LUMBERTON — Robeson County is experiencing changing times, one that challenges local officials not to sit on their laurels but reaffirm their pledge and commitment to responsible government, the chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners said Thursday.
Noah Woods presented his sixth annual State of the County Address to a crowd of about 50 county employees gathered in the commissioners’ room of the county administration building. He said that the purpose was to “make sure that the citizens of Robeson County know the accomplishments and challenges” the county has experienced during the past year.
“Some of the challenges we face at the present time include changes and new directions that are desired at the state level in the North Carolina General Assembly. As a county Board of Commissioners, we are in a state-county partnership in an intergovernmental relationship,” he said. “There are currently several state initiatives that propose significant changes in the way we do business as a local county government.”
The chairman emphasized that the county opposes unfunded mandates and shifts of state responsibilities to the counties, although there are some initiatives — such as reinstatement of lottery funds for school construction, assurance of adequate mental health and social services funding, and preservation of the existing local revenue base — that county officials do support.
“We have our challenges of poverty, illiteracy, low educational attainment, lack of sufficient jobs, the need for workforce training and development, and multi-stimuli for jobs and economic development,” Woods said. “But we have successfully demonstrated that we are up to the tasks before us.”
Woods proceeded to list accomplishments in a number of county departments. According to the chairman, they include: creation of the position of a community and rural development agent at the Agricultural Extension Office to promote and help preserve farmland; implementation of new management and engineering techniques for solid waste disposal; expansion of the pre-trial release program that has reduced county jail costs by $1 million a year; and national recognition of the county’s Finance Department.
Woods also pointed to county support for the local schools and youth programs; maintenance and upgrading of county parks and expansion of programs for youth and seniors; recruitment of new businesses that have boosted the local economy; the expansion of the county employees’ Wellness Program and pharmacy that has saved taxpayers dollars; challenges that are being addressed daily at the county’s Department of Social Services; and the success of the county’s “one-stop shop” that allow residents to handle their planning, inspection, and environmental health needs at one site.
The chairman said that the county commissioners are dedicated to ensuring that quality and convenient services are provided to all residents of Robeson County.
“This is our mission, our purpose, and our duty and responsibility,” he said.
According to Woods, public input is also needed if the county is to meet the needs of its residents and move forward.
“We rely on public input at our monthly meetings to keep us focused on citizens and their needs,” he said. “We value your input … .”