PEMBROKE — COMtech’s board of directors huddled behind closed doors for about an hour Wednesday trying to come up with a plan for weathering a $36,000 cut in county funding for the new fiscal year that begins Sunday.
Robeson County commissioners cut the industrial park’s allocation in its fiscal 2012-13 budget from $132,000 to $96,000. COMtech had asked for $196,000 for the next fiscal year.
“Somehow we’ll keep the doors of COMtech open,” Ronnie Hunt, the board’s chairman, said after the meeting.
Hunt said that directors spent their time looking at a number of options to address the cash shortfall.
“There was a lot of brainstorming,” he said. “We’re looking at a lot of options, but we’re not sure if any of them will work.”
Hunt said that the board plans to meet again in a couple of weeks to continue the conversation. In the meantime, Ken Windley, COMtech’s executive director, will prepare a more detailed description of individual budget line items for board members to review. Windley also has been requested to search out other counties in the state that are having similar problems with industrial park funding and find out how they are addressing their problems, Hunt said.
According to Hunt, board members had hoped the county would reconsider such a drastic cut in COMtech’s allocation, which during the current fiscal year totaled $132,000.
“But from what everyone on the county side is telling us, that’s never going to happen,” he said.
Among the options being considered are charging park tenants an administrative fee to help continue the level of services they are now receiving; reducing the number of hours that the executive director works; or terminating the executive director’s position entirely and handing over COMtech’s administrative responsibilities to the county’s Industrial Economic Development Commission.
Windley, a former Robeson County manager and executive director of COMtech since January 2011, said after Wednesday’s meeting that he is “still in limbo” concerning the future of his COMtech employment. In addition to Windley, COMtech employs an office manager.
Hunt said that he doesn’t really believe that the county wants to take over COMtech.
“If they do, they are going to have to hire more employees or double up the work of current employees,” he said.
According to Hunt, the poor economy over the past few years has made it extremely difficult to recruit businesses to COMtech or Robeson County.
“Everyone directly involved with COMtech knows the good it can do for the county,” Hunt said. “But when others look at COMtech it doesn’t look like much is going on. They need to give the economy enough time to turn around. If they land a high-tech industry out here it will be good for the entire region.”
COMtech , 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. According to Windley, COMtech currently has 25 tenants.
County Commissioner Raymond Cummings made the recommendation that the county’s 2012-13 fiscal budget include a $100,000 cut for COMtech. He told The Robesonian earlier this month that he made the recommendation as a possible way of “tightening up” the county’s budget.
“Economic times are still hard,” Cummings said. “This is just a suggestion to balance the budget. We have to trim where we can trim.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com