The executive director of the North Carolina Horse Council Foundation stood before the county Board of Commissioners on Monday hoping to put a $120,000 dent in the fund-raising effort to construct 200 horse stalls at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center, but came away with just $2,000 — and a hint that more would be coming.
Sue Gray asked each of the eight county commissioners to take $15,000 from their plump discretionary funds for the horse-stall project that is projected to cost as much as $550,000, but only Chairman Noah Woods promised to pull from that fund, and his was a $2,000 pledge. Woods did give the impression that other commissioners would also consider a donation, and Commissioner Tom Taylor promised to chip in as well but, and we find this refreshing, he said he would be using his own money, not yours.
The stalls deserve additional support from the county government which, like Lumberton, has already pledged $50,000 toward the project. Other local governments, which also stand to benefit, should also consider supporting the effort. We know they are cash strapped, but even a symbolic donation should be considered.
Robeson County doesn’t have enough to offer as a tourist destination, with most of our $120 million tourism industry the result of motorists stopping to gas up quickly and have a meal before heading on to the beach or Florida. But the pavilion at the recently renamed Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center is a place where a horse enthusiast might camp for a few days while spreading money around, supporting and creating local jobs.
As an example, a three-day event scheduled for the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center’s pavilion from Sept. 28 to Sept. 30 is expected to boost the local economy by as much as $1 million. The center is for the first time being aggressively marketed, and its location, just off Interstate 95 and U.S. 74, makes it an easier drive from all directions than similar horse arenas in the state.
We hope that the county commissioners will consider the request that was made on Monday night, even if we believe the better method of supporting the horse-stall project would have been for the commissioners to have simply approved a budget amendment for an amount significantly more substantial than the $50,000 already pledged, but that didn’t happen.
Perhaps the commissioners could also follow Taylor’s lead and consider a donation of their own dollars — as could those of you who have read this. We all stand to benefit.