Commissioners approve funding, loan for economic development

May. 07, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

The Lee County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to maintain funding for the Lee County Economic Development Corporation and make a $150,000 loan to begin the fundraising phase for an all-inclusive economic development organization Monday.

The commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding  — which must also be approved by the Sanford City Council, Broadway Board of Commissioners, Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and EDC Board to go into effect — during its 4:30 p.m. meeting at the Lee County Government Center.

Allocating the $150,000 loan and $190,000 to the EDC in the upcoming fiscal year is contingent on the other boards approving the memorandum, which outlines the planning  and organization of a single entity, including the chamber and EDC. The commissioners agreed to the MOU under the condition that the EDC Board representation be proportional to the partner funding.

The memorandum was drafted by the Economic Development Task Force, which consists of government, business and community leaders, and the loan is needed for the group to press onward, said County Manager John Crumpton.

"They are at a point where they need a commitment from the partners to continue to move forward," Crumpton said. "There are still issues that have to be worked out and will be worked out in the next six months, but without the commitment they can't move forward."

Commissioner Andre Knecht said he was apprehensive about supporting the MOU until some of the details on how the county would be repaid, among other items, were discussed. Commissioner Jim Womack said while there were many more details that needed to be ironed out, the MOU showed a "drastic change in dialogue" that would benefit the county.

"The alternative is business as usual or disbanding the EDC, and I am not sure that works for anyone," Womack said.

The loan is essential to begin soliciting private donors and funds, said Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce, and the approval of the MOU from all the boards signal the serious intent of the new economic development organization.

"All bets are off unless the local governments are involved," Joyce said.

Sanford City Council is set to discuss the memorandum during today's 7 p.m. meeting at the Sanford Municipal Center, located at 224 E. Weatherspoon St.

In other matters, commissioners:

* Heard from Lee County Board of Education member Tamara Brogan, who congratulated the 16 Lee County students who were accepted into the Caterpillar Youth Apprentices program, and from Bill Stone, of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, who announced Friday is the deadline for Lee County Young Commissioner Youth Leadership Program. The two-week program, running form July 8-19, would pair up to 14 Lee County seventh through 10th graders with a county commissioner and include lessons on leadership and local government. Students can contact Stone at (919) 775-5624 for information on the program.

* Considered a funding request from Sandhills Center CEO Victoria Whitt for the upcoming fiscal year. Whitt requested the commissioners maintain funding at $240,000 per year for the ninth consecutive year. No action was taken by the commissioners.

* Approved two grants from the N.C. Governors Crime Commissioner for the Lee County Sheriff's Office. A $10,000 grant would fund a training session concerning school safety next year and the second grant allocates $78,000 for two school resource officers at Greenwood and Deep River elementary schools. The second grant requires a $26,000 local match from the county.

* Approved the grant application from the Lee County Sheriff's Office to fund two school resource officers at elementary schools from the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant would cover $125,000 per position for three year or 75 percent of the salary and benefit costs.

* Approved the county's solid waste contract with Waste Industries, effective July 1.  The county would maintain ownership of its containers and operations of the convenience centers to ensure quality control over the service. 

* Expressed their condolences to Clemellyn "Clem" Hunter Welch's family. Welch, a Broadway Commissioner, died this weekend.