County extends county manager contract to end of year

By: T.C. Hunter - Managing editor

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday extended the county manager’s contract to the end of the year and gave him a pay raise.

Ricky Harris, whose contract was to expire on June 30, now will serve through Dec. 31. The 5 percent pay increase takes his annual salary from $143,000 to $150,150. .

The contract extension was approved to ensure a smooth transition in county management, said board Chairman Raymond Cummings said. The extension gives Harris time to make sure his replacement is ready to assume the county manager’s duties and responsibilities.

“They just wanted a transition time,” Cummings said.

No replacement for Harris has been identified.

“We haven’t gone through the process,” Cummings said.

The commissioners pledged to support the Robeson County Honor Guard, a nonprofit, all-volunteer group of military veterans that performs military rites at the funerals of honorably discharged veterans. The amount of support will be determined during the county’s budget process.

Members of the Honor Guard came before the commissioners to ask that they put aside money each year to help pay for the group’s activities.

The Honor Guard was founded in 1993 after it was learned that the active military was reducing its funeral rites activities. Since then the Honor Guard has performed rites, including presenting the American flag to the veteran’s family, at an average of 70 funerals a year in Robeson County. They performed the rites at 95 funerals in 2017, and 22 so far in 2018.

Members of the Honor Guard donate their time and ask of nothing from the veterans’ families, said Dwayne Hunt, guard commander.

“There’s no ‘I’ there, no ‘We,’” Hunt said. “It’s about the veteran.”

Commissioner Jerry Stephens said he appreciates what the guard does and would like to support and asked for an annual budget. Cummings encouraged Hunt to submit a budget request to the county by April 16, the deadline for requesting monetary support from the county. The request would be considered as county leaders craft a budget for the next fiscal year.

Cummings then suggested Hunt include in the request that the county donate a surplus vehicle to the Honor Guard.

“I’m a veteran, and I appreciate what you do,” board Vice Chairman Berlester Campbell said.

The commissioners approved spending $6,900 to buy two augers used to rescue people trapped in grain bins.

The request was made by Eric Freeman, director of Emergency Services Education at Robeson Community College. Freeman told the commissioners the need for the rescue tool became evident recently when emergency personnel were called to extract a person trapped in a full grain bin but didn’t have the tools to perform a rapid rescue.

The Farm Bureau has bought two rescue augers, Freeman said. Having two more would allow county Emergency Services to position one in each county quadrant. Training on use of the augers is set for July.

The commissioners approved spending $3,000 to become a gold sponsor of summer camps organized and run by the Office for Regional Initiatives at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The sponsorship means the county will be listed on a camp T-shirt, the county’s logo will be on a sponsorship website with a link to the county’s website, and the county will be listed on advertising material.

The Office for Regional Initiatives offers a number of educational camps during the summer, said Mary Locklear, the office’s director,

“We target kids age kids ages 6 to 18,” Locklear said. “We target kids from all across the county.”

Commissioner Roger Oxendine asked Locklear what the county gave in support in 2017. Locklear said it was $2,500 for a Gold Sponsorship.

The commissioners approved advertising for bids on surplus county property near Shannon. The county already has a $15,000 bid for the property, but wants to solicit other bids. The bids would be accepted for 10 days after the advertisement appears in local media outlets.

In other business, the commissioners;

— Approved a conditional-use permit request from William Winford that allows the establishment of a firearms sales business on two tracts of land near St. Pauls.

— Approved a conditional-use permit request from Timothy Tyler that allows the establishment of a trucking operation near Gaddys Township.

— Approved a conditional-use permit request that allows the establishment of a family cemetery near Pembroke on the condition that the family submits a site plan to the county Planning Board.

— Approved a conditional-use permit request for the establishment of a family cemetery near Shannon.

— Approved a line-item budget transfer of $8,691 within the county Health Department to help fund the animal shelter through the end of the current fiscal year.

— Approved budget transfers totaling $72,000 to fund Fleet Operations for the rest of the current fiscal year.

— Approved a five-year lease agreement with the Northwood’s Fire & Rescue Department for land on Sherwood Road in Lumberton that will be used as a recreation site. The lease payment is $1 a year.

T.C. Hunter

Managing editor

Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at

Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at