PEMBROKE — COMtech’s board of directors continued Wednesday to look for ways to overcome a $100,000 cut in county funding in the fiscal budget that took effect July 1.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Ken Windley, executive director of COMtech, reviewed its $433,000 budget with the directors, recommending areas where a total of $2,100 could be saved. No action was taken by the board.
“There’s not much we can cut,” Windley said. “We have no wiggle room.”
The county Board of Commissioners cut the industrial park’s allocation in its fiscal 2012-13 budget by about 51 percent, from $196,000 to $96,000.
Both Windley and County Manager Ricky Harris have told The Robesonian on different occasions that COMtech’s funding during the past fiscal year was originally $134,000, with additional money allocated later in the year that brought the park’s total funding up to $196,000. Windley had requested $196,000 funding for the current fiscal year.
The directors huddled behind closed doors for about 90 minutes Wednesday, discussing possible options that will keep the doors of the industrial park open. Among those being considered are increasing fees charged park tenants to help continue the level of services they are now receiving; reducing the number of hours that the executive director works; eliminating the director’s position and handing over COMtech’s administrative duties to the county’s Industrial Economic Develoment Commission; and privatizing park administration.
Ronnie Hunt, the board’s chairman, said after the meeting that no decisions have been made on what option or options will be pursued.
“We formed a committee that will pull all of the figures on COMtech together, review them, and then make a recommendation to the full board,” Hunt said.
Hunt said that the board’s review committee, that will meet in two weeks, includes himself, Windley, Harris, Lumberton City Manager Wayne Horne, and Kellie Blue, Robeson County’s finance director. Noah Woods, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners and a COMtech board member, will also serve on the committee if he has the time, Hunt said.
Windley, a former Robeson County manager, has been COMtech’s executive director since January 2011. In addition to Windley, COMtech employs an office manager.
Windley said this morning that based on conversations he “speculates” that the board will maintain the executive director’s position, but as a cost-saving measure will cut the hours that he works. Currently he is paid a salary of $90,000.
“I can live with that,” Windley said. “If you are going to have a COMtech there needs to be someone there to not only handle (business) recruitment efforts but also deal with the day-by-day operations of the park … . In this job you have to do a little bit of everything, from dealing with corporations to helping change flat tires.
“Even if my hours are cut, on spare days I might still be there. That’s the kind of committed person I am to making sure that COMtech works.”
According to Windley, finding the money to keep COMtech going is the real challenge facing the board.
“The board is going to have to decide if fees (for tenants) are increased, whether to go back to the county for more money, or a combination of both,” he said.
Windley said after Wednesday’s board meeting he feels better about the future of COMtech.
“There appeared an effort by everyone to resolve the situation,” he said.
COMtech, which is located just outside of Pembroke on N.C. 711, began operating in January 2001. The park, consisting of more than 700 acres, is designed to provide homes to technology-focused businesses, industry, educational training facilities and business incubators.
Tenants are offered services, including 24-hour security, window washing, grass cutting, parking lot cleaning and trash pickup. COMtech currently has 25 tenants, according to Windley.
Greg Cummings, the director of the Industrial Economic Develoment Commission, didn’t want to comment this morning on the possibility of COMtech following under his auspices, saying the decision was not in his hands.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.