LEE COUNTY: Commissioners table EDC loan

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

The tabling of a $150,000 loan to the Lee County Economic Development Corporation was not, Lee County Commissioners stressed Monday night, a gesture of ill-will.

A decision on approving the loan — which would fund "a path to develop a new public-private economic development organization," including the EDC and Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce — was postponed until the first Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting in November to tighten the legal language in the loan request. 

At the request of Lee County Attorney Neil Yarborough, a closed session was added to the commissioners' agenda just before the loan was discussed.

"By no means do we want to slow down this process," Commissioner Amy Dalrymple said. "We'd like to speed it up as much as possible. But, from a legal perspective, we may need to tighten up the loan."

The concern, she said, is lending the EDC funds when the organization will ultimately disband to form the new organization.

"When you are loaning money to one entity and ultimately it is going to be another entity paying you back, you have to have better language," Yarborough said.

Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with the EDC, which included the loan for $150,000 to cover the cost of planning the organization and a private sector fundraising effort.

The EDC board voted in September to request the loan from the county, and, according to a letter from Interim EDC Director Crystal Morphis, the EDC requires $30,000 to cover the cost of the fundraising assessment but is requesting the full amount be authorized "to allow the EDC to draw down as needed."

The loan is on a five-year repayment plan, and requests that repayment begin in the fiscal year following the completion of the fundraising campaign. 

A steering committee — consisting of local government, business and community leaders — have met monthly to develop the program of work for the new program. During its last meeting, held in early October, steering committee members discussed the goals of the new entity but not the funding, governing or staffing models for the organization.

The fundraising assessment for the joint EDC-Chamber is set to begin in early November. 

In other matters, Commissioners:

* Held two public hearings regarding a community transportation grant and an "elderly and disabled" grant application. No one spoke for or against the grants during the two public hearings.

* Approved an agreement between the N.C. Department of Public Safety and Lee County to house misdemeanant offenders at the Lee County Jail to raise, potentially, $50,000. The daily housing fee is $40 per day and supervision is $25 per hour, according to Lee County Jail Capt. Kent Everett.

* Heard a presentation on the county's space needs from Tim Sherman, who conducted the study.

* Appropriated funds for several departments and budget items, including the Lee County Sheriff's Office, the local animal shelter, youth and adult services, emergency-911 services, the Health Department and Cooperative Extension.

* Requested the Lee County Board of Education to apply for two grants targeting safety concerns for elementary and middle schools from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction — and transfer those funds to the county for the Lee County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officers Program. 

* Tabled an application from the Lee County Board of Education for $700,000 in lottery proceeds. The money would be used for phase one of the replacement of the air handlers and electric heat at East Lee Middle School. Expected cost is $1.3 million for the full project.

* Removed a hiring freeze, effective Nov. 1, that was enacted after the federal government shutdown.