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Residents rally around Elm City civic group

Posted on June 18, 2021

Local news
Elm City Forward Coalition organizer Joshua Robinson passes out literature at the Elm City Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

Drew C. Wilson | Restoration NewsMedia

Elm City Forward Coalition organizer Joshua Robinson passes out literature at the Elm City Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7818

ELM CITY –– Town residents emboldened by a new civic group showed up in large numbers to voice wide-ranging concerns at the Elm City Board of Commissioners’ regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The board’s meetings usually attract about five spectators, but this one drew 50 at the historic Elm City Train Depot.

Elm City native Joshua Robinson organized the group, which is known as the Elm City Forward Coalition.

“I think everyone showed up because we love our town,” Robinson said. “We love Elm City, and a lot of us are here because we are part of the Elm City Forward Coalition. We want to do just that, push it forward.”

Speaking on the coalition’s behalf, Robinson asked whether the 2021-22 budget includes money to hire a town manager. Elm City has been without a manager since 2018.

No one on the town board offered an answer to his question. 

Robinson said the coalition is creating a brown water database to track residents’ reports of discolored water and other water quality concerns.

“We also hope that with this database that the town works with the ECFC to get some type of water testing kits for the people,” Robinson said. “I think it is our due diligence as a town and as a board to make sure that the water that they are drinking or washing (with) or whatever is safe.”

Robinson said the coalition met with Mayor Grady Smith to create a proposal and plan to revitalize downtown, which ranks among the group’s top concerns.

“We want to see our downtown thrive. If our downtown is thriving, businesses will want to come,” Robinson said. “From the outside looking in, it doesn’t look like we are doing much.”

Smith said he and the group discussed contacting the N.C. Rural Center to inquire about financing for downtown beautification projects.

“We would love to help with it also, as you know, so that’s great that you are working with the gentleman at the Rural Center,” Robinson said. “We want to push that along. We feel like there are some things that can be done short-term that don’t take a lot of money that we can help with.”

Robinson asked whether an update is planned for Alice Spivey Memorial Park. He said the basketball goals are unsafe and need to be replaced.

“I think that this is something that should definitely take precedence,” Robinson said. “The safety of our youth is at stake.”

Robinson told commissioners the ECFC has yet to hear from the town concerning its parks and recreation proposal.

“Has the proposal been looked at, and when can we expect to hear from the town on this matter or parks and recreation?” Robinson asked

Smith said the board would take it under consideration. He noted that Elm City had a recreation commission a long time ago.

“That is still something that you could get involved in to do some things,” Smith said. “So you can see the importance of having citizens that have concerns about that park and be on a committee,” Smith said.

Robinson said he’s sure that coalition members would like to serve on the committee.

Robinson had a laundry list of concerns from town residents, from the need for lights on the Parker Street bridge to a request that the town livestream commissioners’ meetings and amplify the sound so residents can hear board discussions.

Commissioner Tawanda Moore said she appreciated the input from those in attendance.

“Thank you all for showing up, No. 1, to be concerned about your town, but we can’t do it all,” Moore said.

She said the town could use the coalition’s help in distributing surveys for a community development block grant application that could result in up to a $2 million improvement in Elm City’s drinking water.

“We want to see our city progress, so we are going to get the surveys done,” Robinson said. 

Residents’ complaints ranged from clogged ditches to flooded yards.

“We will manage somehow to get to all these things,”  Smith said.

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