The following is a speech that Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis before the 12th Night Concert of Healing and Hope at First Baptist Church, which was held to celebrate the recovery since Hurricane Matthew. The Robesonian believed the message was worthy of sharing with our readers. It has been slightly edited with the mayor’s permission — editor.
A year ago I said we would make every effort to restore our city. A year ago I stood on faith; tonight I stand as a testament of that faith and to explain the City Council’s commitment to make Lumberton whole again.
I am pleased to report that we have received 100 percent funding for our flood gates as well as a berm around our water plant at a total cost of $3.5 million, paid through FEMA and CDBG funding. This is great news because even though we may have some future flooding, we will never have that magnitude of flood damage again. Think about the added costs, just the road damage at Cox Road, where the water came in, was $480,000, and that work is now under contract to repair, and that does not even consider the cost of DOT’s repairing the two bridges on I-95 or the cost of replacing the CSX railroad section.
When we tallied our losses we had 22 major needs categories and 41 projects. All 41 of them were funded 100 percent. Thank you Jesus. All of this funding will go toward the repair or replacement of city facilities. I will briefly cover the four funding sources and the amounts: FEMA, $7,250,163; North Carolina Emergency Management and CDBG, $2,625,985; Golden LEAF, $6,250,000; and city’s insurance, $680,163. That is a total of $16.8 million and does not include an estimated $10 million to $15 million for housing costs.
We had 100 homes qualify for Hazard Mitigation assistance up to $275,000 per home. In this program the homeowner can choose a buyout, elevating the property or demolition and rebuild. Just think if you were to lose everything you had. It will be three or four years before these folks get back where they were before the storm.
We have 300 homes that qualified under the Community Development Block Grant program. This program is income sensitive and will be administered by Robeson County. The county supported our efforts to fund the flood gates and worked with us to capture an additional $426,000 to provide sewer to Fuller’s BBQ’s new location on N.C. 211.
I want to thank the city of Lumberton’s Housing Authority Board of Commissioners for their tireless efforts. They suffered the loss of two residential projects, Myers Park and Hilton Heights, plus a number of single units for a total of 267 units and three commercial buildings. At a cost of $15 million, this is funded by HUD. A special thanks to former director, Lemark Harris, and current director, Adrian Lowery, for their hard work in putting the operational side of the Housing Authority back on track.
I want to thank former Gov. Pat McCrory, without his full cooperation and his cell phone, we would still be struggling. The last time I talked to him he said, “Mayor, your town was the hardest hit and the first to recover, how is that possible?” To which I replied, “with the governor’s cell phone, anything is possible. I also want to thank Mike Sprayberry, director of NC Emergency Management. He always answered and he always delivered.
I want to thank Gov. Roy Cooper for his unwavering support for the flood gates funding. After his election, he wanted to hold press conference and go over our needs. His aide called and asked where, we told him under the I-95 bridges where the water came in and where flood gates will go.
I want to thank Congressman Robert Pittinger for his support and ability to show up in Lumberton on a moment’s notice. In the last year he held two public meetings and a number of staff meetings with Lumberton as well as the county.
I want to thank our state Sen. Danny Britt, who is everywhere, all the time. He works hard for us and we are forever grateful.
A special thanks to Bo Biggs, our member on the Golden LEAF Board, we could not be more pleased. I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Gurlock, director of Gold LEAF and he said, “Mayor, I get more e-mails from Bo Biggs than from all the other members combined, and they all have your name on them.”
For a job well done, I want to thank our city staff — City Manager Wayne Horne; City Attorney Holt Moore; Rob Armstrong, Public Works director; Brandon Love, Planning and Zoning director; Linda Oxendine, Public Services director and her staff; Lamar Brayboy, Electric Utilities Department, and his crews that worked day and night, and after our storm sent two crews to Fort Mead, Fla., to help them get their power back on; Tim Taylor, Recreation director who partnered with the county EOC to open Bill Sapp Center as an emergency shelter; Sharon Hunt, Distribution and Receiving Warehouse Services; and to all of our city employees who worked tirelessly day and night through this disaster.
We certainly want to thank all of the charitable organizations that came to Lumberton to repair and rebuild. Baptist Men, who bought a building and slept 150 people a week, to The National Council of Churches, to the Methodist Men and to the Minanites. To our local churches, Hyde Park Baptist, Chestnut Street Methodist, Sandy Grove Baptist, First Baptist and First Presbyterian and many others, some of which became sub distribution sites for our main distribution warehouse.
Mutual aid is a most rewarding concept. When we lost our electricity, the NC Power Agency sent four North Carolina cities to our aid. Apex, Concord, Kings Mountain and Tarboro. When we lost our water plant, the following fire departments responded with fire trucks and water tankers — Conover Fire Dept., Durham Fire & Rescue and Bahama Fire Dept., Guilford County Fire Dept., Salisbury Fire Dept., Locke Township Volunteer Fire Dept., Tri-Beach Volunteer Fire Dept. and Redwood Volunteer Fire Dept.
I want to say thank you to all of our local first responders, police, fire, Electrical Utilities, Rescue, Recreation Dept., as well as the volunteers who came from all over the country, for all you did for Lumberton in our darkest hours.
We thank you. For the lives you saved and the hearts you touched, we thank you. We recognize you for your service, your sacrifice and your strength of heart. To respond when your fellow man is in need is a Patriot’s Call and a Servant’s Creed. There is no higher calling.
Bruce Davis is the mayor of Lumberton.