Board of Commissioners decided not to transplant the tree.

The fate of the current tree is unclear.  As it stands, the tree will be fenced in what will become the police department’s secured parking area, which will not be open to the public.  The size of the tree may be a security issue for the police department, and may be cut down.

Clukey wrote in a memo to the Board of Commissioners, “We believe that the community will feel a loss if the tree were to be completely removed.  Residents and visitors alike have commented on the beauty of our great tree.  While there is a large cost associated with transplanting the tree, there will be advantages to linking the future town hall with the past, symbolizing a commitment to saving not only a large tree, but a community icon.”

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