Robeson gets $3.5M for Matthew work

By: By Mike Gellatly - [email protected]

LUMBERTON — The Golden LEAF Foundation on Thursday approved about $3.5 million that Robeson County can use for various projects following the destruction of Hurricane Matthew and its record flooding, including the school system’s effort to find a new central office.

In addition to the Public Schools of Robeson County, the city of Lumberton and the Entrepreneurship Incubator at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke all received money.

The money is from the General Assembly, but Golden LEAF was selected to administer it.

Bo Biggs, a Lumberton businessman, is on Golden LEAF’s 15-member board.

“With much appreciation to the 15-member board of Golden LEAF, and the hard work of its staff, the foundation distributed around $11 million in disaster relief funds to hard hit Hurricane Matthew counties, particularly Robeson, Columbus, Bertie, Lenoir and municipalities, like Kinston, Lumberton, and Fayetteville,” board member Bo Biggs said in a statement.

Biggs pointed out that Dan Gerlach, president of Golden LEAF, and his staff provided the funds without charging the state any administrative costs.

The school district received $2,761,016 for repairs to several buildings, including the transportation building and the warehouse on U.S. 74. Part of the money will enable Robeson County to meet required deductibles, ensuring access to Department of Public Instruction insurance proceeds for a new central office and work at West Lumberton Elementary School, which is still closed.

The system’s central office, which sits by the Lumber River on N.C. 72, just west of Interstate 95, was abandoned after it was drowned by floodwaters. The Board of Education still must decide where to locate a new central office.

The city of Lumberton received $754,303 to continue repairs to public buildings damaged by the storm. Some buildings did not have flood insurance and, as a result, Federal Emergency Management Agency funding was reduced. Repairs to these buildings are underway and expected to be completed by the end of this year, according to city officials.

The university’s Entrepreneurship Incubator received $55,000 to defray the costs of renovations that Executive Director Thomas Hall said were completed in the flooding’s immediate aftermath. The facility was closed for six weeks because of the damages.

“We highly appreciate the support Golden LEAF has given us,” Hall said.

The Golden LEAF Foundation was formed by the state General Assembly to provide assistance to poor or tobacco-dependent regions of North Carolina whose local economies were damaged by the tobacco buyout.

The first round of awards came in April when Lumberton received $4.2 million for two projects. One was for $1.266 million to pay for repairs to several public facilities that are not covered by FEMA or insurance. A $3 million grant was for infrastructure and drainage repairs and improvements in the Tanglewood area.

Pembroke received $310,000 at that time to boost capacity at the town’s water treatment plant.

Other beneficiaries from Thursday’s announcement were Bladen County, which received $800,000 for stream debris removal, and the town of Fair Bluff, which received $1,767,000 for repairs to its town hall.

By Mike Gellatly

[email protected]

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly