LUMBERTON — The wise utilization of resources and investment in staff have enabled the county to provide programs and services that benefit all local residents even during difficult economic times, Noah Woods, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday during his annual State of the County Address.
Each year Woods makes his address on a day that is set aside for area high school students to mingle with county officials and employees to learn how local government works.
In his annual address, Woods didn’t duck the county’s challenges.
“It is true that Robeson County is one of the 10 percent of counties in the United States that are majority-minority populations. It is true that Robeson County is among North Carolina’s highest poverty areas due to loss of manufacturing jobs, lack of industry, decline in agriculture and high unemployment rate, ” he said. “It is true that out of 43,677 households there are 37 percent with children under the age of 18; 21 percent have female heads of households; 27 percent are non-families; and 9 percent are 65 years plus and live alone. And it is true that Robeson County ranks as North Carolina’s poorest county with 20 percent of families and 28 percent of the population living below poverty… .”
But despite these strikes, Woods said Robeson County keeps swinging.
“The Robeson County Board of Commissioners has been a good steward of the citizens’ money and taxes,” he said. “In spite of the recession and economic distress experienced all over our country, and its impact on us here in Robeson County, sound financial management has enabled us to continue to operate without loss of services, employee layoffs or increased health insurance for employees.”
Woods pointed to good financial management as the key to success.
“Careful budgeting and wise utilization of resources allowed the board to provide a 2 percent cost-of-living increase to employee salaries without a tax increase,” he said. “Our departments worked hard to find ways to do more with less and at no time have services been diminished to the citizens.”
Woods supported his views that the county is moving forward by pointing to several achievements.
— The completion of the new $17 million Department of Social Services building.
— More than 24,000 customers are now served by the county’s water treatment facilities.
— A new generator installed at the county landfill in St. Pauls uses methane gas to generate electricity that can be sold to utility companies.
— Improved and expanded public safety programs.
— Reduced population at the county jail.
Woods attributed accomplishments to county staff.
“None of the projects and accomplishments would be possible without the hard work and commitment of outstanding personnel,” he said.
According to Woods, the county is committed to improving programs and services.
“We will continue to ride the effects of the recession and try to address unemployment and increased crime. We will continue strong fiscal responsibility by stretching dollars and developing new energy sources,” he said. “We will aggressively respond to the concerns about the Robeson County Animal Shelter.”
During Wednesday’s presentation, four U.S. military veterans were recognized for their service to their country. Four other veterans to be recognized were not present.
“We can never do enough to recognize our veterans and the services they have provided,” Woods said.
Veterans receiving a certificate from the county were: Billy Hunt, U.S. Army; Ronnie Roberson, U.S. Army; Arthur Schull, U.S. Air Force; and Howard Clewis, U.S. Army. Thomas Stanton, U.S. Army; Bobby Locklear, U.S. Army; Don Ward, U.S. Army; and Dan Webb, U.S. Air Force, could not attend, but will receive certificates.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org