Weekend delinquent ‘terrorism’ reported by River City residents

By Peggy Mackenzie

The Ronceverte City Council heard public comments on a number of topics during the Monday evening meeting, including complaints by several residents of persistent harassment and terrorizing by four to five youths.

Asking for assistance from the City Council members, residents came to the meeting to report numerous upsetting incidences over the holiday weekend, including gunfire at occupied homes, dirt bikes tearing up private property, revving motors and wheelies for hours at a time, exploding fireworks late into the night all weekend, and golf carts on the street, ridden by four to five under-aged youths, potentially endangering themselves and others. The elderly residents in the area reported fearing retaliation by the delinquent youths who purportedly behaved in a threatening or inconsiderate manner when confronted.

Mayor David Smith said fireworks are not allowed within city limits other than on July 4th and only up to 10 p.m. at night. He urged the complainants to call 911 when the offenses are occurring so that police can witness and act appropriately. Chief Jerry Hopkins stated he would take statements and other evidence of negligent behavior in the complaints and to check the 911 calls for confirmation. With only a single officer on duty in town, Hopkins said the officer is required to focus on the most demanding call, which sometimes means he cannot attend to other issues at the same time.

In other City business:

  • On another public comment topic, a resident asked the council to enforce the in-town grass mowing ordinance and try to contact an absentee neighbor whose lawn is over-grown.
  • Two residents, Tanya Hazelwood and Heather Masters, intent on offering their creative talents to the City, inquired about the progress of various areas where they might offer improvements. They were invited to attend the next Ronceverte Development Corporation and Main Street Ronceverte meeting, where their support, ideas and energies would be well received. Hazelwood, a local artist, has already installed two murals on Main Street. Her aim, she says, “is to bring a spark of color and energy to Ronceverte.” The RDC’s goals focus on the facilitation of economic restructuring, the revitalization of downtown Ronceverte, and the promotion of downtown businesses.
  • Lastly, Chief Casey Morgan of the Ronceverte Volunteer Fire Department, aired concerns with the City, stating his requests for financial assistance have “fallen on deaf ears” with regard to the fire department’s budget. “We’ve lost the use of a 34-year old fire truck,” he said, “which we cannot afford to replace.” A new fire truck would cost $150,000 and to keep the other trucks in service it takes another $14,500. He questioned how it was that the City could put thousands of dollars into projects such as sidewalks and street lighting while ignoring the vital needs of the fire department. “Our budget is strapped,” he said.

While the City covers the fire department’s fuel, utilities and insurance, Smith disputed some of Casey’s information and tried to give clarity to how City government policies work. The city improvement projects are primarily funded by grants, he said. Since the fire department is not city employee-based, but is manned by volunteers, it does not benefit under city employee status for p-cards, for example. Smith said, as a peace offering, he would confer with the fire marshal for fire regulations options and council will approve the fire department’s request to set a bucket drive for the Labor Day weekend. “We know we need a fire department,” Council member Barbara Morgan affirmed in closing.

  • The council approved the usual waste water resolutions for invoice payments and a permanent easement agreement. Bob Hazelwood, with E.L. Robinson Engineering, said due to Covid-19, the scheduled timing of the two water projects are seeing delays. He projected that work will resume in the fall. Phase III of the water line repairs and reinstallation is eligible for grant funding for the $2 million project. Both the water system upgrade and factored-in legal service fees from Spillman, Thomas and Battle were approved.
  • The new fiscal year marked the appointment and reappointment of applicants for serving on city committees. The Mayor listed the new appointees as follows:

– Library Trustees: Pam Arnold-five-year term

– Planning Commission: Rusty Byer and Gail White – three year terms

– Zoning Board of Appeals – Madonna Morgan Peer – three year term

– Cemetery Board of Trustees: Rusty Byer, Ed Sweptson and Gail White – five year terms

– Historic Landmarks Commission: Michael Palm and Kathy King – three year terms; and Rusty Arnold – two years left from a three year term

– City Tree Board: Sally Parker and Susan Morgan – two years left of a three year terms; and Vi Hedrick – three year term

– Park & Recreation Commission: Nate Baker and Mark Ballard – one year terms; and Cheri Davis – two year term

– Sanitary Board: Jason Brown – three year term

  • The council went into executive session to discuss legal and personnel issues. The Mayor said that with the recent departure of the City Manager, the City is reviewing options to hire a replacement for former City Manager Reba Mohler, who will likely be in place within the month.