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Spencer to consider fines for begging, fees for Internet cafes

SPENCER — After complaints in recent weeks about panhandling, the Spencer Board of Aldermen on Tuesday will consider beefing up a town ordinance.
The board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall.
The current ordinance has not been effective, according to a memo from town staff to aldermen. The amendment would greatly improve the town’s capability to enforce the ordinance, the memo said.
If approved, the new ordinance would prohibit begging and panhandling within 20 feet of a bank or ATM, at a bus stop, while standing or sitting on the road or shoulder and at night. Violators could be fined $50.
While possibly cracking down on panhandling, aldermen also will consider changing the fee the town charges for Internet cafes.
Since aldermen adopted an initial privilege fee of $1,000 per machine for Internet cafes, town staff have monitored legislative and judicial discussions about such fees across the state, according to a memo to aldermen.
Widely varying fee amounts have been challenged, and staff suggest the town change its fee to $1,000 per business, plus $500 per machine.
“This would bring us in line with a uniform amount that was proposed in a session bill this year in the House of Representatives,” the memo said.
Also on Tuesday’s agenda:

• Public comment.
• Aldermen will consider creating a $25 fine for leaving garbage cans at the curb after midnight on collection day. Residents would receive a warning first. Second and subsequent violations could result in the fine.
• Discussion of a request for proposals for the study of town property, including facilities needs and parks and recreation.
Town Manager Larry Smith will hold office hours at 6 p.m. today for aldermen who want to discuss the agenda. The public may attend.
In other town news, the Spencer Woods project received a $10,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for signs, tools and implements for constructing trails and other improvements.
The grant covered the cost of the guardrail and aggregate work the town recently contracted for parking areas, according to Smith. The LandTrust for Central North Carolina helped land the grant.
The town bought the 42-acre forest from the LandTrust this year using a $200,000 state grant. The LandTrust saved the area from clear-cutting and is working with the town to develop a passive community park with trails, educational areas, parking, benches and signs.
Spencer Woods is within walking distance of downtown Spencer.
Also, the town has chosen Stewart Inc. to conduct a study on a possible greenway route that would tie downtown to the Yadkin River as part of the Carolina Thread Trail, Smith said.
Three groups — Spencer Woods, Small Town Main Street and N.C. Transportation Museum — all have shown interest in the greenway.
Spencer has qualified for funding from the Carolina Thread Trail to plan the route for a downtown-Yadkin connection and possibly more. The town’s local match would be about $330, if approved by aldermen.
Unlike surrounding counties, Rowan County has not agreed to become a member of the Carolina Thread Trail. However, towns and cities within Rowan have signed on, and the thread trail organization is working with them individually, Smith said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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