No more excuses: Time for horse stalls at ag center

What was intended as the most recent update on the progress of the installation of horse stalls at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Event Center for Sunday’s The Robesonian became something a bit different, with an Edge if you will, when we spoke with a county commissioner.

David Edge not only let it be known that he believes the state has intentionally delayed the project, he was adamant that we share his opinion with our readers — and we did. Edge believes the installation of the stalls has been, well, purposely stalled in an effort to protect the Sen. Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center, a wonderful facility we hear, but in Williamston, which isn’t exactly at the crossroads of, say, Interstate 95 and U.S. 74.

Williamston is currently the No. 1 state facility for holding large multi-day horse shows and competitions — but that grip, we believe, will be loosened when the local facility can accommodate those affairs.

“They want to hurt this center … . The (state) Department of Agriculture and (Commissioner Steve) Troxler have royally screwed Robeson County,” Edge told The Robesonian. “County people raised money for these stalls. They have had that money a long time and just sat on it … .”

We don’t have a smoking gun, but we wonder why it is approaching two decades and the facility still cannot accommodate multi-day horse shows.

There was once a time when sentiment was to shoot the facility to put it out of its misery.

Local legislators, including former Sen. David Weinstein, fought for the facility in the late 1990s as a venue that would boost the local economy, which was then reeling from the loss of manufacturing jobs and the attack on tobacco. In fact, we have yet to fully recover from that double punch.

But the state had its own financial problems following Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and a decision was made to construct the facility in stages. A mistake was made to build the farmers market first, along with the meeting center, and the plans were for the pavilion to follow. It is likely that politics — and a wish to protect the Bob Martin center — polluted that process.

But the farmers market never was embraced locally — and it almost sank the entire ship before it was closed a few years ago.

In the interim, another incredibly bad decision was made, which was routing U.S. 74 traffic away from the facility, making it trickier to get there.

Finally the pavilion was built — and it is meeting expectations as a venue for horse and livestock shows. But we have been talking now for years about an additional 100 stalls at a cost of about $600,000, much of which has been raised locally in money or in-kind work.

We don’t know if there has been a coordinated effort to slow the pavilion’s progress as a way to protect the Bob Martin facility, but we do know that the major beneficiary of the local facility being unable to host multi-day horse shows has most certainly been Williamston.

Soon enough, however, the resurrection of the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Event Center will be complete, and it will be conveniently located on two major federal highways for those who participate in or just enjoy watching horse and livestock shows.

We expect that hotels and retail outlets will follow, creating jobs that aren’t great but needed. Then this facility will have finally become as it was once envisioned.

Its tardiness could be conspiratorial as everything in Raleigh is political as Robeson County often must settle for the crumbs, but we know also that government as a rule plods along.

Either way, no more excuses. The let the shows begin.

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