ABERDEEN – Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle asked for board of aldermen support July 21 for the city to adopt an ordinance potentially resulting in fines to business owners who allow the use of marijuana inside their establishments.
“What we’re experiencing is loud odors of marijuana coming out of businesses. Basically, what we want to do is set an ordinance in the city limits of Aberdeen that if the Aberdeen Police Department comes in and you have customers or whomever in there, then you are allowing them to interact and do what they want to do at your establishment. We’re asking you to set an ordinance so we can go in and fine that owner. This isn’t talking about in homes. We’re talking about strictly businesses – restaurants, games and billiards, clubs. Basically, that’s what we’re running into,” he said.
He clarified he is not trying to shut down certain establishments.
“It’s not trying to put anybody out of business but if you’re going to run an establishment, you’re going to run it correctly,” Randle said.
In answering Ward 1 Alderman Nicholas Holliday’s question, Randle said the ordinance would lead to fines, not arrests unless officers find people to be in possession of marijuana.
The issue was tabled, but city attorney Walter Zinn, Jr. was asked to draft an ordinance for the board to consider for approval. He voiced his concerns about the matter.
“I do not see what constitutional grounds would allow you to fine them for conducting just illegal activity. As the chief has already said, there are laws in place if the business is facilitating criminal conduct, nuisance, incidences of violence, etc, but for us to start going to private premises and giving them a ticket for an odor when there’s a law already in place that allows the law to go in there if illegal activity is being suspected or a search warrant can be conducted, etc.,” said Zinn, who will research Randle’s request. “My concern would be subjecting the city to any type of lawsuit for violating private enterprises’ rights.”
In other business, Aberdeen’s city clerk position is currently open.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Lady B. Garth rescinded her motion from the previous meeting to appoint Tamanda Griffin as city clerk and reappoint her to her previous position as utility accountant. The motion, seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Edward Haynes, included posting and advertising for a new city clerk with qualifications.
The vote passed 3-2, with Ward 4 Alderwoman Carolyn Odom and Ward 5 Alderman John Allen voting against.
After the meeting, Howard said the position’s salary range is between $45,000 and $60,000 and qualifications include municipal or governmental experience, an accounting background and a degree in business administration or accounting.
He expects the board to take action on a hire at its next meeting, which is Aug. 4. Howard also thanked the voters for re-electing him as mayor, saying he and the board are working well together to move the city forward.
During its previous meeting, the board voted 3-2 to reinstate the Mayor Maurice Howard’s salary for the current budget year, totaling $32,008 in unallocated funds previously unused for his salary and the next two monthly pay periods for August and September.
During citizen input, Derrell Price asked Odom and Allen why they voted against reinstating his salary. Allen didn’t think it was justified, and Odom said Howard hasn’t proven to her he has earned it as of yet.
Earlier in the meeting, Allen said he was confused about the wording in the previous meeting’s minutes about the action taken.
“It reads exactly as it happened. The $32,000 that was left as unallocated funds will be paid out in the months of August and September. Going forward, the current salary is $51,000,” Howard said reading the minutes.
Aldermen approved for an address alongside Burnett Street to be rezoned to accommodate for a barbershop.
Garth made additions to motions she made during the previous board meeting reflecting Zinn as the city prosecutor for the remainder of the term and for Aberdeen City Judge Adrian Haynes to be in place for the four-year term as well.
Also during citizens’ input, Rev. Brenda Harrison and William Justice shared their individual concerns about littering and cars going in excessive speeds throughout town, which were further discussed during aldermen input.
“What I’m asking the board to do is to propose an ordinance. The first fine, when you’re caught littering throwing it out of the car or whether you’re walking down the street, would be $100. Second is $200, third $300 and fourth, you have a ride downtown,” Garth said.
Allen addressed the speeding issue.
“One of the problems that’s happening is the chief responds, the police department responds but they’re going so fast, by the time the police gets there, they’re gone,” he said. “One thing is they have started running radar on Thayer and also on West Commerce, so they are trying to slow them down.”
Holliday asked for the public to be patient in addressing issues, saying the police department is currently underfunded and stretched thin.
Haynes, who defended Odom during Price’s early comments, said people need to be respectful when appearing before the board.
“If you have a personal vendetta against me, come and see me. You don’t have to come before the board. If you have any issue with anybody on this board, go see them. Don’t come and try to show out and complain,” he said.
During her input, Odom briefly shared her frustrations about purchases through the city’s spending freeze enacted by the previous administration. The freeze has yet to be lifted.
“All this new equipment, and a lot of it is money that the city doesn’t have, I’m so upset about it that I don’t want to talk about it tonight,” she said.
The past two meetings have been held in the city’s courtroom, where new microphones were installed for crowds to better hear board discussion.
Following an executive session, aldermen approved to rebid a demolition job alongside Washington Street and a drainage project alongside Walters Drive.