LUMBERTON — The Lumberton City Council on Tuesday approved a bid for the construction of a sixth baseball field at the Dr. Raymond B. Pennington Athletic Complex, site of the upcoming Dixie Youth Baseball World Series.
“The sixth field completes the venue requirement for hosting the World Series,” said Bruce Mullis, Recreation Committee chairman and Lumberton Youth Baseball Association treasurer.
The council approved a $764,365.28 bid from Apex-based TerraHawk LLC. The Lumberton Tourism Development Authority is giving $500,000 to help fund the project, but the question of how to pay the roughly $250,000 in projected electrical power needs was debated during a special meeting of the council on Tuesday morning.
The original plan was to use money from the city’s electric utility capital funds to cover the cost, but several council members objected. The disagreement stemmed from the city’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Matthew and issues with displaced residents. Many council members also agreed that recent spikes in electricity bills around the city would cause residents to be suspicious if the municipality’s electricity funds were used for the project.
Councilman Chris Howard Jr. said some residents still are having to pay electricity bills despite not having full access to their homes in the storm’s aftermath.
“Right now, pulling money from any electric fund is explosive,” Howard said. “The timing isn’t right.”
Councilman John Cantey Jr. said the council has “no credibility” until all of the city’s displaced residents are put back in their homes.
Leroy Rising urged the council to “live up to commitments” it has made to the city. Construction of the field is one of those obligations.
In response to Cantey’s argument about large amounts of money being used for construction when displacement is still an issue in Lumberton, Rising said financial assistance is coming, although the process may take some time.
“It’s slow, and it will be slow,” Rising said.
Rising also reminded the council that “time is of the essence,” given the World Series starts July 27.
The first game on the new field is scheduled for Aug. 4. Mullis said construction work needs to be timely in order to allow time for the new field’s surface to mature and settle.
The council members agreed there was no objection to the construction of the field, and the funding issue was the only thing impeding its progress.
After going into closed session, the council members agreed to use city recreation capital funds to cover power costs.
City Manager Wayne Horne said the project should be completed in June.
Mullis said construction of the new field is a big step in the Recreation Committee’s long-term plans for the athletic complex.
“We want to develop the entire complex,” Mullis said.
Plans for future improvements include a new softball field.
The Dixie Youth World Series will take place from July 27 to Aug. 8. Robeson Community College and the Lumberton Youth Baseball Association are event hosts.
The council voted earlier this month for the city to become a guarantor for fees associated with the event.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected]