Funds approved to finish rehab work

By: By Bob Shiles -

LUMBERTON — The City Council approved on Wednesday giving $13,775 to one of the several nonprofits that are helping renovate homes in Lumberton and Robeson County damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

The request was made by City Councilman John Cantey during a meeting of the council’s Council Policy Committee. The decision to give the money to Christian Aid Ministries will need final approval during the City Council meeting on Monday.

The money to go to Christian Aid Ministries is the last of more than $100,000 the city had in a GoFundMe account. All of the money in the account was dedicated to making repairs and supplying necessary items for displaced residents trying to get back into their hurricane-ravaged homes. Several nonprofits have received funding from the account to help them continue hurricane recovery efforts.

Council members approved awarding the money in increments up to $2,500 for home renovation projects that are nearly complete. Cantey said the money will go to people who are on the list of applicants eligible for mitigation assistance and are within just a few thousand dollars of having all renovation work completed and being back in their homes.

“We all know how slow the government is, and we all know how close some are in getting back into their homes,” Cantey told council members. “This is a way eight or 10 of the homes on the list can be removed and another group of homes can be moved up.”

Cantey tried to get an additional $20,000 for Christian Aid Ministries. He asked council members to recall funds they had allocated in June to the Robeson County Disaster Recovery Committee. He said the nonprofit still has not used the money. If the money is returned it could be used by others to speed up recovery efforts.

Council members balked at asking for the return of money already allocated. They pointed out that the Disaster Recovery Committee, like other funded nonprofits, already has used some of the allocated funds but has not yet officially asked the city to draw-down on their account.

“I think we could create a problem,” said Councilman Leon Maynor.

Cantey said he didn’t care who receives the funds as long as the work of getting people in their homes moves ahead quickly.

“I don’t care if John the Baptist or Stephen the Saint does the work as long as it gets done,” Cantey said.

It’s important that any available money is allocated in such a way that all areas of the city are treated equally, Mayor Bruce Davis said.

“It’s important to maintain integrity when spending someone else’s money,” he said. “With all monies available, every need is going to get a piece of the pie.”

The council members on Wednesday also sent to the city Planning Board a request to come up with an ordinance that sets requirements for the location and operation of electronic gaming machines. The action was taken after council members met behind closed doors for about 30 minutes.

In September, the council tabled two conditional-use permit applications that if approved would allow skilled gaming machines to operate in two arcades in the city. Skilled gaming machines are a replacement for sweepstakes machines that are illegal in North Carolina.

Requesting the conditional-use permits were Joe French, of Charlotte, who wants to operate a skilled gaming arcade at 1702 W. Fifth St.; and PMP Properties LLC, which wants to operate a skilled-based online gaming business with complimentary online work stations for email, bill paying and internet research, at 3487 Lackey St.

Both of the applications will now go to the Planning Board for review and scheduling of a public hearing.

“This is a way to restrain this kind of operation,” City Attorney Holt Moore said. “The council has some concerns. We’re just trying to make sure that this does not get out of control.”

In other business, council members:

— Approved an amendment to a city ordinance regulating the ownership of cats to include pet rabbits. According to Moore, rabbits have not been kept enclosed on their property, have gotten loose, and found their way onto other property where they have caused damage.

Unlike cats, the ordinance does not require rabbits to have a rabies vaccination, Moore said.

— Authorized city staff to review a petition from Sanderson Farms Inc. for a contiguous property annexation. The annexation is part of the requirements Sanderson Farms had to meet in order to establish its hatchery in Lumberton.

— Approved an $83,801 bid from Smith’s Refrigeration for work on the electrical management part of the 911 backup center being installed at 1608 E. Fifth St.

— Approved $154,300 for Smith’s Refrigeration to install central air conditioning at the Bill Sapp Recreation Center.

— Approved purchase of a generator with fuel tank for $49,770 from Gregory Pool Power Systems.

Lumberton City Council members, meeting Wednesday as the Council Policy Committee, consider a request for more funding to a nonprofit that is helping to renovate homes in Lumberton that were damaged by Hurricane Matthew. City Council members, meeting Wednesday as the Council Policy Committee, consider a request for more funding to a nonprofit that is helping to renovate homes in Lumberton that were damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

John Cantey Cantey

By Bob Shiles

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.