Written by: Elizabeth Blevins
From the August 29 issue of Up & Coming Weekly –
During the August 20 Board of Commissioner’s meeting, Hope Mills received a plaque from the City-County Joint Appearance Commission, who recognized the dam at the 10th Annual Community Appearance Awards.
On September 10, Town Manager, Melissa Adams, will travel to Seattle to accept a second award, the National Rehabilitation Project of the Year Award from the Annual Association of State Dams Safety Officials (ASDSO).
Mayor Warner was approached by a representative for ASDSO several years ago and told the town and the dam might be eligible for the award. Since then, she’s worked with Melissa Adams to complete the lengthy application process.
Warner announced the award during the Board’s July 23rd meeting and opened the floor to discussion. Commissioner Jerry Legge made a motion to send Melissa Adams before any conversation was held. When Commissioner Pat Edwards asked them to consider sending Mayor Warner, the room fell silent. Commissioner Jessie Bellflowers suggested sending a citizen from the lake Advisory Committee, but that too was rejected. Eventually, Commissioner Meg Larson announced that she supported the idea of sending one person. The Board voted 4-1 to send Melissa Adams alone, with Pat Edwards being the only member who voted against the plan.
The July 23rd meeting was contentious from the start. The Lone Survivor Foundation (LSF), and their request to purchase municipal property, was discussed throughout this meeting. Nearly two dozen citizens spoke in favor of the project when Mayor Warner suspended the rules to allow public comments. Several members of the Board were opposed to allowing public comments, and presumably to LSF. Tempers flared through the 3-and-a-half-hour meeting and Commissioners Bellflowers, Larson and Mitchell all had outbursts at some point.
Bellflowers implied the process of bringing the proposal to the Board was done incorrectly, then shouted at the Mayor and accused her of interrupting him while he was technically speaking out of turn. When Commissioner Larson asked to respond to a citizen and Mayor Warner didn’t allow it, Larson became agitated and spoke anyway. Commissioner Mitchell insulted Robert van Geons, the President and CEO of the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation (FCEDC), when he asked if it was a conflict of interest for Teddy Warner, the Mayor’s son and the Director of Business Development for FDEDC, to be involved in partnering LSF with the town of Hope Mills. Mitchell also implied the staff had colluded with Mayor Warner and her son to facilitate the sale.
There was a considerable amount of tension between the Board members and the Mayor by the time she broached the topic of the award. With the vote complete, Mayor Warner asked the Board to give her permission to go and agreed to pay her own expenses. Commissioners Mitchell, Larson, Legge and Bellflowers remained silent, heads down, refusing to make eye contact with Mayor Warner or the crowd. Commissioner Edwards asked for a consensus, but the Board refused to acknowledge even this small request.
On July 27th, the Board of Directors of the Hope Mills Area Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the town and the Board of Commissioners. They formally requested Jackie Warner be allowed to attend the award ceremony…
“Mayor Warner has been working diligently and steadfast on the dam project for nearly four years and has played a vital role in acquiring the settlement to rebuild the damn and replenish the lake. Mayor Warner is the ambassador for the town of Hope Mills. It is only proper and fitting that she accompany Town Manager Adams in accepting this most prestigious and well-earned award.”
The Board of Commissioners have ignored the letter and refused to reply. Interestingly, there was a Board of Commissioners meeting scheduled for September 10. At the August 20 meeting, the Board voted to cancel it since Melissa Adams would be in Seattle and couldn’t attend. There is nothing preventing Mayor Warner from attending the ceremony in Seattle, but she’s chosen to not attend citing a need to honor the wishes of the Board members.