Aberdeen swears in eight new, full-time firefighters

ABERDEEN – The Aberdeen Town Board began its Monday, January 24, regular meeting with some positive news by recognizing and swearing in eight new full-time firefighters.

“I feel very blessed that we were able to hire eight,” said Fire Chief Phillip Richardson. “I’ve talked with FEMA and several other departments across the country that were awarded the SAFER grant, and they are having a lot of difficulty getting the people hired, and we were able to hire all of ours in one thing.”

“Six of these personnel are through what we call SAFER. They are FEMA employed and paid by a grant, and actually, $835,000 of their salary over the next few years is paid for. We’ve been very lucky over the years, this is the third time that we have received this SAFER grant, and the SAFER grant is through the US Fire. Formerly Homeland Security had ended up giving us around $3 million, and this will be our 18th full-time employee we’ve been able to get funded.”

“Aberdeen is fortunate,” said Mayor Robert Farrell. “It did not take that long for this town to hire eight firefighters, and I know there is a shortage out there, but we found eight in about a three-month period. That’s pretty remarkable to find eight firefighters in three months. And obviously, they’ve come to the best fire department in Moore County, so that’s another step right there. Moore County is fortunate because the Aberdeen Fire Department not only does Aberdeen, but it does Moore County, and it goes into Hoke County. We’ve had services in Richmond County and sent fire trucks down there. So we’re lucky, and everybody goes to sleep at night knowing these young men and ladies are on duty.”

The board also heard from a representative of Lighthorse Trace regarding a request for a speed reduction in the neighborhood.

“We had an annual meeting in December, and at that time, we had a vote of our membership, and they have requested that we reduce the speed limit in our neighborhood from 25 mph to 15 mph,” said the President of Lighthorse Trace HOA Pat McLaughlin. “That may seem very low, however, if you come to our community, you will find that the road is narrow, 50% of the homes are people who are retired, we have people walking dogs, there are no sidewalks, and it’s a big circle. So, it’s one endless turn. We feel like 25 is simply too fast.”

The board directed the chief of police to inspect the request as any official potential speed reduction first requires a recommendation by the chief to ensure that a change would be safe and that no additional measures would be required.

“We’ve got a problem everywhere in Aberdeen with people driving too fast,” Farrell said. “All the neighborhoods are seeing the same thing. It’s a problem because everybody is in a hurry, and I’m not sure why they want to get there that fast, but they do. We’ve been looking into ways to try and slow some of this traffic down. People have come up with the idea of putting up a speed hump, and that’s fine until somebody says, ‘Well, I don’t want it in front of my house.’ It’s always somebody that doesn’t want it. We’re trying to figure this thing out to make it work.”

The board then held a public hearing to consider the expenditure of public money for an economic development project to potentially incorporate and improve 73 acres of real property known as the Iron Horse Property located off Highway 211 and Carolina Road.

“We’ve been looking at an industrial development park in different versions for several years now,” said Town Manager Paul Sabiston. “Partners in Progress has done a great job in putting together kind of a package deal to really bring this industrial park to fruition. Part of the concept, which was created last year, was for both Moore County and the Town of Aberdeen to contribute $200,000 each towards the development.”

“It initially started off with road contribution to have access to the back parcel to make it more accessible for industrial development, but between the clearing and the road, we were really kind of adding some value to the property. Well, further proposals and just evolution of the project, the thought then was that maybe it would be better if another entity like Partners in Progress actually just went ahead and bought the property from Three Rivers Land Trust to give it some more flexibility in terms of moving quickly when the right manufacturer or industrial development comes along to buy the entire piece.”

According to Sabiston, manufacturers are more and more looking for sites that are ready to go and able to be moved onto quickly, so the economic development project would allow for the clearing of trees and debris off the property and construction of a road through the parcel to allow for multiple developments on the land.

“Iron Horse Industrial Park, as I’ve told you before, is the best industrial land that we have in Moore County,” said Partners in Progress Executive Director Natalie Hawkins. “It has access to rail, natural gas, town water, and sewer, it’s going to have a four-lane road when 211 is widened as well, and I think this is just a great opportunity for both the town and the county and Partners in Progress to work jointly together to get this property in the position that manufacturing clients would want to come to.”

Following the hearing, the board voted to authorize the Town Manager to issue the notice once approval once Partners in Progress and Moore County have also approved the economic development.

“This is not all about Aberdeen; it just happens to be in Aberdeen,” Farrell said. “We’re excited about it because this will help all of Moore County. This is a win for everybody.”

The board also approved the appointment of Leslie Brian to a four-year term position on the Historic Preservation Commission and approved a resolution directing the clerk to research the sufficiency of a petition for annexation by Coca-Cola Bottling for approximately 52.37 acres of land located west of Carolina Road and south of NC 211.

The Town of Aberdeen Board will next meet February 27.

By Ryan Henkel, North State Journal

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