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Hillian, Mallett clear air on mayoral campaign during town board meeting

Tense moments

Tony Hillian

Barbara Mallett

EAST SPENCER — A tense discussion between Alderman Tony Hillian and Mayor Barbara Mallett marked the close of the town board’s Monday night meeting.

After a nearly two-hour meeting, Hillian, who ran unsuccessfully against Mallett for mayor this year, began by saying it was a “hard-fought race” between the two. Hillian alluded to conversations Mallett had with constituents while on the campaign trail but didn’t specify what was said.

“You threw the stones; that’s fine,” Hillian said. “I challenge you to use energy for positive, not negative. Let’s use that energy to change East Spencer.”

Hillian accused the board members of not having productive conversations.

“It’s not about us. It’s about the citizens. Now that the election is over, let’s move forward,” he said.

Alderman John Noble said board members shouldn’t “cut each other down. Let’s work together.”

The mayor asked that her comments be kept off the record. The Post chose not to honor that request because Mallett was speaking during a public meeting.

Mallett said people have also come to her about recent negative conversations, too.

Mallett then turned her focus to the town’s need for growth.

“I don’t want to be crabs in a barrel. We are a better town,” she said.

She implied that the town staff has some unspoken issues with leadership.

“The town staff needs to get on board, too,” Mallett said.

“I thank you. It’s over,” Hillian said before the meeting was adjourned.

In other business

• The board approved a conditional-use permit for a private club proposed at 409 S. Long St. The petitioner was Janeen West.

The club would be open seven days a week and close at 2 a.m. The site has been a bar and nightclub in the past.

West said the club would be more of a sports bar that would serve alcohol and be open to those 25 and older. She noted she wants to cater to an older crowd. The location of the club would be behind Ant’s Stop and Shop, which she and her husband, Will, own.

According to a Rowan County fire inspection, the building can hold 350 people (standing only), 200 people (chairs only), and 127 with tables and chairs. In order to have a private club, the owners would have to add security lighting, on-site security cameras and any other features that would bring the property up to code.

There would be more conditions for the business, including a requirement that it have no pyrotechnics, open flames or burning in the building. There would have to be a security plan in place, and the club would have to comply with the town’s noise ordinance.

West said the club would have private security and would ask the police to ride by while on patrol.

Town Administrator James Bennett asked about food. West said the club will have some snacks but she does not plan to have cooked food. East Spencer Police Chief Sharon Hovis said there are some stipulations to having a liquor license, including providing some sort of appetizers at the business.

• The board set a public hearing for its Jan. 6 meeting to consider a text amendment to allow electronic messaging centers in the office and institutional zoning district and rezone Shady Grove Baptist Church, located at 600 S. Long St., from industrial office to institutional.

• Aldermen heard from resident Travis Carter, who ran unsuccessfully to fill the unexpired term of the late Otis Gibson. Carter said his loss wouldn’t stop him from attending the meetings and speaking out.

“It was decided that the town doesn’t want much change,” Carter said.

He raised questions about the town seeking a solution to water rates. The town has some of the highest water rates in Rowan County.

He spoke of a meeting that he attended where state representatives discussed money being made available to towns. Carter said the board should be having conversations with state Rep. Harry Warren and Sen. Carl Ford.

Carter suggested using the money he mentioned to pay down the debt. He said the town should ask Salisbury-Rowan Utilities why it won’t take over the town’s water system.

He suggested putting a tax lien on property if owners don’t pay taxes, as surrounding towns do.

Mallett said the board needs residents to step up.

“You bring us problems but no solutions,” Mallett said.

“That’s a lie. We bring you solutions,” Carter said from the back of the room.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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