City accepts Woodmen's Donation

City accepts Woodmen's Donation

Photo credit: Linda Whittington

The Kinston City Council has approved the donation of the Woodmen of the World property.

After an initial discussion at the June 4th city council meeting and a public hearing follow up on June 12, city officials accepted the Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society’s donation.

Councilman Joseph Tyson made the motion to accept the donation and it was seconded by Robert Swinson.

The council approved the donation after a four to one vote in favor. Mayor Pro Tem Felicia Solomon voted no to the offer of the donation.

“I will say that I’m voting no because this vote is not whether or not the Woodmen Center should close, that is no the vote, but the vote is should we take the gift,” Solomon said. “I think without question we all want the Woodmen Center to remain open.”

Solomon said she would like the see a plan in place because this gift is a big responsibility.

“I do believe it is important to have your ducks in a row to make sure you are able to properly take care of the gift,” she said.

Councilman Sammy Aiken also addressed the council after the vote saying that the council has discussed this vote for quite a while. Many people spoke out at the public forum regarding the city needing a business plan for the Woodmen.

“I’ve suggested that we get a committee, make those three or four people that were for the Woodmen and some people from the recreation board to sit down and talk about a business plan going forward to make it more profitable,” Aiken said.

Councilwoman Kristal Suggs said it is her due diligence to be able to give the citizens well-known responses to the why behind this vote.

“A lot of things have come into play which means our citizens need to hold us accountable, we need to hold everyone accountable,” Suggs said. “Transparency is a must with this council.”

Prior to the vote Monday evening, Patrick Dees, President and CEO of WoodmenLife, addressed the council regarding the city’s efforts in the operation of the facility.

“At this time I would encourage you to take action and agree to accept,” Dees said.

Many people who attended the public forum last Tuesday returned to hear the results of the vote and again speak to the council during public comments.

John Nix, a Kinston resident, said he wanted to go on record about his stance.

“It’s not the function of the city to operate a waterpark and a gym," Nix said. "Local government's role is to provide infrastructure and safety to its residents,” Nix said.

Nick Harvey Jr., a resident, said this is an emotional decision because it involves our children.

“I still stand in support of the council taking over the Woodmen Center because it gives our students opportunities,” Harvey said.

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