Councilmen clash over renovations

Published 7:01 pm Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Community Editor

BELHAVEN — Councilmen Nelson Guy and Steve Carawan found themselves in a heated exchange over renovations to the Belhaven fire station during the Town Council’s meeting Monday night.
Guy lit a flame under Carawan when he grilled code-enforcement officer Marty Overholt over the installation, and subsequent replacement, of a drop ceiling for the second floor of the station.
“Why would you change what you’re doing from a drop ceiling to something else?” Guy asked Overholt.
Overholt paused for a moment, then he said it wasn’t his idea to replace the newly installed ceiling. John White, who was installing the ceiling, said Carawan and Belhaven Fire Chief Jimmy Davis, told him the drop ceiling was not going to work, according to Overholt.
“So, you’ve got councilmen telling you what to do?” Guy asked Overholt.
“Are we done with this?” Councilman Mac Pigott, visibly perturbed, said.
With that, Overholt began giving his renovation report. He said the work crew had been putting in cabinets.
“Nothing special; just get it done,” he said.
As Overholt finished his report, Carawan fired back at Guy.
“Councilman Guy, without saying anything to anybody, decided he was going to get up here and make another councilman look stupid,” he said.
Carawan said that he nixed the drop ceiling because it wasn’t practical, adding that he, at 6 foot, 2 inches tall, had about 2 inches of clearance from the ceiling when he was fully upright.
“I’m looking out for the people’s money,” he said. “To call what’s going on down there efficient is an insult to efficiency.”
He continued to question his fellow councilman’s tactics, saying, “My phone number is in the book; give me a call.”
“If we’re not supposed to say it in front of the public, why do we have the meeting?” Guy responded.
Guy contended that Carawan’s micro-managing is making the project less efficient and costing taxpayers more money.
“We’ve had a lot of people involved, and that’s tough,” Mayor Adam O’Neal said in regard to the renovation project.
O’Neal said when he recently renovated his house, it turned into just as much of a logistical and organizational nightmare.
“But I think we’re getting close to the finish,” O’Neal said. “I hope we have it open by the Fourth of July.”
In other business, the proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1, will be presented to the council Friday. Copies will be available at the town’s municipal building and library.
The council will hold a budget workshop at 5:30 p.m. June 14 in the Belhaven Civic Center, to be followed by a public hearing on the proposed budget at 7 p.m.
“I think we’re getting started with plenty of time to spare,” Town Manager Guinn Leverett said.
The Pungo Creek Bridge, located adjacent to Cee Bee Marina, will be closed beginning June 1 because of a bridge-replacement project. The N.C. Department of Transportation said the project should be completed within 180 days, according to Leverett.
“It’s a big blow to business. That bridge brings in a lot of traffic,” he said.
Belhaven residents Andrew and Karen Fisher used the public-comments portion of the council’s meeting to voice their displeasure with O’Neal, Leverett and Carawan. The Fishers are suing each of those men in their individual capacities as town officials and the town as a whole. They believe the town is responsible for severing the sewer line to a former service station they own. The building is on Main Street.
“They have sued all of us personally. That’s the way they do business,” O’Neal said.
The mayor said the town is not responsible for the damaged sewer line, adding that it was probably severed by a DOT crew trying to address tidal-flooding problems on Main Street.
“The DOT did dig there, and we feel like they cut the line,” O’Neal said.