Bill Bowman, publisher of Up and Coming Weekly, has afforded me his Publisher’s Pen space in this issue to announce the latest information on Moses Mathis, more commonly known as the Bicycle Man, and his work for underprivileged children.
Last Friday’s issue of the Fayetteville Observer included an op-ed written by me that described the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee’s latest offer to Cumberland County regarding the Washington Drive property (a.k.a. the Blue Street property) which is owned by the committee. The offer of conveyance made this past April by the committee has not been acted on by the commissioners.
On or about July 9, Attorney Ronnie Mitchell, legal counsel to the MLK Committee, advised me in conversation that the committee had met earlier that week and had developed an alternative offer to the county which could facilitate the Bicycle Man’s occupancy of the Blue Street building in an expedient manner. The offer is a license agreement that the county could accept from the committee which would, in turn, allow the county to re-license the property to Mathis without actually owning it.
The details of the offer, as described to me by Mr. Mitchell, included a fi ve-day window for the county to act after receipt of his letter describing details of the offer. While Mr. Mitchell’s decision to delay the actual mailing of the letter was well intentioned and helpful, it clearly indicated that he and I did not adequately communicate regarding the planned mailing date. As it has turned out, the letter was not mailed until July 19. On July 16 county attornies received e-mail copies of the letter to provide them with extra time to consider the legalities of the offer and to advise county management and the county commissioners.
The county commissioners will have the full week of July 19 to either accept or reject the committee’s latest and most likely last effort to help Mr. Mathis. Acceptance of the license agreement will also keep the offer of property conveyance alive until Dec. 31. The next and most obvious question is: Will the commissioners act favorably on this matter or simply let the opportunity die?
Efforts by two commissioners, Chairman Billy R. King and member Ed Melvin, to bring the matter to a discussion level have been squashed by the board majority. My conversations with both King and Melvin regarding this situation have convinced me that they are sincere in their efforts to have the county step up to its responsibilities to Mr. Mathis and his program.
Cumberland County originally conveyed the property to the MLK Committee years ago. The conveyance was completed in good faith by both parties, no doubt, but the situation has changed. The property has no actual value, in fact, it is a liability, due to the soil contamination that exists. Ultimately the county must take back that which has become a “white elephant” to the MLK Committee.
If the county does accept the property back it will be at once required to address a litany of building-code violations associated with the dilapidated buildings. The metal building Mathis has occupied and wishes to reoccupy is not in code violation. The City of Fayetteville has been sitting out in the weeds in this matter, seeing no dog in the fi ght for them. It would be helpful if the city would take some steps to allay the county’s concerns over this aspect of this now rather complex issue.
Commissioners King and Melvin must garner support from at least two other commissioners so that this matter can be put to rest, at least temporarily. In the time remaining this year, Mr. Mathis can prepare his bicycles while others seek out a more permanent home for his program.
Readers interested in seeing the Bicycle Man’s program endure should call, email or write commissioners and express your concerns and preferences about this situation. But do so quickly. Time is running out.
(Photo top left) David G. Wilson