TOWN HALL DAY: Leaders air city’s concerns to reps

Mar. 28, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Five City of Sanford officials traveled to Raleigh on Wednesday to meet and discuss pressing matters with state legislators — including a proposed bill to move Lee County to an economic region based around Charlotte.

Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive, Mayor Pro Tem Samuel Gaskins and Council member J.D. Williams, along with City Manager Hal Hegwer and City Attorney Susan Patterson, participated in the N.C. League of Municipalities’s Town Hall Day Wednesday, a day to meet with state legislators to discuss bills that may impact cities and towns.

“It’s a good time to sit down, face to face,” Hegwer said. “It’s always really positive, and we look forward to it every year.”

The day gives local leaders a chance to see where their representatives are actively working to resolve complicated issues, he said. City leaders were scheduled to meet with all of Sanford’s state legislators, including Rep. Mike Stone, Rep. Deb McManus and Sen. Ronald Rabin.

The main concern is the prospect of changing Lee County’s economic region, which would jeopardize established regional partnerships, Olive said. The goal of Senate Bill 127 is to centralize business marketing and recruiting along with N.C. departments of commerce, transportation and environment.

“We have no ties to the Charlotte area,” Olive said. “I can understand anybody’s interest in efficiencies and economizing when it is practical, but it needs to be practical for everybody.”

Gaskins, agreed, and said adjusting Lee County’s affiliation would cause damage to the local economy.

“I hope we will be able to speak to all of our representatives and get some positive feedback,” Gaskins said.

The Town of Broadway did not participate in this year’s Town Hall Day, but did pass a resolution against changing economic regions this week, said Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews.

“We are concerned we were going from the Raleigh area to the Charlotte area,” he said. “We understand what the state is wanting to do by consolidating, but pulling Lee County to Charlotte, if you look at the map, Raleigh is a better fit.”

Olive said she also intended to speak about an occupancy tax — a tax placed on motels and inns — to fund tourism efforts by the city.

“It is something we need so badly in Sanford and Lee County so we can promote our area adequately,” she said.

As shown by a series of joint meetings between the city and the Lee County Board of Commissioners, communication among leaders proves to be essential to tackle a variety of items, Olive said.

“I think, considering that the General Assembly is in session, it is very generous of them to give us the time that they do,” she said.