Bond Referendums

Gaston Co. to consider sales tax increase for schools

The Gaston County commissioners are planning to discuss a request by the County Schools to add a 1/4 cent sales tax to help build and maintain the school system.

This will be an interesting discussion because the residents just approved a $175 million bond referendum last November, and the schools have a multi-million dollar shortfall from the previous bond funds.

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The “no-tax-but-will-fund-silly-projects” county board of commissioners will be televised tonight for your entertainment. Of course, it will be on the non-consent portion of the agenda after the consent agenda approves over $1.7 million of money including additional “donations” to DSS.

Belmont Police try to rid Stowe Park of children

Sorta anyway,                                   belmont-pd-logo.jpg

Just wrote an inflammatory headline to see if ya’ll were paying attention.

But, there is an issue brewing with the popularity of the downtown area with young and old alike.

Stowe Park has long been a gathering place for students from the junior high/now, middle school, immediately after school each day from about 3:05 to almost 6:00 PM.

After the Central Avenue bridge was renovated in 1992-1993, the Belmont Public Library saw a huge increase in the after school “attendance”. The library created a policy for behavior and time limits for this new attendance pattern.

Successive Belmont Middle School principals have had varying levels of success with afterschool clubs and activities, all pretty much completing by 4:00 PM each day.

With the opening of the Belmont General Store and Caravan Coffee Shop, students began flocking to these venues as well as the library and park area.

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Parents began “allowing” the children to go to these places afterschool. Many of the children getting “freedom” after years of afterschool child-care type programs aged them out of their licensing focus. Parents saw this freedom as also freedom from the financial burden of child-care.

So, the community must now bear the added cost of more police officers patrolling downtown Belmont and Stowe Park. As Chief James claimed in a letter to Middle School families, patrolling the park is taking away an officer from [more important] other duties during their shifts.

Caravan Coffee and the Belmont General Store, for all the goodwill that is done by these businesses, have had to call in the police to deal with the behavior of more than just a few kids at times.

The opening of the pavilion at the top of the hill in Stowe Park has contributed to a growing crowd of kids, particularly on nice days.

So, what can be done? The BannerNews did an article about the issue in last Thursday’s paper:

stowe-park-and-children-after-school.pdf

We are suggesting that the school take a more proactive approach toward afterschool “latchkey” children. “Latchkey” is a terminolgy for children who carry their housekey to let themselves in at home while the parents or guardians are away. It was also used by some political elements to stigmatize children of families who have both parents in the away-from-home workforce.

Community groups such as the the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and others have offered programs for years, specifically designed and geared to the ‘tweens and early adolescents of a community. Many times these programs meet until 5:30 or 6, but not every day. The school itself offers many clubs that meet from 3:15 to 4:00 PM, only closing down when the teacher-advisors vacate the buildings around 4’ish. Team sports generally take place from 3:15 to 5:00 PM and when games are held, large student crowds are present.

Grants are available to offer teachers incentives to stay longer to develop interesting programs and activities.

We agree, this is a particularly difficult age of student to engage. Chief James singles out the skateboarders for example, as a negative impact.

The negativeness of skateboarding and inline skating (called “boarding, or “skaters” respectively) is because the community doesn’t generally take kindly to young (mostly) boys who like individual challenges as opposed to the traditional ‘team sports” approach of engagement.

Girls like to gather in small groups to socialize, and where would that be? Close to where boys hang out – be it on the ball field or in a park area.

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The Belmont Parks and Recreation director’s comments about setting up surveillance cameras in all the parks is short-sighted and not going to accomplish a P & R goal of engagement. It will just send the students “somewhere else”.

One of the Belmont P& R department’s long term goals was to develop and operate a skate park. Now that the bond referendum has passed, it is time to move this project forward rapidly. Of course, if the placement of such a park is farther away from the prospective user group — middle school aged children– the less impactful it will be in the long run. We have long recommended that the lower (unused) tennis courts at Davis Park be the site.

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(Davis Park photo)

It is time for the elements to match up and get a comprehensive series of goals and action steps into place. We suggest that the four main groups — the school, downtown merchants, parks and recreation, and students (along with their parents) — develop this plan. It would be wise to include the police department after there is consensus on the “self-policing” process before the law enforcement brings its heavy hand to bear on the result.  

  

Ahh, Progress on Riverfront Park

Well, Well, Well, finally some progress can be seen over in East Belmont in the land area designated for the new Riverfront park.

 The two homes, originally slated to be moved, then to be used in fire department training exercises, have been demolished — Finally…

 With the passage of the Parks and Recreation Bond referendum this past November, the way has been “cleared” to begin work on the park.

Maybe the city will figure out a way to post the schematics of the park on their website so we all can see the plans for this important development.

High school plans in motion

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New Gaston school site has not yet been identified, but it would be in east end of county

Can’t wait for this site to be identified and the choice of name, colors, mascots, and whether a soccer field will be a part of the the campus plans.

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It is too bad that the county school board and the “educated” planners do not consider more urban models of school designs. These models would build on smaller land in a vertical format. The Belmont vision of “Town Center” could be accomplished, better park and community facilities such as baseball, softball, soccer, football, and cross country courses could be assembled in a workable plan that can be used year around. Of course, the school won’t be in Belmont and the new UDO of Gaston County doesn’t really address school construction issues, but it is worth a plug to keep up discussion.

Our coffee-klatch speculation is that the site will be on the McAdenville side of Lowell north of the interstate.  There is a 260+ acre piece of property that is owned by Belmont Land & Investment. It is adjacent to Lowell Elementary school and could made accessible from either exit #22 or #23 of I-85. But again, we just speculate…

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Gaston County School Bonds are Passed

Gaston County School Bond – $175,000,000
Yes 12,281 65 %
No 6,520 35

Gaston voters embrace school bonds

City Speaks – Even if it was less than 30% of Eligible Voters

There were some bright spots in the Municipal elections yesterday. 

Two new people were elected to council — Martha Stowe and Ron Foulk. One incumbent, Charlie Flowers returned to office.

Belmont Council

* Martha S. Stowe 852 20 %
* Ron Foulk 710 17 %
* Charles Flowers 556 13 %
Richard Turner 517 12 %
Curtis Gaston 509 12 %
Irl Dixon 501 12 %
Becky Burch 361 8 %
Dennis Boyce 230 5 %
Karen Valentine 56 1 %
Write-in 8 0 %

Congratulations to the new and returning council members. However, the dynamic does not change al that much.

Becky Burch was replaced by an ally in Ron Foulk. His positions on growth management  are still fuzzy and we wonder if his job responsibilities may interfer with his ability to be an effective member of council. He is a vert smart and articulate administrator and that pleases all of us, because he will take the time to read and research issues that come before council – not blindly vote as directed by others. As a community, we encourage you to watch Mr. Foulk carefully on issues such as city personnel and public safety, strategic planning, view points on annexation-related services and timelines. A person can do a lot of damage in 4 years.

Charlie Flowers’ support has diminished in this election, earning only 556 votes this time around. The overall turnout and number of candidates certainly contributed to the number. We hope that he would have promised to stay awake through the council meetings and work sessions in return for his re-election bid, but he didn’t offer that to the voters. It is difficult to see if he will still carry his chip on the shoulder towards newcomers to the community or if he will embrace the positives that come with planned growth and management.

The new triumvirate will line up with Flowers, Foulk, and Martin setting the tone and quite possibly fighting the manager’s and mayor’s overall strategic comprehensive growth agenda. Basically, this election result guarantees that we will see at least two more years of personal agendas over what is best for the community.

Martha Stowe brings a good mind and energy to the council. We hope that she will remain even-handed in this public role. She is certainly articulate and will speak her mind.

All are supporters of parks and recreation plans. That is a good thing. With the approval of the Bond, the Parks and Recreation Department can seriously begin work on their master plan of 2003.

Belmont Park and Rec. Bond – $12,000,000
* Yes 1,046 69 %
No 477 31 %

We certainly expect that Mr. Dixon and his 100-year family legacy will be back for either another run for council or to challenge as Mayor. That will bear watching the next two years.

Again, we will support — and watch carefully — as the new council members are seated and begin their term. 

Bonds, City Council big draws for Belmont voters

From a Gazette Update today:     vote.jpg

By Daniel Jackson
November 6, 2007 – 11:55AM
Voting got off to a busy start at Belmont Central Elementary School with only a few minor mix-ups, said Barbara Parker, the chief judge of that voting precinct.

“It started shortly after the polls opened and it’s been a steady stream ever since,” Parker said. Parker said volunteers at the other two voting precincts in Belmont sounded like they were busy, as well.

A few voters showed up that were not registered to vote at the school, but poll workers helped them find the correct precinct, she said.

“We were able to figure out where they needed to be,” Parker said.

Parker said she doesn’t know what the turnout will be like compared to previous years, but she expects more participation this year because of the school and recreation bonds on the ballot.

As of about 10 a.m., voters trickled in a few at a time. Parker said the precinct had a line early this morning, when people stopped on their way to work. She said she expects things to pick up again at lunch time and after people get off work tonight.

“We’re just crossing our fingers that the rest of the day goes the way this morning did,” Parker said.

Check back at http://www.gastongazette.com for updates on today’s voting.