When we first learned that the Robeson County Board of Commissioners had not granted a $66,000 request to contribute to the stalls project at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center, we were poised to pounce.
Although $66,000 sounds like a tall stack of money, it is a pebble of sand on the large beach that is the county’s $151 million budget — and is raised by, get this, one-ninth of a single cent of the county’s 77-cent property tax rate. Then remember that the commissioners find the money to …. well, you know.
Consider as well that the money would be a solid investment as the events center could then hold multi-day equestrian shows that will bring horse enthusiasts to Robeson County for three-, four- and five-day stays, during which they will spend money for lodging, food, gasoline, entertainment and perhaps even some shopping. Those are dollars that will make several laps around the county before exiting, putting people to work in one of the state’s poorest counties where so many people are either unemployed or underemployed.
But we decided that before offering an opinion here, we would dig a bit deeper. When doing so, County Manager Ricky Harris assured us that the county commissioners remain committed to the stalls project, and that although money was not budgeted for it in the 2014-15 budget that takes effect July 1, the money will be found.
“There are other funding avenues the commissioners can look at,” Harris said. “ … . It’s a decision that they (commissioners) must make, but I think they will do something … .”
The county has already contributed $50,000 toward the project, which would provide 100 stalls for the pavilion at the events center. According to Kent Yelverton, the director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Property and Construction Division, construction on the $590,000 project cannot begin until all the money is secured. He said about $175,000 more is needed, and fund-raising is ongoing both publicly and privately.
The commissioners will each receive an additional $30,000 in discretionary money on July 1 — a total of $240,000 that simply piles onto discretionary money that continues to roll over as most commissioner struggle to find the time to spend it all. So that would be an obvious faucet to tap.
In fact, all the $66,000 could immediately be plucked from discretionary money and there would be plenty left for the commissioners to buy their political favors.
The longer this worthy project is delayed, the less return on the eventual investment. Quit the stalling and get on with it.