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New Statesville Fire Station No. 1 to be named after William T. Woodard

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Dorothy Woodard speaks during the Statesville City Council meeting on Monday.

Dorothy Woodard speaks during the Statesville City Council meeting on Monday.

Fire Station No. 1 in Statesville, when the new one is constructed on Wilson Lee Boulevard, will be named after William T. Woodard as a nod to his impact on the community.

“He’s not here any longer, but his family is here. What other honor could you do to give his family the flowers that he did not receive?” Amos McClorey from the North Carolina NAACP and Cabarrus County NAACP said as he asked the city council to approve the name change. McClorey was joined by Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale A. Black and the Rev. Sterling Howard in encouraging the city council to move ahead with the naming.

Statesville NAACP president Todd Scott spoke as the agenda item was brought forward requesting that Fire Station No. 1 be named after a man many knew as “Woody” as he had always taken a hands-on approach to help those in Statesville. Scott began to speak on parts of Woodard’s biography that weren’t covered in the public comment section earlier in the night before stopping.

“I could read on for days,” Scott said. “This isn’t a Black and white thing, it is something to be remembered by, of a great citizen.”

Along with Scott during the official request, there was a long line of people asking for the city to recognize Woodard.

Susie Wiberg, a friend and neighbor of Woodard, also spoke in support, noting his work at the local NAACP which earned four Thalheimer Awards — the highest honor a branch can earn from the NAACP. Wiberg also noted a number of other causes and organizations that Woodard advocated for.

Leon Ijames, another former Statesville NAACP president, said Woodard was hands-on with his problem solving, often helping establish programs that sought to improve residents’ lives. “He felt the quality of life could best be improved through education,” Ijames said as he listed many of the ways Woodard did just that. He also said that the police department more than once called on Woodard to join them on calls to help diffuse potentially volatile situations.

The line of supporters continued with Lena Grady who noted how Woodard started a Boy Scout group with mostly public housing residents and his work with housing through Pillar Homes. Grady said Woodard worked to mend credit as people looked to buy their first home.

“Many people attest to the fact that were it not for Woody, they would not have been able to purchase their first home,” Grady said.

Lee Woods helped paint a picture of Woodard’s résumé, noting that the man born and raised in Wilson, went on to join the Air Force, where he earned a Bronze Star with Clusters, Commendation Medal with Clusters, and the Vietnam Honor Medal. Woodard went on to attend Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and then lived in New Jersey for some time where he served the public in a number of ways. He later came to North Carolina where he make his impact locally.

Marlene Scott was the last speaker, saying it would be an honor for everyone to have the fire station named after Woodard.

The next to last speaker was his wife, Dorothy Woodard, who spoke about all the different ways her husband had registered people to vote, encouraged them to go to school, raised money for causes, advocated for Statesville, and other countless ways he lifted up others.

“Our family still misses him, and Statesville misses his leadership even more, so for these, and other reasons, we’re asking that Statesville No. 1 Fire Department be named as a reminder of William T. Woodard’s legacy, and his dedication to make this a better place while living in Statesville,” Dorothy Woodard said.

Despite this outpouring of support, not everyone was on board.

C.O. “Jap” Johnson said that he knew Woodard and his impact, but noted the public outcry when the city named Wilson Lee Boulevard, and the later ordinance passed to not allow streets to be named after prominent people. While some had thought it was a ban on buildings as well, the ordinance only bans the naming of streets.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better than Woody,” Johnson said. “But we open the door for a lot of people upset with us because you can’t name a building, a park, a fire station, after everybody, so that’s the reason I’ll be voting against it.”

After that, David Jones spoke about why he supported the naming.

“Two points and thoughts on naming a building after someone, I think of two things,” Jones said. “One is honor. Is his or her contribution and service and sacrifice worthy of that? I would say Mr. Woodard does. Two is inspire. Do the actions of that individual inspire others to follow them? And I would say he does.”

While he pointed out that the ordinance in question likely had a “hole” in it and the staff should look to address how the procedure might be handled in the future, he motioned for the station to be named after Woodard. Steve Johnson also raised concerns with the naming process and expressed reticence in naming buildings after people with similar concerns as “Jap” Johnson.

The motion passed 6-2.

Other agenda items

The city moved forward with the naming of certain parts of Downtown Statesville as social districts that would allow outdoor drinking of approved alcoholic beverages in approved areas.

Staff was authorized to execute a contract with Centralina Regional Council to undertake a Strategic Planning Process, as discussed at the Winter Retreat.

Statesville Fire Chief Andy Weatherman presented a Fire Station Location Analysis presentation from the Statesville Fire Department that anticipates growth currently occurring, as well as the current location and state of its stations.

Presentations and recognitions

The city recognized Constitution Week, which is Sept. 17-23.

It also recognized September as Suicide Prevention Month.

Other public comments

Bill Brater of Nicholson Funeral & Cremation Services said he respectfully questioned the city staff’s report that said Oakwood Cemetery would be operational for two more years, saying there were hundreds of gravesites and also unused sections of the cemetery. He said he came to talk about the Oakwood Cemetery’s policies regarding erecting standing gravestones there. The current policy has caused some confusion as to whether, with payment, one party can use the back of a gravestone for its display. Brater said some gravesite owners believe that they can refuse. He suggested changing the language to make it clear that if paid for half the original cost, a second party can have the backside of the monument engraved.

Dave Burleson said he had concerns after a vehicle stuck a home along Front Street, which he said nearly injured a toddler sleeping in a crib inside. The collision also hit a gas line, which caught fire. Burleson thanked the police and fire for their quick response and for fighting the fire. Burleson requested that the city put up signs or lights to help alert drivers of the turn nearby. He said this was the third such incident in the past two-and-a-half years.

Consent agenda

It’s hard to find a person with a more fitting name than Richard Rainwater to join the Stormwater Advisory Commission, and the city agreed by appointing him to it on Monday night. The city also approved the advisory commission to use an additional $78,650 in Capital Improvement Funds to cover the cost of the Lucille Street Pipe Replacement.

These other items following items were also part of the consent agenda, which were passed in one motion.

Annexation: The city clerk was directed to investigate a petition for the annexation of the Shumaker property located at 112 Butterfield Circle. A public hearing is set for Oct. 3 for the petition for annexation.

Rezoning: Approved a rezoning request for a property located on US 64 and Marble Road from RA (Residential Agricultural) and B-5 (General Business) districts to the LI (Light Industrial) District.

EPA Grant: Accepted a $500,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The city said assessment grants provide funding for a grant recipient to inventory, characterize, assess, conduct a range of planning activities, develop site-specific cleanup plans, and conduct community engagement related to Brownfield sites. The city selected Cardno as the City’s Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) per the requirements of the EPA Brownfields Program to complete the scope of work. According to the city, Cardno was purchased by Stantec late in 2021. The grant period runs until 2026.

Charter approved: According to the city, Centralina management identified an unresolved issue with the organization’s tax status, and specific sections of the Centralina charter and by-laws needed to be amended to prohibit any private party from benefitting from or having an interest in the organization’s earnings and assets. Those were amended during a February meeting of the organization.

Sewer: Request approved for Southern Distilling to receive an outside sewer connection.

Easement: City approved a temporary construction easement for NCDOT project #480189, the bridge construction on Jennings Road (SR 1892). The North Carolina Department of Transportation offered $5,000 as compensation for the temporary construction easement.

Operation Green Light for Veterans: The city will join the county as the National Association of Counties and the National Association of County Veteran Service Officers invite the nation’s 3,069 counties, parishes, and boroughs to join Operation Green Light and show support for veterans by lighting buildings green from Nov. 7 through Nov. 13. According to the action request, the goal by seeing the green lights, veterans will know they are seen, appreciated, and supported.

Lawsuit: City approved $553,818 payment from the Risk Management fund that is necessary to settle a legal issue. No other details were given.

Follow Ben Gibson on Facebook and Twitter at @BenGibsonSRL

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