A Rocky Mount Planning Board member and frequent speaker at City Council meetings said she and fellow residents need to know what is going on with State Auditor Beth Wood and stories that her office is probing the municipal government.
“When is this going to come to a closure?” Elaine B. Williams asked Mayor David Combs, council members and City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney during the public input phase of Monday’s council meeting.
“Someone, please, I want to hear something back from somebody, sometime — very soon, please,” Williams said.
Combs told Williams, “We haven’t heard from the state auditor. They don’t call us. They don’t tell us what kind of update. Until they’re finished, we don’t hear anything.”
State Office of the Auditor spokesman Brad Young on Tuesday told the Telegram that Wood has no comment about the council meeting.
The Telegram in a story in February reported Combs was planning to meet with Wood, but Combs did not provide any further information, including who initiated this.
The Telegram extensively has documented stories of allegations of cronyism, incompetence and malfeasance at City Hall.
Additionally, stories that state the Office of the Auditor is investigating have extensively been circulating on local social media.
Wood, in a speech to the Rotary Club of Rocky Mount in August, said her office’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny to the news media and the public whether an investigation is in progress.
During Monday’s council meeting, Williams also expressed concern about citizens as a whole sometimes beating down young people after they go to a college or a university and return home wanting to do good for their city.
“And we should make it so that they want to come back and that they want to get involved,” Williams said, noting young people are the city’s future.
Williams, without naming names, said she can recall a council member “that’s sitting here now” who had left Rocky Mount and returned home wanting to do well in the city.
“And I can recall the newspaper having his name in the paper all the time, beating him up, beating him up, beating him up,” Williams said.
“We’ve got to stop making front-page stuff that’s not even front-page stuff. Why do we allow this stuff to happen in our city? We’ve got to stop,” she said.
During the council meeting, resident and regular speaker Dr. Kim E. Koo again called for the council to revoke support for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Koo presented a petition with 253 signatures from many all across eastern North Carolina and from environmental activists elsewhere.
Koo said she gathered the signatures within the past couple of months since her last request to the council.
Koo noted the petition includes signatures from state Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, and state Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton.
She also noted she put asterisks by Gailliard’s and Smith’s names so the council members easily could find them and to point out elected officials can stand with her and her fellow environmentalists to fight climate change.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, as proposed, would be 600 miles long and carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina.
Koo made clear she believes the pipeline is unnecessary to the region and poses a danger to the air, land and water if there is a mistake and an explosion.
The council in 2016 went on record in favor of the pipeline.
“One can almost make the excuse that council members might not have (had) all the information three years ago,” Koo said. “But it is completely inexcusable for council members now to plead ignorance on this major issue affecting all of us — and especially with the recent upsurge in climate justice demonstrations nationally and internationally.”
Another speaker at the council meeting included resident Robert Davis.
Davis said his hope is that “whatever this is out here in front of us that’s blocking the downtown hotel, that we can move that out of the way, get started and start our growth going a little bit faster in this city.”
Davis was referring to Tennessee-based developer David Hunt, who, working with the municipal administration, is proposing a hotel, parking garage and residential and retail project adjacent to the Rocky Mount Event Center.
The Telegram in July reported that critics have many issues with the public-private proposal, which is pending before the state Local Government Commission.
During the council meeting, Davis said he believes there is nothing negative that is stopping the proposed lodging establishment and said of critics that, “We know that’s petty rivalry stuff.”
Davis said he approached the speaker’s podium “to grant us and Rocky Mount a new beginning.”
“We have that opportunity before us,” Davis said. “All we have to do is claim it. That part is left up to us, if we want it — and I hope we do.
“Let’s turn a new page and try to create a new city, a city, not two,” Davis said.
He was referring to longtime complaints about Rocky Mount being divided economically between a more prosperous Nash County side and a less prosperous Edgecombe County side.
Councilman Reuben Blackwell was absent from both the council meeting and an earlier council work session.