East Spencer board approves ordinance changes

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

EAST SPENCER — The Board of Aldermen approved Monday night the adoption of two amendments to ordinances that will allow the town to place liens on property to recover money the town spends on cleanup of property.

In January of 2015, the former Paul Laurence Dunbar Center on Long Street was severely damaged in a five-alarm fire, bringing to a close its long history of service to the community, both as a school and a community center.

Since the fire, there have been discussions of and mild efforts to restore the facility for other uses, but nothing has ever come to fruition. Meanwhile, the building has been subject to vandalism and to the ravages of mother nature reclaiming the land bit by bit.

In an effort to get the owners to take remedial action, the town has in the last several months sent notices of code violations to the owners. Finally, during the recent planning retreat, the town’s Board of Aldermen authorized Town Manager Michael Douglas to spend $150,000 to have the property cleaned.

Douglas told board members he had received three bids for clearing the property, the lowest of which is just over $195,000. He asked, and the board agreed, that he be permitted to spend the extra money to get the site cleaned up once and for all.

“It’s been long enough, I think it’s time to clean it up,” said Alderman Curtis Cowan. Douglas said the low bid came from Dave’s Grading and Hauling in Salisbury, and the company could be ready to start work May 1.

But the town also wants to do all it can to recover that money. Language in state statutes would permit the town to place liens on properties when the town bears the financial burden of a cleanup, and Monday, the board amended local ordinances to include the same language that is found in the state statutes.

The N.C. general statute regarding the town’s ability to place a lien on properties that pose a risk and which owners have failed to act is under 160-D 1129, and will allow the town to sell and recoverable materials on the property, including metal, as well in order to try to recover some nominal costs.