Newest town plans future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2005

The town of Westover recently cleared the way to advance economic growth to control traffic at Highway 280 and County Road 55, to sell surplus property and heard heart-felt expression from residents over the burning of a house at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

The council unanimously approved ordinances in the absence of councilman Ed Bahr allowing the mayor to enter contracts and agreements with developers and businesses to encourage economic development in Westover.

To that end, the council approved a resolution to adopt a safety project for State Department of Transportation improvements at Highway 280 and County Road 55.

The project would include grading, drainage, paving and traffic warning devices (flashing caution lights on U.S. 280 and flashing red lights on County Road 55 at the intersection).

The council also approved a resolution to sell excess property by sealed bids including a wood structure with metal siding and roof (some panels missing); a wood-frame pole barn with metal sheathing roof and sidewalls (some panels missing); a shed with aluminum sheathing roof and sidewalls, wood floor, four windows, double door and two ceiling lights; and a double carport, 20 by 20 feet with a center of 10 feet and sidewalls of 8 feet with adjustable legs, metal roof and side curtains.

The minimum bid for the aluminum shed would be $200 and the minimum bid for the double carport would be $350.

The council named candidates for its board of zoning adjustments including Vickie Alexander, Bobby Pardue, Roberta Stamp, Connie Kennedy and Jeanelle Bennett.

There are two other positions open on the board.

Official appointments were slated to be made after presstime on Feb. 1.

The council tabled a motion for the mayor to negotiate an agreement with the Westover Fire Department for services including a timeline to municipalize the fire department.

The council also approved an ordinance to amend its budget to reflect the beautification board and approved a motion to spend up to $1,400 for a display and brochures promoting the town.

When City Clerk Wayne Jones questioned where the funding would come from, discussion included revenues from surplus property and Councilmember Jeanne Champion-Fisch pointed out that the town would have a year to raise the necessary funds.

Three residents appeared before the council to discuss the recent burning of the old parsonage house at Mt. Zion Church.

Edwin Chappell and Bill and Linda Smith addressed the council about the burning.

According to the three, they had hoped to postpone the burning of the house as a training exercise for the Westover Fire Department to give time for someone to make use of the building.

However, the building in question was burned by the fire department the night before the council meeting.

Chappell said she felt the building could have been used. She said she went inside the old house not knowing it was going to be burned before the council met.

She said of that development, &uot;It was like someone tore your heart out.&uot;

Bill and Linda Smith, both members of Mt. Zion, apologized to the community for the burning of the building.

Linda Smith acknowleged that a majority of the church members voted to allow the house to be burned. But she said it was to be burned in a training exercise by three fire departments instead of one.

She said, however, she and her husband started receiving calls from concerned citizens about the fate of the old house. She also said it was thought someone could use the house and move it.

She said the meeting of the Town Council was announced in church.

She said of the burning of the church before the meeting, &uot;I want to apologize to my friends and neighbors.&uot;

Mayor Mark McLaughlin said of the council, &uot;This is the place for us to come together as a community to discuss issues.

&uot;As the community changes and grows, there will be a lot of issues coming up. It’s good to have this forum, (even) if after the fact,&uot; he said.

J.R. Harris, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, acknowledged that some people were upset about the house burning. But he said the church went through a process in which the house was offered to families for use.

He said the church looked into moving the old house, as well. However, he said, that would have cost $7-10,000.

The church decided to let the fire department have the old house for a training exercise after members saw no other options, he said.

The fire department had been given a deadline to burn the house before Feb. 1. He said a period of three months had been allowed for someone to offer to take the house and for the house to be burned.

Harris said the decision of when to burn the church was in the hands of the fire department.

He said he was told that the burning the night before the council met had been set by the fire department two weeks in advance.

Harris, who was not present at the council meeting, said he did not attend because he thought it was just a meeting to discuss saving the house, which became a moot point after it was burned.

He said had he known the meeting was a regularly schedule council meeting, he would have attended.

Harris said he felt the church used the house as a means to help others by offering it to families and letting the fire department use it for training.

He said the decision to burn it was announced at three services and published in the church bulletin.

He said as the church grows the property where the old house sat could be used for parking and eventually paved with a brick sign indicating the presence of the church.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church has 100 members on its roll but averages 45 to 50 members per week. He said it was established in 1946-47