The first meeting of the Greensboro City Council in the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber since July had a little bit of everything.
Since this was the first in-person meeting of the City Council in a quarter of a year, you could expect some hiccups.
But what nobody was expecting was for the fire alarm in city hall to go off at 6:21 p.m. just 40 minutes after the City Council meeting started shortly after 5:30 p.m.
When the fire alarm started sounding, Mayor Nancy Vaughan recessed the meeting. The members of the City Council and the people who were in the Council Chamber as well as the people who were outside the chamber (because of COVID-19 concerns people were not allowed in the chamber until their item was being heard) all went out the side door that faces the Guilford County Courthouse.
For about 20 minutes the crowd, councilmembers and city staff milled around on the crowded balcony waiting for the Greensboro Fire Department to give the all clear. The consensus of those waiting was that someone had pulled one of the fire alarms. Considering the number of security cameras that now cover the public areas of city hall, the big question was, who pulled it.
As is often the case, the consensus turned out to be wrong and the reason for the fire alarm, as Vaughan explained after people were invited back into the building and sorted themselves out between the Council Chamber and the lobby at 6:42, was that there was a small electrical fire in the IT server room.
One of the topics discussed by councilmembers while waiting for the all clear was the approximate date of the last time the fire alarm sounded during a City Council meeting. Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter was pretty close, remembering that it had been hot outside and guessed the summer of 2019.
The actual date was Aug. 6, 2018, and that was the first time anyone could remember the Council Chamber being evacuated because of a fire alarm. In 2018, it wasn’t even a small fire but construction activity that had activated the fire alarm.
The meeting continued after the unexpected break with Greensboro Police Chief Brian James finishing a report on the violent crime over the past weekend and the alarming trend of increased violent crime in the city.