Council picks Wood as chief

Published 1:58 am Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Community Editor

BELHAVEN — Projects and personnel dominated the Town Council’s meeting Monday night.
Mayor Adam O’Neal announced that Paul Wood will take over as chief of the Belhaven Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. Wood was acting as assistant chief under interim chief Jimmy Davis. With Davis’ contract with the town expiring Monday, Wood, who has served as the town’s fire chief in the past, was elevated to the chief’s post.
The council approved Wood’s appointment with a 3-0 vote. Councilmen Mac Pigott and Nelson Guy were absent from the meeting.
Before Davis handed the reins of the fire department to Wood, O’Neal asked Davis to come before the council. Davis gave his last department update, noting the improved relationship between the council and department since he took over as chief on a interim basis last November.
“Our department has strived to work with the Town Council in accomplishing things such as the renovation to the fire station, purchasing new equipment, surplus old equipment and applying for grants. As a result, the working relationship between the two has improved tremendously in the past seven months,” he said.
Davis cited the department’s upcoming rating-response survey, which has a direct impact on the town’s fire-insurance rating. Davis said he identified many areas of concern in regard to the survey, including a lack of training hours and proper equipment. Those issues have been addressed, Davis said.
Davis said the department has 25 active members, with three junior firefighters.
Lastly, he said renovations to the Belhaven fire station were nearing completion.
“It will be something that the town and fire department can be proud of once completed and the fire department is completely moved back in,” Davis said.
O’Neal praised Davis for his hard work since taking over the department from former Chief Derrick Myers, who was ousted last year by the council.
“We are so happy you were available when Belhaven needed you,” he said.
O’Neal was pleased with Davis’ help with renovations to the fire station and his dedication to firefighter training.
“There was some controversy with the building, but there’s no way you can’t call it a success,” O’Neal said.
Additional access
“We have very limited waterfront access in town,” said Belhaven native and Raleigh resident C. Brantley Tillman at the meeting.
Tillman, Henry Boyd, Graham Farmer, Joe Lassiter and Cheryl Coleman are offering the town a piece of waterfront property in west Belhaven for a fraction of its appraised value.
According to a proposed contract included in the council’s agenda packet, a recent appraisal of the nine-acre property indicated it has a fair-market value of $3,600,000. Tillman said the group is prepared to sell the property to the town for $1,200,000 in cash at closing.
In addition, Tillman said the town may receive a matching grant of up to $1,800,000, half of what the property was appraised at, from the state of North Carolina to purchase the property. If the town receives the maximum grant amount from the state, the property could be paid for without the town spending a dime of its money, he said. If that happens, the town could have $600,000 to improve the property.
Lassiter said a grant request from the town to the state would have to be submitted by mid-July to be included in the next grant cycle. He asked the council to authorize Leverett, working with the group of sellers, to apply for the grant.
Councilman Steve Carawan said he was hesitant to make such a motion with his fellow councilmen Guy and Pigott absent from the meeting and “given the scope of what we’re looking at.”
O’Neal asked the group if it could wait until the council’s July 12 meeting.
“I think that’s a stretch,” Lassiter said.
With that, Carawan made a motion for Leverett to move forward with the grant application contingent on the council approving the real-property contract at its next meeting.
Lassiter said he envisions the property one day being home to a public fishing pier, public wash house and boardwalk along the water’s edge.
O’Neal said he supports the project.
“Our town is going to grow,” he said. “It’s very important to protect our access to the river.”
The town has plans to provide additional access to the water with the construction of the Wynne’s Gut dock project.
Surveyor Hood Richardson, who is in charge of the project, provided the council and town with an update on the project. He said the town has a permit to build a “bulkhead, pavilion, picnic shelter, pier along the shoreline.”
“You can build any part that you want to build at any time,” he said.
The council instructed Richardson and Leverett to come up with two or three plans for the project by the council’s July 26 meeting.
O’Neal said the town has $150,000 set aside in the 2010-2011 fiscal-year budget for the project.