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On Tuesday, Oct. 4, the Lee Town Council met again at the Kinsey Hall at Lee Town Hall.
The meeting, which began at 7 p.m., had very little on the agenda, as far as old or new business, so citizen participation started the meeting off.
At the September meeting, citizens of Lee had criticized the council for letting the town “go to hell” in recent months.
However, it was with a bit of a positive note that the citizens readdressed the council.
First to speak was Donna Hagan, who firstly thanked Public Works Director Hakili Washington for his recent work on the fence line near Magnolia Dr.
“But what about the rest of the fences in Lee?” asked Hagan before further inquiring if any of the town staff or council members had checked on the condition of the McMullen House roof after the recent hurricane and rainy weather.
Hagan further stated that there is no joy for her in coming to Town Hall meetings anymore, and that, in her opinion, Lee had become an item of ridicule to the community. “We have to hold accountable our town clerk, our mayor, and our council president,” said Hagan, before calling them the 'unholy three.'
“They are responsible for our town looking as it does,” added Hagan.
Town Manager John Anderson declined the opportunity to say anything in response to Hagan's direct accusation.
Next in citizen participation, Russell Williams presented the request to open up a Farm Share outreach program in Lee.
Currently, Farm Share is feeding 14,040 families every two weeks, and Williams wanted to look into holding a distribution point in Lee.
As the food is distributed through a large semi-truck, Williams advised that he would need a spacious area, such as the lot behind Town Hall and the fire station, to host Farm Share's Lee distribution place.
According to Williams, there are no pre-requisites or applications that need to be filled out when an open distribution is held. “Anyone can come,” said Williams, who added that most families leave the distribution with a couple of grocery bags of food. “I think it would really benefit the Town of Lee,” said Williams. “It might even help pull people together.”
Mayor Eddie Bell asked how word would be spread about the distribution, and Williams said that the word would be shared through the local newspaper after a date had been set.
With the town council in support of the idea, Williams advised that he believes the first program could be held around March of 2017, which would provide enough time for the proper planning to take place and for Williams to organize getting a truck to come out.
“There are some logistics to work out,” agreed Town Manager Anderson, but he believed March would give plenty of time for everything to be placed in order and for people to know that the distribution program would be happening.
No vote was needed, but the town council was agreeable to the idea, and Town Manager Anderson will be working with Williams to get everything set up in preparation.
“I think [this] would be great,” said Councilwomen Diane Beck. “There are some people who just can’t get to Madison [for Farm Share].”
Next to speak was Betty Blair, who had chastised the council in September for their poor upkeep of the park named after her husband, Ben Blair Park.
Blair returned in October to thank them for the work they had already done, and remind them of a few other details she found important to be cleaned up around the park.
“I thank y'all so much for doing what y'all have done,” said Blair. “It looks better now than it has looked in two years.”
Some of the work that remained, however, was cleaning up more small branches and limbs that had fallen. A lot of that work was basic raking around trees, but Blair said that if the council was not able, she would undertake the project herself either by raking or by hiring someone to do the raking.
Blair also advised that the stone around the top of the park sign had become loosened and was falling apart.
Town Manager Anderson promised to look into getting the sign repaired.
Blair also mentioned a wood piece that had been broken on the playground. “That needs to be seen about first, before it breaks completely and some kid falls,” said Blair.
The BBQ grills and water fountains are both dirty and in desperate need of cleaning.
But Blair also expressed her pride in the town council and staff for their work in repairing the park. “It gives me a good heart feeling about you,” said Blair.
With the citizen participation over, the only item on the agenda, a presentation of a business plan by John Cuthrell, was handled.
Cuthrell, a native of North Carolina and a licensed contractor, purchased property in Madison in 2003, and moved to the county. Cuthrell and his wife had started a blueprinting businesses in Madison, and held it for a number of years before moving away to care for their aging parents.
However, the Cuthrells have returned to Madison and now own a farm on County Road 255.
“I can't sit [still],” said Cuthrell. “I'm always riding around and trying to think about what is needed [in the community].”
One of the areas Cuthrell has seen the most need in, is the homes and lives of seniors.
Cuthrell recently started up a ministry, Angel Ministry Services (AMS), to help raise money to keep senior citizens in their homes.
Currently, Cuthrell is compiling a list of seniors who have repair needs within their homes, such as leaking roofs, bad plumping, etc. “They don't have money to fix this,” said Cuthrell. “All their money is being spent on medical [issues].”
Currently, Cuthrell is running a one-man show, but he has a handful of people who are lined up and ready to assist, if he can get a way to raise funds for the future home-repair projects for seniors.
That's why he was coming to the Lee Town Council.
The kitchen in the Lee Business Complex (the former and vacated Lee School building), is currently sitting empty, and Cuthrell, who also has a background in running a restaurant, desired to transform the kitchen into a bakery. “I want to get a hold of that kitchen so badly,” said Cuthrell. “That way I can do something good with it.”
According to Cuthrell, while he wants to start with a bakery, he has dreams of the kitchen being expanded and opened onto the cafeteria and a pavilion. As a licensed builder, Cuthrell has the energy and the experience to transform the empty and unused spaces into something of value to the Lee community.
“I want to do something for Lee,” said Cuthrell. “In the next two to five years, I would like to do some good around here.”
The kitchen is just the start; Cuthrell eventually hopes to bring his bakery to festivals.
Mayor Eddie Bell mentioned that the cafeteria area is currently rented out, but there are aspects that can be looked into to accommodate the current business tenets and help Cuthrell's ministry at the same time.
Cuthrell impressed the council members with his dreams and desire to work for those dreams, and by consensus, the council agreed to allow Cuthrell and Town Manager Anderson to work together and see what could be done on the Town of Lee's end to bring Cuthrell's ministry to Lee.
For the departments, Anderson discussed the cost of roof repairs for a town building, the success of the inmate work detail that the Town had employed, and the grant process for repaving unpaved streets.
The council also amended the agenda in order to place a lien on a property that had an outstanding and unpaid water bill.
Finishing up the meeting, bills were paid and Mayor Eddie Bell thanked town staff for all their hard work within the last couple of weeks in helping improve the appearance of the town.