04/06/04 — Mount Olive approves alley improvements

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Mount Olive approves alley improvements

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 6, 2004 1:59 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Rick Kraft's design to improve an alley beside his studio downtown is approved, but not without much discussion and a split vote.

Kraft addressed the town's concerns about access to James Street for emergency workers and firefighters during a meeting of the Mount Olive Board of Commissioners on Monday night. But at the last minute, a neighbor tried to stall the project.

Town Commissioner Jimmy Kornegay said the chairman of the board of the nearby People's Bank wrote a letter asking the board to postpone the work one month to give him time to talk to Kraft. "He said he's not for or against it," said Kornegay.

He said the owner of the bank had planned to be at the board meeting of the town board, but at the last minute was unable to attend. "Would it hurt for one month to hear what he wants to say?"

Kraft said the bank knew about the alley project when the property was purchased. He said he is not willing to postpone, and he added, "It's up to him if he wants to sue."

Kornegay moved to table the matter for a month, but the motion died for lack of a second. Commissioner Lloyd Warren moved to approve Kraft's plan, and Paul Smalley provided the second. Ora Truzy said she wanted to see what the other side of the alley would look like.

Warren and Smalley voted to allow Kraft to start the work. Kornegay and Truzy voted to wait. Ray Thompson's abstention counted as a "yes" vote and broke the tie.

Kraft had passed out copies of the plan for the alley improvements. The picture showed the James Street entrance, which would have a coded steel gate. Fire and emergency officials would have access to the code. The James Street side of the alley would have a 40-inch walkway to accommodate walk-through traffic to the other side.

Fire Chief Steve Martin said the firefighters would have to drag a hose through the alley, but they won't be able to drive the truck through it. "We'll have to go through your courtyard," Martin said. "We won't go between the buildings."

Kraft said the gate could easily be knocked down in case of a fire. He said he designed the alley improvement for the town's benefit as well as his, and he plans to revitalize the entire building.

At the other side of the alley will be a courtyard, which will be wider to accommodate equipment, like a fork lift, on the Oliver's Railroad Grille side. Each end of the courtyard will have a door.

"We're ready to start. ... When we talked about this a year ago, the bank wasn't even there," he said.

Kraft told the board the design was the result of months of planning. He had worked with the Small Town Development Program's Design Committee and had help with the design from the state Department of Commerce.

Dwayne Parvin, chairman of the Design Committee, said Kraft has the committee's full support.

"The courtyard was one of the first projects we put on our agenda," said Parvin. "We walked through and saw used condoms, dead animals, syringes. I can't imagine an adjoining property owner not being thrilled to death about the improvements he's proposing."