LUMBERTON — The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is expected to ask the Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday to donate at least $100,000 to help pay the cost of restoring the N.C. Indian Cultural Center.
Commissioner Roger Oxendine said on Friday that he has doubts that the commissioners will look favorably on the request at this time.
“We have a tight budget,” Oxendine said. “I know one thing. Nothing will be done until at least the end of this budget year.”
The current budget year ends June 30.
The tribe recently agreed to pay $351,000 for the 386 acres between Pembroke and Maxton on which the center is located.
“The opportunities are endless when you begin to think of the outdoor activities that can be offered to our residents and visitors of the cultural center and adjoining golf course. With your help, the cultural center can once again thrive,” Lumbee Chairman Paul Brooks says in a letter to the commissioners. “… I am asking for a minimal donation of $100,000. This amount will be used primarily for matching funds toward potential grants our staff will be seeking, and currently approximately $3 million in grants have been identified. In looking at the bigger picture, this amount is small when compared to the beneficial rewards to the community.”
The property today is in poor condition and needs repair.
The center had been a landmark in the Lumbee community for more than three decades. The property houses the now-closed Riverside Golf Course, an amphitheater, swimming pool, walking trails, canoeing, fishing, playground and campground. The center has also been the site of family reunions, gospel singing and pow wows.
The original plans for the property called for development of a resort-type facility that would include educational, recreational and convention facilities.
The state last year cancelled a lease it with a nonprofit that maintained and managed the property.
Brooks went on to state in his letter that federal guidelines do not permit federal funding from the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act to be used for such a project.
“We are in the early stages of this enormous project. We have begun holding community meetings to garner support and a steering committee will be formed to guide the project along,” Brooks said.
The Robesonian spoke Friday with seven of eight commissioners, Chairman Noah Woods could not be reached. Most said they want more information.
“We’ll definitely have to have a discussion about this,” Commissioner Hubert Sealey said. “I don’t know where we can get that kind of money.”
Commissioner Jerry Stephens raised the issue of fairness.
“I don’t think this is going to fly,” he said. “There are other cultural organizations throughout the county. If we give $100,000 to one, we would have to give $100,000 to them all. We have to be fair.”
Commissioner Tom Taylor said there are just too many ongoing projects and needs in the county to put such a large amount into restoration of the property.
“I don’t think you are going to see this happening with all of the other things going on in the county,” Taylor said. “There are just too many other needs that have to be addressed first.”