Less than a week after announcing he would not seek a second term of office in late June, Aberdeen Commissioner Ken Byrd died from a heart-related incident at home.
On Monday, his fellow board members gathered for the first official town meeting since his passing. A single white rose adorned his place at the table and, following a moment of silence to honor his memory, the first order of business was to decide how to best proceed in his absence.
Under North Carolina law, the Town Board is authorized to appoint a qualified replacement, but there are no specific guidelines on how soon this must occur.
Town Manager Paul Sabiston had consulted with Town Attorney T.C. Morphis and presented three options: appoint an eligible candidate immediately, solicit applications and make a decision at a later date, or keep the seat vacant and allow it to be filled by the upcoming election.
This year’s ballot includes incumbent Elease Goodwin and newcomers Teressa Beavers, Bryan Bowles, Peter Campbell and Adriana Marquez Janker vying for one of three open commissioner seats. Incumbent Mayor Robbie Farrell is running unopposed for a third term as mayor.
“Given the nearness in time to the next election...there is no harm if you feel the need to wait until the election and fill the seat in its natural course,” said Sabiston.
Farrell noted when longtime Southern Pines Councilman Fred Walden died in September 2018, the next municipal election was more than a year away. In that instance, the Town Council had accepted applications to fill his unexpired term.
“This is unfortunate, a tragic situation losing Ken like this,” he said.
Farrell said there are seven meetings on the town’s calendar prior to the anticipated date when any new members elected to office would be sworn-in. He also strongly advised against appointing any of the current candidates.
“Whatever we do, there are only about seven meetings,” Farrell said.
Following brief discussion, the Town Board voted unanimously to keep Byrd’s chair vacant, thus allowing voters to determine who will be seated in November.
In other action during Monday’s work session, the Aberdeen Town Board:
Reviewed the town’s financial statements for the previous fiscal year. John Frank with Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP, presented a clean audit report.
Appointed Commissioner Wilma Laney to serve as the town’s primary delegate to the Triangle J Council of Government, filling Ken Byrd’s seat, and reappointed Commissioner Joe Dannelley to continue as the alternate.
Accepted resignations from Planning Board members Raymond Lee and Heidi Whitescarver. A professor at UNC-Pembroke, Lee has previously served as chairman, but said his new work schedule would not accommodate meetings. Whitescarver, a retired Army nurse who was the town’s ETJ member, is returning to graduate school. Current Planning Board alternate member Roger Bone was promoted to fill Lee’s seat. Whitescarver’s ETJ seat on the Planning Board remains vacant.
Reappointed Planning Board member Bill Prevatte to a second three-year term, to expire in August 2022.
Approved a 12-month extension of the town’s conditional zoning for a 17-acre tract on SW Broad Street, behind the Nature’s Own store. Mid-State Development has proposed a 69-lot single family home subdivision. As part of negotiations with NC-DOT, the proposed connection to Council Way has been restructured to directly connect with Saunders Boulevard. The Aberdeen Town Board held a public hearing and initially approved the project in April 2018. The extension period expires in April 2020.
Approved a letter of support for the Little Nine Conservancy efforts to protect a 100-acre tract of mostly undeveloped land, located in Southern Pines and adjacent to Ray Mill’s Park in Aberdeen.
Approved a request to abandon the right-of-way on four interior roadways on the former McBrayer Leith dealership property at the corner of U.S. 15-501 and U.S. 1. A development company is expected to propose a redevelopment project for the site that includes restaurant, retail and a gym facility.