County gives way for UNCP land buy

By Bob Shiles -

Patrick Pait

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday turned down an offer from the public schools to buy property on the campus of the school district’s Indian Education Center in Pembroke and thus clearing the way for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to buy the land.

County Attorney Patrick Pait told the commissioners the school district is forbidden by law to negotiate a sale or dispose of surplus property until its first come before the commissioners to ascertain if the board has interest in the property.

The motion to reject purchasing the land was made by Commissioner Roger Oxendine. None of the commissioners voted to purchase the 1.13-acre tract behind CIS Academy and adjacent to Shining Stars Preschool that is being used as a gravel parking lot.

The university wants the property so a main entrance to West Hall can be re-established. During the recent state General Assembly session UNCP was awarded $10 million to fund a “comprehensive renovation and re-purposing of West Hall.

In other business Monday, the commissioners approved offering incentives to an industry planning to expand its operations in the county.

Referred to only as Project Freezer, the industry plans to invest $2.7 million in equipment and machinery, said Greg Cummings, county economic developer and industrial recruiter. The industry will create 50 jobs with an average hourly wage of $10.50 per hour plus benefits.

The commissioners also voted unanimously to release the industry referred to as Project Graphite from an incentives agreement reached in 2015. The company can’t presently meet the county’s incentives requirements, Pait said.

“They have hit some economic roadblocks and had to scale back operations,” he said. “As things change the company will come back. It still plans to invest $2 million in the county and create new jobs.”

The commissioners were updated by Jan Maynor, a Lumber River Council of Governments project specialist, on a Community Development Block Grant application the county hopes to be awarded so the money can be used to fund Hurricane Matthew recovery projects.

The total grant request is for $43.6 million and would fund recovery projects throughout the county, Maynor said. Eighty-nine percent of the funds would go toward housing needs and 11 percent toward neighborhood restoration.

The grant request includes $5 million to be designated to the Lumberton Housing Authority to provide public housing. The funds also would cover the rehabilitation of 150 single-family homes, the reconstruction of 80 single-family homes, and the repair of single-family rental units.

The Rev. Jimmy Gilchrist, president of Robeson County’s chapter of the Black Caucus, told commissioners that more money needs to be spent on hurricane-ravaged homes that have not yet been repaired.

“These homes are just deteriorating,” he said. “Money has not been getting to the people so they can make repairs … . COG (Council of Governments) and other government boards have not done what they should in Robeson County.”

In other business, the commissioners:

— Heard a presentation from Robeson Community College President Kimberly Gold about the college’s 2017-18 budget. Gold said the budget includes $550,000 the state Legislature provided in enrollment mitigation funds as a result of Hurricane Matthew.

“There were 247 classes impacted by the hurricane,” Gold said.

The college’s budget includes $2.6 million in county money that is used for maintenance of college buildings, Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris said.

— Approved agreements between Robeson County Emergency Medical Services and Robeson Community College, Southeastern Community College and Bladen Community College.

The agreements allow college students “ride time” with EMS, said Patrick Cummings, interim EMS director. Students seeking state certifications need to serve hours with EMS units.

— Approved an addendum to the county’s Personnel Policy addressing employee responsibilities and compensation when a disaster, such as Hurricane Matthew, is declared.

— Approved an agreement regarding economic incentives for Trinity Frozen Foods.

Patrick Pait Pait

By Bob Shiles

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

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