City accepts $20,000 for code enforcement

At Monday evening’s Henderson City Council meeting, members voted to accept a gift of $20,000 from the Friends of Clean Up Henderson to conduct title searches on abandoned houses within the City.

Friends of Clean Up Henderson is an offshoot of the original Clean Up Henderson Committee. Its purpose it to find and manage financial resources to support ordinance-oriented beautification efforts in Henderson.

Pastor Harold Harris, who currently chairs the 501(c)(3), presented to the Council during the public comments portion of the meeting. Stating that one of his mottos is “Welcome to the beautiful city of Henderson”, he told members that the organization was formed to partner with the City.

Harris informed Council members that there are over 200 abandoned structures within Henderson’s limits and suggested that Clean Up Henderson could help. He stated that he wanted to commit $20,000 to the City for title searches on newly pursued abandoned structures.

The pastor said that money would be disbursed as invoices were received. He stated that this was the preference of his group.

Henderson Mayor Clem Seifert replied that the offer was “gracious” and that he thought it would be appropriate to accept the offer.

The Council has attempted to establish a policy in which they receive guest presentations as information and do not act upon them immediately. It was shortly revealed, however, that this gift had been arranged in advance in consultation with City Manager Jerry Moss.

Council member Lonnie Davis moved to accept the money, and the motion was seconded by Council member Bobby Gupton.

Harris went on to thank North Carolina State Representative Jim Crawford and others for assistance his group has received. Crawford was instrumental in the group’s receipt of funding from the General Assembly.

Council member Lynn Harper thanked Seifert, who serves on the Friends of Clean Up Henderson in an ex officio capacity. The Mayor quipped that ex officio means, “do nothing, get the credit.”

Harper then asked City Attorney John Zollicoffer if she needed to recuse herself from the vote. Harper serves on the board of Friends of Clean Up Henderson as one of its founding members. Zollicoffer stated that she could participate in the vote, as she receives no remuneration from her participation.

Council member Bernard Alston commended Harris’ group, stating his belief that it is a “wonderful thing”. He noted that the spirit of Friends of Clean Up Henderson is similar to that “that helped us get that library”.

Mary Emma Evans, a Council member noted for her support of both Clean Up Henderson and the new H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library, voiced her support for Alston’s statement.

Harper said that the City Manager and Code Compliance Director Corey Williams would work on eight to ten houses a week until every [abandoned] house has civil penalties on it. She said that this would “put pressure on owners and not on taxpayers”.

The motion to accept the gift passed unanimously.