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ST. PAULS — Commissioners here talked about the town’s part in the Interstate 95 expansion project, feeding Sanderson Farm workers and amending an ordinance on buffers during their regular meeting on Thursday.

The Board of Commissioners took no action on the expansion project or amending the food truck ordinance so Sanderson Farms employees can be fed.

However, they did approve amending the buffer ordinance to include the erection of privacy fencing between businesses in the hospitality district. The ordinance previously called for the planting of evergreen foliage to separate businesses in the district. But, commissioners voted to nix the plants in the amended ordinance.

“This came up when we were talking about new businesses coming to town,” said Debra McNeill, town clerk and interim town administrator.

McNeill said an incident occurred when a business planted vegetation to act as a buffer, but the vegetation did not grow enough in time or height to meet ordinance standards.

“It takes a while to grow a plant,” Mayor Elbert Gibson said.

In other matters, McNeill said she was approached by an N.C. Department of Transportation representative who requested land at Oakridge Cemetery be turned over to the state to help with the Interstate 95 expansion project. The town could sell or give the land to the state, NcNeill said.

“I think we should ask for some sort of infrastructure (improvements),” Commissioner John Gudauskas said.

One request could be road work improvements and another could be placing a privacy fence between the roadwork and cemetery, he said.

Gibson asked if consultation should be made with McGill Associates, an engineer the town is working with on several projects. McNeill said consultation with McGill and the town’s attorney could be done before a decision is made on the request.

No action was taken on the matter.

Commissioner Donna Patterson asked about amending the hours in the food truck ordinance from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to an earlier time so breakfast vendors can serve Sanderson Farms employees.

Mayor Pro Tem Evans Jackson said the Board of Commissioners needs “to look at that whole thing” to make sure food trucks aren’t setting up in residential areas in the early morning hours while residents are sleeping.

“If you’re going to do that, you’re going to need to look at an industrial area separately from the other areas of town, OK?” Gibson said. “Because that’s the only place you’re going to have a food truck at 5:30 in the morning where you have the traffic to justify it.”

The decision can also help members of the motoring public and help cut down on traffic accidents, St. Pauls Chief of Police Steve Dollinger said.

When Sanderson Farms employees take their breaks “it’s like a speedway coming out of there,” Dollinger said.

The police chief said employees are rushing to get back before their short work breaks are over so they don’t get penalized by the plant.

“There’s been a lot of accidents from people passing people on the double yellow (lines) … ,” he said.

They only have vending machines, and there has been no hot food served in the cafeteria since COVID-19 hit, the police chief said.

“We need something out there,” Jackson said.

No action was taken on the matter. McNeill said she would look into what other towns are doing.

The commissioners did approve appointing Buck (Terry) McClure to the Planning Board to serve a three-year term as an alternate member. The Planning Board has nine members, but adding a tenth member would mean the number of members necessary to conduct a meeting would be six. McClure can act as an alternate member who ensures enough members are present to conduct the Board’s business.

In other business, Assistant Public Works Director Benton Rogers said the Wilkinson Drive project is at a standstill because of communication issues. Rogers said he hasn’t heard updates or been in communication with people involved in the project during the week leading up to Independence Day or this week, but the project manager will return next week, and things could change.

“They’re putting in new sewer mains still when the weather is good. Other than that, I mean, just maintaining,” Rogers said.

Commissioners also heard a request from David Sgro, a former missionary in the Philippines and former martial arts teacher, who is interested in hosting outreach events. He hopes to hold a Serve Day event on July 18 that will include food boxes, soccer and a firetruck at a trailer park in the community.

He also hopes to partner with a South Carolina church to host a Vacation Bible School at R.E. Hooks Community Building.

“The idea is just to provide something constructive and positive for the kids in town,” Sgro said.

Jackson said events like VBS should be tailored to the whole community.

Dollinger suggested asking for permission to hold it at a local school gym if more than 24 children sign up, which could be nearing full capacity for the community building.

McNeill said she would look into requested dates for VBS.

Commissioners also heard from Robeson County Assistant District Attorney Leah Britt Lanier, who introduced herself and said she is running for a District Court judge seat.

“I’m running for District Court judge in November 2022. My goal for the remainder of the year is just to get to different communities. I was born and raised in Allenton, so that’s my area of the county, so I’m trying to get to know people in different areas that’s not my own,” she said.

She was joined by her husband, John. Lanier said the couple is active in events in their area of the county, but would love to be more involved in other areas as well.

Commissioners also were told that there is growing interest in the police cadet program that will start in September and take place at the police department. The program will teach boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 17 about policing and will feature speakers from agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An initial interest meeting was held June 29.

“I been getting calls all week about it,” Dollinger said.

The first meeting will take place Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall courtroom.

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