Officials, trustees meet on capital projects

Feb. 14, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

Lee County needs an economic vision and strategy before financially committing to any major capital improvement projects — including a new continuing education building for Central Carolina Community College — Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Parks said Wednesday.

Parks, along with Lee County Manager John Crumpton, met with the Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees yesterday afternoon to discuss the future of the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center and how the county could assist the college in building a new continuing education building.

The county wants to help CCCC as much as possible, Parks said. If there was an available blank check, the chairman added, he’d write it.

“What we are trying to do is get the county back on a responsible track,” he said. “So when we do see something that we need, we can take care of it and look at all the options we have.”

CCCC Trustee James Kelly said discussions by commissioners regarding privatizing the civic center “ruffled feathers” among trustee members. Commissioner Jim Womack suggested beginning the process to privatize the civic center during a commissioners’ meeting in December.

The county must do what is best for the taxpayers, Parks said, and if a hotel or organization can take over the center and establish a quality convention center, those options must be explored.

Trustee L.W. “Bobby” Powell said the community college has never asked for a new building or funding out of want. The requests have always been needs.

He was frustrated, Powell said, when he read or heard about discussions about the civic center’s future when there were no discussions with the board of trustees.

“I would like to see a joint venture together between the county and the college board to figure out a way to move forward,” Powell said.

The discussion turned toward the college’s need for a continuing education building. Construction costs are down, and other counties are finding ways to fund these necessary buildings, said CCCC Trustee Tim McNeill, a former Harnett County Commissioner.

“One thing I have learned, is you have to have a vision of where you want to go,” McNeill said. “If you don’t know where you want to go, you will never get there.”

There have been many turnovers on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, Crumpton said, and his staff is working to bring the new commissioners up to speed on institutional knowledge. The average experience of board members, save for long-time Commissioner Robert Reives, is a little more than a year, Crumpton said.

The county is taking a step back to plan and outline the future of the county, Parks said, including hosting an economic summit on March 1. After the summit, the county will continue creating an economic strategic plan, which should have input from the college. he said.

CCCC Trustee Jan Hayes said the community college and civic center are investments in the community, and the prosperity of the two should be considered during the planning process.