PEMBROKE — After again hearing complaints that tribal members are not receiving the housing services they need in a timely manner, the Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday amended its proposed fiscal budget for 2012-13 to include more money for repairs and construction.
At the recommendation of Councilman McDuffie Cummings, the council amended the proposed budget to bring it up to a total of about $23.2 million, and addition of about $10 million. Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks had recommended a budget for the upcoming fiscal year of about $13 million.
Almost $17.2 million of the proposed budget is unspent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds that have accumulated since 2006, Cummings said. The other $6 million is part of HUD’s $13 million allocation to the tribe for fiscal year 2012-13.
Saying that they are committed to boosting housing services to tribal members, especially seniors and the disabled, council members on Thursday also passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a committee to study the feasibility of creating a contracting company to be run by the tribe. Council members are banking on a tribe-run contracting company being able to provide tribal members faster and more efficient housing services than are now being provided.
Council members said the idea of forming a contracting company has been under consideration for some time. Several voiced their concerns that so many tribal members have been denied housing and utility aid, many often waiting years for service.
Under the structure of Lumbee government, individual housing cases are the responsibility of the tribe’s administration, council members said.
“We need to find another way,” said Cummings, who argued that he does not believe housing repairs and construction should be functions overseen by the tribe’s administration. He said the hiring of a consulting firm to oversee the tribe’s housing department would be more efficient.
Councilman Steve Sampson assured several contractors present at the meeting that the creation of a tribal contracting company would not take work from them.
“No one is going to be removed from our list of contractors if they are doing good work,” Sampson said. ” … One contracting company can’t handle all of the work we have to do.
“Yes, this council wants to start a contracting company. We want to get out of the political realm and start doing what is best for the future of our kids and grandchildren.”
The tribe’s housing committee will study the proposal and bring information back to the full council.
In other business, a resolution was passed opposing a recent policy approved by the U.S. Justice Department that makes it a crime for members of non-federally recognized tribes, including the Lumbees, to carry or use an eagle feather. Many American Indian tribes consider carrying an eagle feather a high honor that is an important part of their culture.
“This hurts my heart that we have to tell our kids that they can’t hold an eagle feather,” said Jimmy Goins, a former tribal chairman. “… We’ve always used eagle feathers. This is taking away from our culture.”
The policy covers all federally protected birds, bird feathers and bird parts, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
“It (policy) clarifies and expands on longstanding department practice, consistent with the Department of Interior’s 35-year old Morton Policy, of not prosecuting tribal members for possessing or using eagle feathers and other protected bird parts,” the statement says.
The council also met in closed session to receive a report on a proposed solar energy project. No action was taken.