LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved repaying Campbell Soup 100 percent of the company’s property taxes as an incentive for the company to invest $20 million in an expansion at its Maxton plant.
The county is in competition with two other plants to land the expansion that would create 25 jobs, said Greg Cummings, county Economic Development director. One of those plants is in Texas and the other in Ohio.
The expansion plan was precipitated by Campbell Soup closing its facility in Toronto, Canada, on Jan. 24, Cummings said. If Campbell Soup chooses to expand in Robeson County it will be the 15th expansion at its facility here, he said.
The expansion will entail investments of $14 million in machinery and equipment and $6 million in its facility, Cummings said. The jobs created will have salaries ranging from $12.50 to $15 an hour and will come with benefits and 401K plans.
The incentive offered by the county will be conditional on the Campbell Soup plant staying in Robeson County for five years after the expansion is completed, Cummings said.
Cummings was given an Order of the Long Leaf Pine after his presentation about Campbell Soup’s expansion plans. The award, the state’s highest civilian honor, was presented by state Rep. Charles Graham in recognition of his work as the county’s Economic Development director.
“Robeson County is better off for your service since 1986,” Graham told Cummings.
“Well deserved,” said Raymond Cummings, Board of Commissioners chairman.
“We’re proud of his accomplishments,” said Jerry Cummings, Greg Cummings’ brother.
Then, with a laugh, Jerry Cummings said, “And since he’s my baby brother I’d like to think I had some influence on him.”
Cummings had planned to retire Dec. 31, but has kept working while the county looks for his replacement.
The board members, meeting as the Robeson County Housing Authority Board, approved a smoke-free policy that will go into effect at all Robeson County Housing Authority units on July 1 and carries the possibility of fines, other disciplinary actions and eviction for violators.
The policy dictates that all residents, visitors, contractors and all employees of contractors providing services to the Housing Authority must abide by the policy. The policy defines smoking as “carrying or smoking a lighted tobacco product or the burning of any material to be inhaled including but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipes.”
“Smoking is not permitted in any building to include: apartment units, community facilities and public housing offices,” the policy reads. “Smoking is only permitted in specifically designated areas, at a distance of 25 feet from the exterior of the building and entrance canopies, where applicable.”
The commissioners also heard a positive report on the Housing Authority’s audit for the year ending June 30, 2017. Only two deficiencies were noted, and they were “nit-picky,” said Mat Patterson, of Patterson & Associates, PLLC, of Lumberton. One deficiency was the incorrect calculation of rent on one unit. The other was missing a scheduled inspection on another unit.
“The staff over there are doing a great job,” Patterson said. “They have turned that ship around in terms of finances and management.”
Tennille Lowery came before the commissioners to ask that they find money to help the Cheer Xcel All Stars pay for sending three traveling competition teams to a national meet in Orlando in May. Thirty-six athletes will be going to the meet in Florida at a cost of about $650 per athlete.
The Cheer Xcel gym is not affiliated with any organization, so all money to support team trips is raised by the athletes’ parents, Lowery said.
In other business, the commissioners approved:
— Transferring $7,000 from the Parks & Recreation Department’s Sign Project budget line item to maintenance and athletic supplies line items.
— Transferring $200 from the Health Department’s Incentives budget line item to Office Supplies and $9,000 from Education/Medical Supplies to Other Supplies/Materials.
— Moving around $37,664 in the Health Department’s Animal Control budget.
— Transferring $200,000 from the county jail’s Salaries/Regular budget line item to Jail Safekeeping to “pay safekeeping bills for inmates being housed in other locations due to medical or housing conflicts.”
— Moving $10,000 in the county jail’s budget from Salaries PartTime to Contracted Services for work done in December.
— Transferring $37,072 from line item to line item in various segments of the county Health Department’s budget “to get them through the end of the fiscal year.”
— Appropriating $12,666 in state Tobacco Prevention money for supplies and travel and training in the county Health Department’s Tobacco Prevention budget.
— Appropriating $1.2 million for county Public Works to reflect funding received for the Prestage Rocco Treatment Facility.