This was perhaps the most interesting segment of the Ramseur Board of Commissioners meeting this month. It was pretty obvious from where I was sitting that Commissioner Smith was preparing to throw shade at someone on the Board, though at the time I wasn’t sure who his target was.
Smith began by asking “where are we at on the Rail Trail?” There was a Randolph Hospital Community Health grant application made in August, 2018, about a week after Smith was appointed to the Board, and after five months he should be up to speed.
The grant application states that the Town of Ramseur has either ownership of or easements across all properties required to complete phase II of the Deep River Rail Trail project. That turns out to be a false statement since, as Smith alluded in his comments, another Board member had recently purchased a property, which falls squarely within the footprint of this section of proposed trail.
As the conversation began sliding off the rails Commissioner Caudle had the presence of mind to suggest the Board enter closed executive session to discuss the issue, which they did. Upon returning to open session it was announced that no votes or decisions were made while in executive session.
My research indicates that Commissioner David Overman recently acquired the property in question. I reached out to Mr. Overman for comment, but due to a recent death in his family he has not yet been able to respond.
I do recall that quit claim acquisition of this property was discussed by the Board of Commissioners at least once several years ago, in 2015 or early 2016, if my memory is correct. To my knowledge the question of whether to move forward on the issue was never acted upon. In fact, a quick check of meeting agendas posted on the official Town of Ramseur website indicates that the Rail Trail was not placed on the Board’s agenda at all in 2017, and doesn’t appear on the 2018 agendas until June.
Commissioner Overman was well within his rights to purchase the property in question when he did. It makes sense for him to want to control the vacant property adjacent to and behind his building at 1530 Main Street. The Town of Ramseur had ample opportunity to pursue this property acquisition long before Mr. Overman took action.
In North Carolina, two of the primary duties of most mayors are to set the agenda and preside over meetings of municipal governing bodies. If the Town of Ramseur missed an opportunity to purchase property needed to complete our segment of the Deep River Rail Trail, responsibility for that failure falls squarely on the shoulders of our longest serving elected official, Mayor Danny Shaw.