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Council to hear report on water system

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Rocky Mount City Council member more than a month ago called for a report about the status of the municipal water system and the plan apparently is to hear an update at the council’s meeting at 4 p.m. on Monday.

A copy of the council agenda, posted online on Friday, has a 12-page PowerPoint-like image from Water Resources Director Brenton Bent. The image lists information about where the city’s water comes from and how the water is treated, along with assets, milestones and recognitions and an update about projects.

The subject came up at the July 22 council meeting after public comments referring to the July 8 council meeting.

During the July 8 meeting, Rich Worsinger, formerly the city’s utilities director, told the council he believed Rocky Mount is in danger of becoming the next Flint, Mich. Flint was the scene of a water crisis from 2014-16, with residents there being exposed to dangerous levels of lead.

During the July 22 public comment period, Nehemiah Smith called Worsinger an irresponsible, perhaps disgruntled employee and went on to state he believes the council needs to rebuke Worsinger’s statements and reassure the citizens the water in Rocky Mount is safe.

Also during the public comment period, council candidate Elaine B. Williams said she believed Worsinger left her and fellow residents confused.

“And I don’t think that needs to be out in the airwaves without something coming to counteract that,” Williams said at the time.

Worsinger on July 8 said he believed the council should take care of sewer system troubles instead of paying for a parking deck as part of the proposed hotel, residential and retail complex adjacent to the Rocky Mount Event Center.

During the July 22 meeting, Councilman Richard Joyner asked for a report and City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said she would provide one.

A Committee of the Whole meeting and a regular council meeting had been set for Aug. 12, but the council canceled both because they conflicted with an annual ElectriCities conference.

A review of the rest of the council’s agenda for Monday shows plans are for a public hearing about whether the city should sign off on an economic inducement agreement to help attract a yet-to-be-identified-by-name company to the city.

The company is promising to bring a minimum of 96 full-time jobs at an annual wage of no less than about $52,300 a year.

The Telegram more than a month ago reported the Nash County Board of Commissioners held a similar hearing about what is being referred to as “Project Tire,” although the company does not have any connection to tires.

Documents as part of the council’s agenda state the proposal is to persuade the company to open a new food storage warehouse, distribution and transportation facility at 3051 N. Church St. The location is in the former Meadowbrook meat freezer building on the north side of the city.

The documents were prepared by the unnamed company, the county and the Rocky Mount-based Carolinas Gateway Partnership.

City Council agendas are posted online by the City Clerk’s Office at www.rockymountnc.gov under the headings “Government” and “Agendas and Minutes.”

City Clerk Pamela Casey advised the Telegram the council set a Committee of the Whole meeting for 2 p.m. Monday, but agendas for those meetings are prepared by the city manager’s office.

Attempts on Friday to obtain a copy of the Committee of the Whole agenda via email were unsuccessful.

The Telegram earlier in the day emailed Small-Toney seeking a portable document formatted (PDF) image of the agenda. Small-Toney emailed back from a cell phone saying that she had emailed Executive Assistant Tanika Cooper and that Cooper would assist.

The Telegram did not see any subsequent email from Cooper. When the Telegram emailed Small-Toney back later in the day seeking clarification, Small-Toney said she herself did not have a copy of the agenda she could email and said the assistant could provide a copy on Monday morning.

North Carolina law makes clear the public has a right to see agendas of state and local government meetings. However, the law has not been as specific about whether governmental bodies are required to email them on request and/or post them in advance on their websites.

Committee of the Whole meetings are considered City Council work sessions. The public can attend Committee of the Whole meetings but cannot comment like they can at regular council meetings.

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