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The city of Roanoke Rapids can now advertise for the disposal of real property through online media — including its own website — after the council Tuesday voted in favor of a resolution on the matter.

This eliminates, but does not exclude, advertising a public notice through a newspaper as is required by state law unless such a resolution is approved by the city’s governing panel, according to a memo concerning the document to authorize advertising of electronic auction by electronic means only. City Manager Kelly Traynham presented the document to the council.

The passage of the resolution, which was approved unanimously, paved the way for the city to authorize the sale of the Roanoke Rapids Theatre by electronic public auction. The resolution to authorize the sale of the theater on GovDeals passed by a 3-2 margin, with council members Carl Ferebee and Sandra Bryant voting against the measure due to no reserve price being set.

The resolution tied to the theater sale authorizes the online auction to begin on May 25 at 9 a.m. and end on June 26 at 9 a.m.

First resolution

The city has been using GovDeals to dispose of surplus property for some time now. “Our feeling is this gets the theater in front of a national audience,” said Public Works Director Larry Chalker, who has seen success with the online format to sell surplus vehicles and other equipment. “The exposure is much greater and on a national scale.”

Traynham said being able to advertise electronically will represent a cost-savings to the city. “When we sell real property and as we have gone through the process several times of declaring the theater property surplus and going through the sealed bid process, we have to run advertisements in the newspaper and the few times we have done the sealed bid process within the last nine months we’ve spent thousands of dollars in advertising to do that.”

City Attorney Geoffrey Davis also said, regarding the first resolution, the electronic advertising is a way to save the city money that is spent on advertising in complying with the statute by advertising in the paper. “That’s kind of a legacy of the notice statutes that have probably been in place for hundreds of years now as far as noticing people not just in the sale of property by municipalities but in various other circumstances whether it’s an estate or a lawsuit.”

Service by publication is accepted, Davis said. “As we have transitioned to electronic means to disseminate information it’s so much easier to get now than an actual physical newspaper. I think a lot of municipalities have gone to this. That’s the reason the legislature amended the statutes to allow this procedure. It really does end up saving a lot of money.”

Councilman Carl Ferebee cast the motion to approve the first resolution with a second by Wayne Smith. The motion passed unanimously.

Second resolution

The second resolution tied to the theater came down to a lengthy discussion by the council on whether to set a reserve price during the online auction.

Councilman Rex Stainback, with a second by Smith, made the motion to approve the second resolution authorizing the sale of the theater by electronic auction.

His motion did not include setting a reserve price and the issue was debated further during the discussion phase.

Ferebee requested an addition to Stainback’s motion to include a reserve.

Davis said while the city could set a reserve the council could still reject whatever bids come in.

“The reason we were asking if there is a reserve amount is if we do it publicly here then we might as well go ahead and announce when we start the auction,” Stainback said. “I thought the reserve was a hidden amount that you didn’t know.”

Davis said a reserve price would have to be part of the motion, to which Stainback replied, “I don’t think we need one if we’re going to publicly say what it is.”

Smith said the council has the authority to reject bids. His suggestion was to leave the motion as presented by Stainback.

With Stainback, Smith and Tommy Daughtry voting in favor of the motion, it passed by a 3-2 margin.

Ferebee said afterward, “The way I understand it is the reserve would be a starting bid and it would not allow someone to come in and waste time when we know we’re not going to accept that anyway. If we set a reserve then they already know they’ve got to start there and at least go up.”

He said he would have set the reserve at $1 million.