It seems to fit perfectly the reaction of local officials to the state's plan for a multi-purpose facility at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center/Farmers Market. Local officials are adamant that they want a facility built primarily for equestrian and livestock shows. But the state is turning a deaf ear while working toward a facility that would be much more versatile.
With the state facing a shortfall that could approach $2 billion, local officials must be careful not to push too hard; doing so could risk the entire $3.7 million project. State Sen. David Weinstein, who is refereeing the battle, said, "I'm scared to death we are going to lose that money."
An equestrian center has long been coveted as part of the agriculture complex by local horse enthusiasts. At one time, a horse arena that would have cost about $20 million was considered, but it got blown away by the state shortfall that followed Hurricane Floyd's 1999 visit.
The state instead proceeded with building the farmers market and a meeting center with a promise that a horse arena would be built during better economic times. Those times have yet to arrive.
In the meantime, the farmers market has never been embraced by local folks, so the pickings are slim for tourists traveling through the county who stop there. That is why the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center/Farmers Market has cost this state's taxpayers millions of subsidy dollars during the past decade.
A sticking point in the proposed facility is the construction of the floor. Steve Troxler, the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, prefers a concrete floor onto which dirt could be hauled in and spread for livestock shows. Local officials want a permanent dirt floor.
There is also local concern that there will not be enough seating for horse and livestock shows.
A spokesman for the Agriculture Department said that the state is now screening potential architects for the facility, and that a decision could be made next month. It seems to us that county officials need to make a journey northward for a sit-down with Troxler so that differences can be resolved.
But the state should be advised: The Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center/Farmers Market today is Exhibit A on what happens when a major facility is not welcomed by the local folks.
We have one White Elephant out on U.S. 74. It doesn't need a companion.