The Pitt County Board of Commissioners voted 6-3 to hold a public hearing on modifying rules for carrying weapons into its meetings and on county owned property.
Currently, the only people outside law enforcement who can bring deadly weapons onto county property are those who have concealed carry permits. Open carry is prohibited.
As part of an ongoing discussion about increasing security at commission meetings, the board on Monday debated whether concealed carry permit holders should be allowed to bring their weapons to the meetings.
“It confounds me that the safest people in the entire population are prohibited from coming in here,” Commissioner Tom Coulson said. “Do you not think they have our names and addresses and phones? They can get you at the house.”
Coulson said he doesn’t know why other commissioners are worried about the issue. Commissioner Lauren White said she doesn’t see a need to change the existing ordinance.
Commissioner Melvin McLawhorn said he believed any action involving weapons needed to be extended to remove changes that allowed permitted concealed handguns into buildings in the first place. Those modifications were made in 2015.
The discussion then shifted to what language should be included in the official notification of the public hearing — hearings must be held in order to change a county ordinance.
“You don’t want to (give notice to) the public of a proposed change and have a public hearing and then do something different than what the public was “notified) about,” County Attorney Janis Gallagher said.
The public hearing notice will state the two options being considered by the board: not allowing any weapons in rooms where the commissioners meet or revoke the rules allowing concealed weapons in county owned buildings, she said.
The public hearing was approved by a 6-3 vote with Coulson, White and Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick voting no.
There was no discussion about when the public hearing will be held; at the board’s Sept. 27 meeting or sometime in October.
Later in Monday’s meeting, Coulson, Fitzpatrick and White voted against a budget amendment that will fund $2,832 for security at commission meetings held between Aug. 26 and Dec. 1. The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office will provide the service.
In other business the commissioners:
- Unanimously voted to hold public hearings on Sept. 27 and Oct. 18 on proposed changes to their election districts.
- Took no action on a request to disband the Confederate Monument Relocation Committee. Commissioner Ann Floyd Huggins, the board’s chairwoman, recommended disbanding the committee since it had presented a recommendation to give ownership to a local group and relocate it to private property. Commissioner Tom Coulson argued the committee needed to remain intact because the transfer hasn’t taken place.
- Voted 8-1 to end a policy requiring a rotation of who could attend state and national conferences. A revised policy will be brought back at the Sept. 27 meeting. White voted no.
- Heard that the owner of a local construction firm withdrew his request to purchase a portion of county-owned property at the corner of Old Creek Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Highway. The owner said he would look for a more suitable piece of property. Staff opposed the sale because it did not meet the intended use of the property. Elliott said the county eco
- nomic development department will work with the business to locate a better site.
- Unanimously approved a plan for spending $17.5 million of American Rescue Plan funding and authorized spending the initial allocation. Six million dollars will go to funding broadband expansion, $1 million will go to purchasing personal protective equipment and other equipment, $3 million for facility upgrade, $2 million to fund essential staff premium pay and staff vaccine incentives and $350,000 for administering the spending.
- Authorized selling Kelly L. Darden III one tenth of an acre of county-owned property for $1,500. The property, which was obtained through foreclosure, adjoins Darden’s property on West Fourth Street in Greenville.
- Authorized the resolution and memorandum of agreement involving a national opioid lawsuit that the county had joined.
- Delayed action on a request to authorize a Certificate of Need allowing the transfer of 29 adult care beds from Winterville Manor to Amundi Asset Management, which plans to build “an intergenerational facility that would house an adult care facility and charter school.” Commissioners had questions about the charter school’s effect on Pitt County Schools and wanted more information on the Certificate of Need process.
- Recognized Steve and Judy Sutton, owners of S&S Farms/Homplace Strawberries for receiving the 2021 Conservation Farm Family of the Year for the State of North Carolina. The award recognizes farm families who use “sound, innovative and cost-effective conservation techniques” along with providing conservation education.
- Recognized Chad Singleton and Carina DeRoche who are, respectively, the county’s new animals services director and community relations coordinator.