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MetroNet buildout raises noise concern: Company to install antenna, unmanned equipment shelters in commercial, residential area off Arlington

A special use permit allowing a high-speed internet and television service provider to operate as a utility in Greenville has been approved despite citizen concerns about noise from a planned structure.

Metro Fibernet, more commonly known as MetroNet, needed the permit to build an unmanned shelter for its fiber optics equipment on less than a half-acre of property located on Commerce Street, which runs parallel to East Arlington Boulevard east of Evans Street.

The company announced in January that it planned to build a fiber optic network in Greenville. The installation of fiber optics cables began in May. The city Board of Adjustment granted the utility request on Thursday.

Two shelters and a 79-foot antenna will be built on the property. A six-foot tall vinyl fence will surround the structures. A generator also will be onsite to operate the building’s cooling system if electricity goes out.

Three special conditions were required for issuing the permit. Lead Planner Elizabeth Blount said the fence has to be continuous and opaque so the structures aren’t visible, sound levels can not exceed 65 decibels and the shelters must be a neutral color to blend in with the surrounding area.

The generator noise concerned Susan McCrea and Christopher Jenkins, who own businesses adjoining the Commerce Street location.

McCrea, who owns a pain management clinic with her husband, said a treatment room is near the property boundary and she worried noise from the facility could increase their patients’ stress.

Jenkins, whose business offers management consulting and accounting services, said the noise would distract employees and customers.

McCrea said she used a phone app to measure the ambient sound levels along a driveway her property shares with the Metro site. The reading was 50-52 decibels.

She then set up a portable generator which could be heard inside their building.

She asked what could be done to mitigate the noise.

Dan Neppl, Metro Fibernet’s vice president of construction, said the generator is tested once a week for an hour as part of its maintenance but otherwise it only operates when the city’s electric system is down.

It was suggested that Metro Fibernet only conduct the testing when the businesses were closed. Adjustment board member Ann Bellis said a residential neighborhood also was near the location so testing late in the evening or early morning would disturb people living there.

It was suggested the testing be done at 7:30 a.m. on a weekday morning and that it be added to the required conditions.

Adjustment board member Hunt McKinnon lobbied for requiring a sound absorption wall be added to the fencing. Neppl said he believed the fencing would be sufficient and sound absorption should only be required if the fencing was insufficient.

When it came time to vote on the special use permit, no one asked that the time requirement for the generator testing be added to the conditions. The permit was approved 6-1 without that addition.

McKinnon was the one member to vote against the permit.

The board did unanimously approve a special use permit allowing Ocean Reef Investment to operate a vehicle rental business at 1641 S.E. Greenville Blvd. There was no opposition to the request.

Pandemic reading is fueling this year's library book sale

Books that provided a welcome escape during the 2020 pandemic lockdown are ready to be passed on to readers looking for entertainment during the current surge of COVID-19 cases.

The Friends of Sheppard Memorial Library’s 30th Annual used book sale at the Greenville Convention Center offers readers a low-cost selection of popular novels, children’s literature and nearly every other imaginable category of books.

“We have a lot of current books. We have book donations from 2020, 2021. I think that comes out of the pandemic. People were reading a lot more and they want to donate,” said Lisa Brunette, president of the Friends of Sheppard Memorial Library’s board.

The used book sale has been held in February since Hurricane Floyd and its subsequent flooding struck in 1999, canceling that year’s fall event, Brunette said. The sale was held in February 2020, but was delayed twice this year because of protocols limiting gatherings.

“People have been waiting for this. It’s an event that is annual and it’s been missed,” Brunette said.

Volunteers and library staff on Wednesday unpacked the first of 877 boxes of books that will be for sale during the four-day event which kicks off 6-8 p.m. today with a Friends of the Library members-only sale. Memberships can be purchased at the door or online at sheppardlibrary.org. The memberships are $15 for an individual and $25 for a family. There are also sponsorship opportunities ranging in price from $50 to $1,000 and up.

The sale is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, which is also $5 bag day.

“We have quite a bit of inventory in history, cookbooks, children’s books, young adults, some of the popular fiction,” Brunette said. There are roughly 200 boxes of popular fiction, 80 boxes of history books, 54 boxes of children’s books and 30 boxes of cookbooks, she said.

A number of the cookbook donations are spiral bound volumes of recipes published by churches and civic groups, Brunette said. They are popular with collectors.

The children’s book category is a top seller. “I like seeing the little kids with books, all stacked up,” she said.

While she may not remember names, Brunette said she recognizes individuals and families who return each year.

Along with a spike in book donations, there also was an increase in CD and DVD donations. Brunette attributes it to growing use of streaming services and people wanting to declutter. CDs and DVDs are popular with people who live in areas with limited or unreliable internet service.

Because the group plans to hold its next annual event in March, some of this year’s donations were held back to ensure sufficient inventory for that event, Brunette said.

While the ongoing pandemic pushed back the sale, buyers will see little of its effect once on the sales floor. Masks aren’t required but people are encouraged to wear them, Brunette said. Volunteers will hand out masks if requested.

The public will be encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines while waiting to check out.

“I think everybody is going to be polite and understanding,” Brunette said. “We’re going to try to space people out at the cash register. We are encouraging people to use debit and credit cards to minimize cash (exchanges), but cash is accepted.”

About halfway through the year, volunteers started attaching price labels to the outside of books instead of writing them inside the cover, she said, in an effort to reduce how much the books are handled.

Brunette has been involved in the Friends and book sale for 17 years. She’s been a co-organizer of the sale for about five years.

“I like people asking for recommendations of authors or just asking for particular books. I’ve seen so many I know where they are,” Brunette said.

Money raised by the Friends supports the public library system including the main library, its branches and the Pitt County Bookmobile.

Media awaits ruling in latest request for shooting video

A coalition of more than 20 media companies is waiting to hear if a court will release law enforcement video footage of a shooting death involving three Pasquotank sheriff’s deputies in April.

A hearing earlier this week on the companies’ amended petition to release footage of Andrew Brown Jr.’s death was heard by Chief Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett on Monday in Currituck County.

After the hearing, Tillett announced he would render a decision shortly.

Mike Tadych, an attorney with Stevens, Martin, Vaughan & Tadych who is representing the media coalition, said after the hearing that it could be at least several days before Tillett makes a ruling.

Tillett told the court reporter that he would need portions of the hearing transcripts for his ruling and that he would let the court reporter know what he needed, Tadych said.

“I would hope in the next week or so,” Tadych said.

Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster of Greenville denied initial petition by the Elizabeth City Daily Advance and other news organizations. The request for the videos’ release was made a week after Brown’s death.

Foster ruled the release “wasn’t appropriate at this time” because it could jeopardize the State Bureau of Investigation’s probe then underway. Foster also said releasing the deputies’ body and dash camera footage could hamper any potential defendants’ right to a fair trial.

The media coalition is seeking all video recordings beginning at 8 a.m. on April 21, including the shooting of Brown and its aftermath and protests at the scene and later that evening. They are also seeking the video of static cameras in the area operated by the Elizabeth City Police Department.

District Attorney Andrew Womble again opposed the release since Brown’s family has filed a $30 million federal wrongful death suit, naming Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten, the three deputies, the Dare County sheriff and other involved in Brown’s fatal shooting

“We know of at least one civil action filed,” Womble told Tillett.

Tillett and Womble also questioned whether law enforcement officers whose images or voices appear in the recordings were aware of the media request, asking if they had been served.

Tadych responded that “we don’t know who is in the images” because he has not viewed the video.

“If I understand correctly, what Judge Tillett was saying was, that filing a petition and defending a petition on behalf of the media, we did not file what is known as a summons, which is document issued by the clerk giving official notice to the parties involved that day have been sued for a particular thing,” Tadych said. “I think the district attorney’s position was that we should have summons issued and served.”

Tadych told the court that in other petitions where he has requested hours of recordings that law enforcement took it upon themselves to identify those who needed to be notified of a hearing.

“I don’t think anyone has addressed part of the statue that law enforcement agencies give notice to those that are in the videos,” Tadych said. “There have been times when we have had other officers involved shootings and the investigation isn’t even complete and we have got a release. Asking for public records, we often don’t know what is in them, so we really don’t understand the difficulty and resistance in getting them.’’

Hearings set on county redistricting plan

The proposal to change election districts for the Pitt County Board of Commissioners keys on altering boundaries in four areas around Greenville.

The commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to set public hearings on the plan, which would move areas in downtown Greenville, west Greenville, along the U.S. 264 Bypass near Statonsburg and Allen roads and South Memorial Drive between Greenville and Winterville.

The hearings will be held during the commissioners’ regular meetings at 6 p.m. on Sept. 27 and Oct. 18 in the Eugene James Auditorium in the County Office Building, 1717 W. Fifth St.

The nine commissioners are elected from six districts and three super districts, which are created by combining two of the smaller districts.

The proposal keeps the all commissioners in their current districts, said James Rhodes, Pitt County Planning and Development director.

Districts in elected bodies are redrawn after every U.S. Census to ensure the populations are balanced. The 2020 census numbers show that the six Pitt County districts should have 28,374 people. Federal rules allow for a 5 percent variance in population.

Under that criteria, Districts 2 and 3 fell below the population requirement. District 2 is a large area of northeast Pitt County and District 3 roughly follows the Tar River east of Greenville.

District 4, much of western Pitt County, saw its population grow 13 percent higher than the balanced ideal. Districts 1 and 5, which include most of Greenville and Winterville, and District 6 in southern Pitt, fall within the 5 percent variation.

The proposal moves areas to increase population in Districts 2 and 3 and decrease population in District 4.

No commissioners objected to the plan, although Commissioner Mary Perkins-Williams of District 2 said she is getting complaints from the community about the Board of Education districts.

County Manager Scott Elliott said county staff has no input or influence on how the school board sets its districts.

Rhodes said staff will hold work sessions outside the commissioners’ public meetings to review the maps.

The redistricting proposal is not currently posted on the county website. Rhodes’ presentation can be viewed on www.youtube.com/pittcountync approximately 2 hours and 12 minutes into the video of Monday’s meeting.