A proposed ban on concealed firearms in the county’s parks was struck down on Tuesday by the board of commissioners.
The defeated ordinance was drafted by a policy committee that included Commissioner Carol McCall after the issue was brought to the board by the public. The vote was 5 to 2, with McCall and Commissioner Guy McCook in support of the ban.
“We did not seek out this issue, it came to us, and that is why I think it was important for the board to address,” McCall said. “But I am a little passionate about (the issue).”
The possibility of banning firearms in public parks was debated five months ago during a public forum at the county courthouse organized by the policy committee.
Until November of last year, a county ordinance prohibited residents with concealed carry handgun permits from bringing handguns into parks.
On Dec. 1, 2011 a North Carolina state law became effective prohibiting local governments from banning guns in public recreational facilities.
The same law does allow local governments, many of which had already banned guns in parks, to adopt ordinances prohibiting concealed handguns and other weapons on public playgrounds, athletic fields and facilities, and swimming pools.
“I think because of the way our parks are situated, so close together, and close to buildings and children, that allowing hand guns and concealed weapons in them is not appropriate,” McCall said. “We don’t allow them in our buildings, or our courthouse, or our air ports, so why would we allow them at the Splash Pad?”
McCall was joined by McCook in her support of the ban. The remainder of the board voted in favor of taking no action on the matter.
“We’ve had no issues in the past with those who carry permits, so I don’t see any need to bother them,” said Commissioner John Alford in defense of his vote.
Alford said that if there is an incident in the future, then the issue should be re-visited.
Commissioners Bob Davis and Joyce McDow both cited feedback from residents as the reason for their dissent.
In other business, the county approved an updated property tax card that will display more detailed information about how tax dollars are spent.
The new document was based on the current Surry County tax card and feature two full letter-sized pages. The front of the new card features a description of the tax bill. The reverse side includes a chart breaking down how tax dollars are spent by department by total and by percentage.
County Manager Kevin Patterson announced plans to develop a motor pool that will include “basically any vehicle that is used less than four days per week” during his presentation to the board.
The motor pool would allow the county to consolidate vehicle usage and “find those vehicles that we can auction off and dispose of them to reduce costs.”
“We may also look for other partners that our vehicles may be useful for” in an effort to share costs with them, Patterson said.
-Per the recommendation of its zoning board the commissioners approved a conditional use permit for a Verizon Wireless “telecommunications facility” — a tower that will be placed on Nashville Church Road in Laurel Hill.
Based on the same recommendation, the board also approved a permit granting “ENLight Solar” of Chapel Hill right to construct a solar array on Gibson Road in Laurinburg. The construction is expected to take place in 40-acre increments, with solar arrays being added to additional 40-acre portions on the 276-acre property.
According to ENLight CEO Phil Nyborg “each 40-acre solar array would add millions to the tax base.”
Commissioner John Cooley said that”with little else going (into the tax base) that is positive” the solar array is benefitial for all parties involved.