LUMBERTON — Lumberton City Council members Monday recognized members of the Lumberton Dixie Angels softball team that won the Dixie Softball World Series last month in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Mayor Bruce Davis called each member of the team and coaching staff to the platform at the start of the Council’s regular monthly meeting, with the group receiving two standing ovations from Council members and the few dozen members of the community occupying the Council Chambers inside City Hall.
“The Lumberton Dixie Angels played a full summer of great softball,” Davis said. “The Dixie Angels team represented the Lumberton Softball Association, Robeson County and the City of Lumberton and the state of North Carolina in a positive light.”
The team played in the district tournament in Hoke County, finishing as runner-up with a 3-2 record, and won the state tournament in Southport with a 4-1 record, before an undefeated run through five World Series games to win the championship.
Team members include Lacie Campbell, Sadie Smith, Taylor Stone, Lucy Connor, Brooke Fleury, Laci Lewis, Caroline Walton, Haven Sampson, Aydan Davis, Zyriannah Rogers, Brookes Baffaro and Khloe Carter. The team is coached by Chris Connor, Nick Baffaro and Amanda Smith.
As each team member was recognized, they were presented with a plaque that includes a team photo, the names of all 12 players and three coaches, and the inscription “Congratulations Dixie Angels, 2023 Dixie Softball World Series Champions, Presented September 11, 2023, Mayor and Council.”
Assistant coach Nick Baffaro took the chance to state the need for a softball-focused facility in the city, saying every town the team has played in the last two summers in Dixie Softball tournaments has a facility similar to Lumberton’s Dr. Raymond B. Pennington Athletic Complex, but — unlike the Pennington Complex — is dedicated solely to softball, and that the city cannot currently host a district tournament, let alone a state tournament or World Series, with its current facilities.
“Those fields and those facilities make a huge difference in how those girls perceive softball, and how much time and effort they put into it. The City of Lumberton really needs to consider that, we’ve had space available, and we’ve had plans, or rumors of plans, to put that park out there at (the Pennington Complex) for our girls to play softball,” Baffaro said. “We only have two fields for softball. We make it work, but just know that if we want to host (tournaments), we’re going to have to put some city money into the facilities so we can host those.”
The Lumberton Softball Association had 160 girls play softball this spring, with 100 already signed up for fall ball, Baffaro said.
Council denies funeral home rezoning
In other business, Council denied a rezoning request by Matthew Blanks for a property on the 2400 block of North Roberts Avenue to operate a funeral home.
The request was to rezone the property from B-3 office-residential to B-4 general commercial.
Three residents who live nearby spoke in the meeting against the request, which the city’s Planning Board had unanimously recommended to that Council members deny.
One resident, Brittany Alvarado, stated a concern that a funeral home would add to traffic in an already busy area, and also mentioned that noisy animals on adjacent properties may not allow for the quiet space that a funeral home would typically desire. Another resident, Kathy Carmichael, noted that there’s already construction adjacent to the site — a Highway 55 eatery currently under construction on neighboring property to the east.
Councilman John Carroll, in whose Precinct 3 the property resides, made the motion to deny the request. Council members approved the motion 6-0, with members Leroy Rising and Chris Howard absent.
“The property is actually categorized as low-intensity use in the land-use plan. I don’t find that the proposed use of a funeral home, nor many of the other uses in the B-4 category, be consistent with the land use plan,” Carroll said. “In addition, a funeral home would require considerable parking; if you’ve got a prominent person there there’s no way it could accommodate the parking for that facility.”
A rezoning and special use permit request by Jason Britt to build a mobile home park on Taylor Drive was tabled indefinitely per the request of the applicant.
Public Works items
Several items regarding projects by the city’s Public Works Department were approved by Council members.
The most notable was a contract amendment for the project to construct a floodgate underneath Interstate 95 near VFW Road, in a flood-prone area not far from the Lumber River.
Design work for the project is approximately 95% complete, Public Works Director Rob Armstrong said. Plans are being reviewed by state agencies, and will require additional geotechnical soils information.
The state is also requiring the design to include plans to pump water out of the area between I-95, West Fifth Street and the railroad track that runs near the floodgate site when the future floodgate will be closed. This is because water naturally flows from this area toward the river, underneath the interstate, but will be unable to do so when the floodgate is closed, which could flood the area during a heavy-rain event.
The amendment will cost an additional $646,317.48, bringing the total engineering contract with Akins Global for the floodgate’s design to $2,273,668.13; this will be paid for out of the state appropriated funds for the project. The amount includes additional project management expenses being incurred as the project slowly progresses.
“The good news is we have a lot of funding for this project,” Armstrong said. “The question is we don’t know how much this will add to the construction costs of this project. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and provide what we have to provide.”
Council also approved for Public Works to apply for a N.C. Department of Environmental Quality grant to study the potential impacts and removal of PFAS chemical compounds at both the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and Water Plant.
New grant opportunities of up to $500,000 are currently being offered by the state specifically for evaluating PFAS chemicals in facilities such as these.
Other Public Works-related items approved include:
— A lift-station pump for the Kenny Biggs Lift Station, which will be purchased for $53,589.79; there is $65,000 budgeted for the project. A pump for the Cricklewood Lift Station was also approved at a cost of $8,110, which was not budgeted but will be made available from savings on another project.
— An upgrade for the programmable logic controllers at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, at a cost of $54,417.00. There is $40,000 budgeted for this project; the balance will be paid for by delaying a previously-approved project that can be postponed, Armstrong said.
— A two-year contract with Gregory Poole to service the city’s 37 generators twice annually, at a cost of $43,128.94 per year or $88,414.32 over two years. The cost will be divided among departments proportionally based on each department’s number of generators.
— A new forklift for the Wastewater Treatment Plant at a cost of $37,926.63. There is $30,000 budgeted for the project, with the balance covered by cost savings from other capital projects.
— A new portable sewer bypass pump at a cost of $59,970.50; there is $65,000 budgeted for the project.
— A professional services contract with The Wooten Company for a sanitary sewer outfall evaluation on Noir Street. The Wooten Company will handle plans, specs, bidding and construction management at a cost of $59,000, to be paid for from N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Asset Inventory and Assessment Grant funds.
Armstrong also briefed Council that a water main break had occurred Monday afternoon on Lackey Street, but by the time of the meeting it had been repaired and the water was back on.
In other business, Council members:
— Approved a request by First Baptist Church to close a block of East Sixth Street, from Pine to Walnut streets, for safety reasons. The road separates the two pieces of property where the church has ministries taking place, and the primary parking area is located across Sixth Street from the church’s primary meeting areas. The closure comes with the condition that the city maintains a utility easement in the width of the current right of way.
— Approved a resolution for the Lumberton Fire Department to declare a turnout gear dryer as surplus and donate it to the Bladenboro Fire Department, and to declare a cascade system as surplus and donate it to the Lumberton Rescue Squad.
— Approved surveying, legal and asbestos services for three properties being renovated as part of Community Development Block Grant-Neighborhood Revitalization projects relating to homes damaged in Hurricane Florence.
Council also approved the following allocation of Community Revitalization Funds:
— $2,500 for a Community Day in precincts 5 and 6.
— $1,900 to the United Way to assist the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
— $1,800 to McCormick Chapel for an anniversary program.
— $1,600 for the Carolina Civic Center for the 12th annual Robeson County Christmas Show.
— $1,300 to the Robeson County Partnership for Children.
— $750 to Patriots Cove for its second annual golf tournament.
— $600 to Cheer XCel for its golf tournament.
— $500 to Cromartie Temple for a 60th anniversary program.
— $250 to Greater Chrysolite Church for a back to school event.
Sports editor Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected].