LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday is expected to approve donating land to the East Carolina University Dental School of Medicine so that is can open a dental school in Lumberton.
The Community Service Learning Center would be on property located in front of Pinecrest Country Club, near the county Department of Socials Services on N.C. 711, and adjacent to the Pinecrest Village subdivision. According to Ricky Harris, the county’s interim manager, the 2.5 acres that will house the center is valued at about $30,000.
The proposed center — one of 10 that ECU plans to establish in rural areas across the state — will provide a community-based site for dental students to learn and sharpen their professional skills. It is also expected to provide free care to local residents willing to have dental work done by the students.
Plans for the center call for there to be up to 16 operatories staffed by 10 to 12 people. It is estimated that the initial economic effect on the area during construction will be about $4 million, with an estimated recurring annual economic impact to the area of $1.5 million to $1.8 million.
According to ECU, dental school faculty, staff and students will be located in or near Robeson County and they will become an “integral part” of the dental outreach and education component that will include the local schools. ECU and Robeson County Community College reportedly have already discussed possible collaboration opportunities to increase and enhance dental education programs locally.
According to ECU, Robeson and the five surrounding counties are all in the top 25 percent of underserved counties in North Carolina for dental services. In Robeson County alone, Medicaid and Health Choice eligibility represents about 38 percent of the population, with an estimated 40 percent of this population currently not receiving dental services.
Both Harris and Noah Woods, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, said there has been talk with ECU about establishing a dental clinic in Robeson County for years.
“We’re still just in the negotiating stage,” Woods said. “This (donating the land) is the first step in the process.”
Woods called the establishment of the proposed center in Robeson County a “win-win” for both county residents and dental students.
“The concept is good,” he said. “It provides a training program for students as well as providing dental services for county residents who now don’t have access to dental care.”
Harris said that the center could inspire local students with an interest in dentistry to pursue it as a career.
“These students may then come back to Robeson County and provide dental services to their community,” he said.
During their meeting on Monday, the commissioners will also:
— Consider an amendment to the county’s ordinance regulating record keeping for pawn brokers and scrap metal dealers.
— Hear a report from the N.C. Forestry Service.
— Hold several public hearings on conditional-use permit requests.
— Hear a presentation from Native American Interfaith Ministries.
Monday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the commissioners room at the county administration building on North Elm Street.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.