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Can you speed things up? I'm on major deadline!

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

Calabash commissioners recently made a brilliant decision to start their monthly meetings an hour earlier—6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.—because their sessions have been running so late.

One commissioner said he liked to get home early enough to tell his kids good night.

That sounded like a good plan to me, since commissioners meet on Tuesday nights, which are major deadline nights for the Beacon newsroom.

Last week, I eagerly arrived for the first 6 p.m. meeting—well, as eager as you can be for a meeting—glancing at a seemingly innocuous agenda.

I mean, what could be so time-consuming about “call to order, pledge to flag, roll call, public hearings, public comments, mayor’s comments, approval of minutes, correspondence, town administrator’s report, building inspector’s report, committee reports, old business, new business, closed session, action from closed session, public comments, board comments, adjourn?”

Never mind.

The first hour got bogged down with citizen complaints about a proposal to change parking space dimensions. If you guessed they’re against it, award yourself 10 points.

The meeting took on new dimensions as this debate wore on, finally evolving into the No. 3 item on the public hearings list: “North Carolina Fire Code Appendices.”

This seemingly dull topic drew more hot debate among business owners about whether they were going to be required to have master key boxes in the event of fire emergencies.

As apartment owner Don Hege summed it up: “People’s got enough problems without putting up with crap like this.”

They were against that, too.

As the meeting continued into hours 2 and 3, Mayor Anthony Clemmons called for a 5-minute break.

By this time, commissioners were now less than halfway through the agenda and had yet to reach one of the night’s main issues about the proposed Calabash Town Center development.

For a reporter edging closer to deadline, this was not happy news.

Discussion continued about branch-brush-leaf pickup and the town travel policy.

Former Mayor Keith Hardee was on hand to admonish current Mayor Clemmons: “I take my own car and don’t charge the town back. You’d set a good example to do that, too, Mr. Mayor.”

The meeting dragged on as two taxi operators’ certificates were approved, a citizen spoke out against sewer and eight or so committee reports were given by their respective commissioners.

It got so late I started writing my story for the next day’s paper while the Calabash Town Center debate ensued. Just before commissioners were to make a decision about the center’s fate, Clemmons called for another 5-minute break around 9:30 p.m.

Because it was time to send my story in, I had to leave before they “conditionally approved a conditional-use permit.”

Four more new-business items and a closed session to discuss three matters regarding property acquisition, legal issues and personnel still remained.

I understand commissioners finally finished for the night around 11:15 p.m.

Good thing they didn’t start at 7 p.m.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or e-mail llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.