Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh started Monday’s city council meeting with a bombshell. In the hour before the meeting, the city and Camping World had come to an agreement concerning an oversized flag at the dealership.
Kutteh said there had been discussion about the settlement for months, and the city had been working diligently to come to an agreement with Gander RV’s parent company Camping World.
“That settlement agreement anticipates their paying us fines of $14,350 for violation of the flag ordinance. It also contemplates their paying up to $2,000 to cover the fines and costs related to our pursuit of that case,” Kutteh said. “They have agreed to make application for and we have agreed to approve the expansion of the flag ordinance, so in the zone that Camping World exists, they would be able to fly a 40-by-80 (foot) flag.”
The mayor’s announcement was met with applause and cheers from the people who had positioned themselves around the council’s chambers, each of them holding a flag to illustrate their support for the giant flag flying on Gander RV’s property by Interstate 77.
Before the meeting
Donny Bradley stood with about 10 other people on the corner of Front Street and South Center Street. Most of them waved American flags and were met with honks of support from people driving by. That beeping could be heard on the floor above, where the council members were going over the agenda in preparation for the meeting and going into closed session to discuss issues that can’t be handled before the public.
Bradley is part of Tribute to the Troops, an organization that has come out in support of the flag and against the city ordinance that limits the size it can fly. Members from Rolling Thunder were also there waving flags to show their support.
Bradley said there wasn’t an official effort by the organizations’ chapters. It was simply a matter of citizens coming together to take a stand on what they thought was right.
“We believe the word of the councilman that the advertisement wasn’t of allowable size,” Bradley said. “Our flag is not an advertisement.”
Bradley said he’d heard that the ordinance might change Monday night, but he had heard that before, and he would believe it when it was on paper and official.
This is the fifth meeting the disgruntled residents have been to protesting against the ordinance. Bradley said a large portion of the group, including himself, were veterans and had fought for the right to fly the American flag. Now, they are fighting to protect the flag again.
Bradley said the group wanted to show the county all of Statesville was not against the flag. Since Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis tweeted a list of cities that didn’t allow the flag larger than a tennis court, which included Statesville, the city has been in the national spotlight on this issue.
Bradley said he had only received positive responses from other city residents.
“We’re not going to stop until we get what we feel is right,” Bradley said.
An olive branch
The group of residents can stop fighting after Monday night.
Bradley presented the council with a new American flag to replace the one hanging in council’s chambers.
Bradley noted that it was a little discolored with age.
Bradley thanked the council for planning on changing the ordinance and the residents filed out of the chambers, still holding their flags.
Later in the meeting, council unanimously increased the flag size maximum to 40 by 80 near interstate highways.
Council members discussed several important topics Monday.
Those issues include:
» The recognition of Sanitation Superintendent Freddie Morrison, who worked for Statesville for more than 30 years.
» The semiannual crime report from Police Chief David Addison.
» Discussion about limiting the amount of extensions people can request to pay their electricity bill.
» Discussion about changes to the minimum housing code that could address Statesville’s vacant homes problem.
» Revisiting the proposed parking deck to be built behind Vance Hotel.