In a 55-minute meeting marked by the absence of the mayor and one commissioner, the Havelock Board of Commissioners made minor adjustments in language to regulations concerning firearms in the city during its meeting Monday night.
Troy Smith, the city’s attorney, said the changes were needed for Havelock to comply with new state laws.
“The legislature has been moving faster on changes in the law in this area than we can keep up,” Smith said. “It’s one of those situations where you either like it or you don’t. You really don’t have any leeway, because any municipality or county cannot pass any ordinance that relates to the control of firearms that runs counter to that of the state law. It’s a pre-emption issue.”
One of the changes affected rules about guns in city parks, while the other impacted city residents during a declared state of emergency.
Smith said there were just three places where local regulations could prohibit a resident with a legal concealed carry permit from carrying a gun. One is athletic fields, but only during scheduled and organized athletic events.
“Let me contextualize that real quick,” said Mayor pro-tem Will Lewis. “So across the street over here at the old city park, they use that field over there occasionally for T-ball practice or cheerleading practice or small football, but right now there is no scheduled athletic event over there, so you could have a concealed weapon over there now. But when there is a scheduled cheerleading practice or football practice, there would be no concealed weapons allowed and the same with Walter B. Jones (Park).”
“So my understanding is that when there is no practice or no games in any of these areas, then they can have guns in the park,” Commissioner Karen Lewis said. “I’m not excited about that.”
But Smith stressed there was nothing the city could do about it.
“We are simply complying with what the legislature did in the last session,” he said. “I’d like to tell you that you have a lot of room to maneuver, but you don’t.”
As a practical matter, the board had to replace the word “playgrounds” with “athletic fields” in rules about the Havelock Recreation Complex, Walter B. Jones Park, the city park at 198 Cunningham Blvd., and other areas at 101 Webb Blvd., 230 McCotter Blvd., 280 McCotter Blvd., and at McDonald Downs.
Legally concealed guns could also be prohibited at swimming pools and at facilities used for athletic events, such as a gymnasium. Havelock’s gymnasium is inside the recreation center, which is a city-owned building. The law allows local prohibition of legally concealed guns in city-owned structures.
Lewis said the city would have to change signs in the areas to reflect the new rules.
The board passed the changes unanimously.
The second change concerned city-declared states of emergency. Police Capt. David Bratton said changes in city rules were required to reflect changes in the N.C. Emergency Management Act.
The new rules, passed unanimously, means the city can’t prohibit a property owner from possessing a firearm or ammunition on his property in a state of emergency.
Mayor Jimmy Sanders had been on vacation and was unable to return in time for the meeting, while Commissioner George Liner had a previously scheduled event and was also unable to attend the meeting.
In other business on Monday night, the board:
-- agreed to forgive a balance shortfall of $5,959 for the 2013 National Night Out and allowed the police department to hold onto the money as startup funds for the 2014 event.
-- awarded a contract for $11,773.13 to PowerHouse Electrical to install an automatic transfer switch to control the generator in the event of a power loss at the Havelock Senior Center.
-- Heard from newly hired city manager Frank Bottorff that a groundbreaking for the new Havelock city hall building could be in the second week of December, but the date hasn’t been nailed down.