SANFORD: Council drops 'second offense' from proposed firearms bill

Jan. 31, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

City officials requested a new draft of a proposed state bill requiring mandatory sentencing for felonies committed with a firearm Wednesday afternoon.

Sanford City Council reviewed a draft bill requiring an additional 10-year active sentence for all persons convicted of a felony involving a firearm for a second offense during the Law and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday. However, council members requested the bill be redrafted to strike reference to second-time offenders and apply the additional sentencing for the first time someone is convicted of a felony with a firearm.

"We shouldn't give a person a second chance to kill someone," said Council member Poly Cohen. "It ought to be for first offenders."

Sanford Attorney Susan Patterson, who drafted the bill, said the second offense was included at the request of Council member Charles Taylor because of the various types of felonies a person could commit. An example Taylor used, Patterson said, was that stealing pine straw is considered a felony. Taylor was not present at the meeting and could not be reached for additional comment.

The bill was drafted after a discussion during a December City Council meeting on recent gun violence in the city. Sanford Police Chief Ronnie Yarborough said in December stricter state laws would need to be addressed to include mandatory sentencing because of the number of repeat offenders law enforcement officers encounter.

Taylor previously said he was working with several North Carolina legislators for a potential bill concerning gun violence, but would not elaborate.

Patterson said Wednesday there is no tracking system in place now to see if a person previously committed a crime with a firearm.

Council member James Williams asked if this legislation has been reviewed by the N.C. League of Municipalities. Patterson said Taylor had indicated he wanted to keep the bill low profile. 

All of the present council members, including Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive, said they wanted a new draft of the bill to include the sentencing for first offenders.

"I have a real problem with this being the second offense," Olive said. "It seems to me we are giving another opportunity to kill someone, and we need to leave it at the first offense."

Patterson said she'll have a new draft for the council to review during its meeting Tuesday.

In other matters, council heard:

* Council member Rebecca Wyhof's request for the city to form an environmental affairs board. The Lee County Board of Commissioners voted to create a nine-person Environmental Review and Advisory Committee — a group mandated to review technical documentation and advise the county on testing matters impacting the environment — to replace the now disbanded Environmental Affairs Board. With the impending natural gas drilling in the area, there are concerns for the city that the council members should be advised on by experts, Wyhof said.

* Central Carolina Hospital's request for the city to refund the late listing penalty in the amount of $4591.53 from the years 2008 to 2011. According to a CCH letter in the council's agenda, the late listing penalty resulted in the discovery of personal property which should have been listed, but wasn't. The Lee County Board of Commissioners denied the request from CCH to refund the county amount of $6,377.13.

* A presentation from Utility Service Partners Inc., a company that provides water and sewer line insurance, on partnering with the city to offer warranty coverage for utility service repairs. According to Michael Madden, regional account manager for Utility Service Partners, residents could opt into water and sewer line insurance for a monthly fee.