LUMBERTON — Emotions flared during the Lumberton City Council meeting that was held online Wednesday as members were deciding on budget requests for the next fiscal year from nonprofits.
As council members went through the requests for fiscal year 2020-2021, some questioned why two camps based in South Lumberton were asking for more money from the city. The two councilmen who represent the precincts in which the camps are based rose to their defense.
“It seems to me that every organization that is promoting diversity is on the table to get cut,” Councilman John Cantey said. “That’s my opinion, and Council, we’ve got to do better.”
The Sandy Grove Summer Academy asked for an extra $1,000, which would bring their total funding from the city to $5,000. Black Girls’ Training Camp requested a $500 increase, also raising its funding to $5,000.
Council ultimately voted to approve Sandy Grove Summer Academy’s funding request. The vote on Black Girls’ Training Camp’s increase ended in an tie. Mayor Bruce Davis broke the tie with a vote to deny the request.
“In my opinion, I think the naming is inappropriate, and that was the sole concern of it,” Davis said after the meeting.
After the vote was counted, Davis and Cantey had a quick exchange.
“Thank you, Mr. Mayor for voting no and letting everybody know that,” Cantey said.
“You are out of order, councilman,” Davis responded.
“I’m always out of order,” Cantey said.
Councilman Leroy Rising questioned the need for funding for these programs considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing at a time when schools will remain closed until August.
“I’m concerned with camps and academies trying to meet,” Rising said. “I don’t think we need to promote putting people together, especially our youth and even our trainers and the people working those camps.”
Cantey’s questioned why other organizations received funding approval without a hitch.
“Isn’t the Boys and Girls Club of Lumberton where our children also go?” he said. “How are we going to fund them and not this one? I can go right down this list and hit what Rising has pointed out. It will fit in for the Boys and Girls Club, it will fit in to the Exploration Station, it will fit in the museum. If we are going to fund them during this pandemic, ain’t nobody going to go visit there.”
During discussion of Black Girls’ Training Camp, Councilman John Carroll asked about what he thought may be a lack of diversity based on the camp’s name.
“I’m not real familiar with this group, but when the city is trying to promote diversity and we are trying to break the racial divide. I have a concern here that we are in line when this and it’s just for one category of people,” he said.
Councilman Chris Howard, in whose precinct the camp is located, said people of multiple races are involved in the camp.
“It does not specifically mean just for black girls because they have sent pictures of them where the group is founded by all ethnicities. There’s a little bit of everyone that is in this camp. White or Indian or whatever can join that camp,” Howard said. “If you look at the thank you postcard they sent out, that will reflect all of what you are talking about.”
In all, Council approved 18 of the 19 funding requests from local nonprofits.
Robeson County Church and Community Center will receive $1,500 more, for a total of $5,000 in the next fiscal year. Southeastern Family Violence will get $5,000 more, for a total of $15,000; Robeson County Humane Society, $1,000 more, for a total of $10,000; and Borderbelt Aids Resource Team, $250 more, for a total of $1,500.
Funding increases for Black Girls’ Training Camp, Palmer Prevention and the Robeson County Arts Council were denied.
Council did approve spending an additional $48,389 for work on the new main terminal building and design work for a news fuel farm at Lumberton Regional Airport. Airport Manager Bob Snuck said the state will reimburse 90% of the money.
Of the additional money $12,500 is to be reallocated from a runways account to cover the local share of the cost to design a new fuel farm for the airport.
The airport received a $30,000 grant that was made available by the federal CARES ACT. The grant will cover operational needs or debt service at the airport, Snuck said.
In other airport action, Council approved a $15,000 local match for a $150,000 grant that will go toward construction of the new terminal building.
In other business, Council approved an amendment to the Tanglewood drainage project’s engineering contract to address $739,350 worth of engineering fees being added to the contract. The money will come from a $3 million Golden LEAF grant.
Also approved Wednesday was a request from Lumberton Police Chief Mike McNeill to apply for the 2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Grant worth $104,742. The money will be used to buy 800 MHz radios that will allow officers to communicate with agencies outside of their jurisdiction.
Council accepted $761,312 bid from Tri State Utilities to do sewer repairs in the Godwin Heights and Sunset Heights communities. The work will be paid for with a combination loan and grant from the North Carolina Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
The Electric Utilities Department was given the OK to buy a new Nissan truck from Modern Nissan of Winston-Salem for $21,199. The truck will be used by meter readers.