Melton: Votes Were 'Right Thing to Do'
Jimmy Melton is the quietest member of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, but he does his homework.
Melton has worked since childhood, and his resume lists everything from Scoutmaster to the Campbell University board of trustees.
But he's a 68-year-old fellow who knows how to relax on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. For 40 years he has owned Sandhills Cycles/Harley Davidson/Yamaha in Eastwood, and in 2003 he was inducted into the Harley-Davidson Hall of Fame. He is president of the Sandhills HOG (Harley Owners Group) in Pinehurst.
Melton grew up working hard and serving community, and he says controversy about a jail is not going to change his way of serving.
"My life has always been involved in public service," he says. "I am a person of faith. It is my duty to make life better for other people."
Criticism about his votes on a public safety-detention center in Carthage doesn't bother him. He has no regrets.
"Life is too short to be on a negative field," he says. "I hope all the decisions I've made about Moore County have been good, because I felt it was the right thing to do. I would not do anything to hurt the public."
Melton is confident that his votes on the county building project represent wise decisions.
As for location, he says a jail has been in downtown Carthage as long as he can remember. The jail was there before the school was built.
Though he admits that any site for a jail will have flaws, Melton says the 21-acre tract adjacent to the existing jail is about as good as the county could find.
'No Perfect Place'
"There's no perfect place to put a jail," he says, "but we found 21 acres of real estate that already had water and sewer and was already partially cleared. And it's in the proximity of the courthouse."
Melton says the county is fortunate that the land was available. He speaks from the standpoint of a licensed real estate broker experienced in dealing with commercial real estate.
In his eyes, the property's proximity to the Courts Facility is its best quality. Any other location inside or outside Carthage town limits would necessitate the transfer of prisoners across town by bus for every session of court, creating additional expense and offering potential danger to court personnel and the public at large.
Yet another advantage is the availability of space in the Courts Facility basement once the Sheriff's Office is moved into the new structure. He says the county has existing property in downtown Carthage that can be used for other purposes, including parking space.
As for the limited-obligation bonds, Melton says this is the standard way to finance such buildings as jails and courthouses. The decision to issue limited-obligation, rather than general obligation, bonds came under fire from critics because limited obligation bonds do not require a referendum. The conventional way to finance school capital needs is through general obligation bonds.
Melton says the limited obligation bond issuance was the method intended from the beginning. He cites a report by the Davenport Group, the financial consulting firm that assists the county, to back up that reasoning.
"Our credit rating has been raised to the place that we could sell the bonds at a competitive price," he says.
Had the commissioners opted for a referendum and the measure had failed at the polls, the county would still have faced the state mandate requiring construction of a new and larger jail, Melton says.
If that had happened, he says, the board would have been forced to find an alternate financing plan. That probably would have sent the county back to limited obligation bonds, and the resulting delay most likely would have meant a less favorable interest rate, he says.
In addition, such a delay could have meant fewer competitive bids from prospective contractors.
"In this down economy, the bids came in under projections," Melton says. "Now is the ideal time to build and an ideal time to borrow."
Melton, a self-made businessman, says the whole controversy about the jail and the bonds is based on misunderstanding of the issues.
"Everybody thinks Larry, Nick and I are tied at the hip," he says. "We're not. All three of us have run businesses and made payrolls, and we think a lot alike."
This is a reference to fellow Commissioners Larry Caddell and Nick Picerno, who joined him in voting to build the public safety complex on land adjacent to the existing jail and to pay for it with limited obligation bonds. Much of the controversy centered on the fact that the vote on these issues was almost always split 3-2, but they represented the majority vote every time.
Headed Planning Board
A Moore County native, Melton is a graduate of West End School. He attended Central Carolina Community College when it was known as Lee County Technical Institute. He received certification in commercial heating and air conditioning, then attended Sandhills Community College to complete the real estate program and earn a real estate broker's license. He took the contractor's building program at Fayetteville State University and received a contractor's license.
Melton is also a graduate of the Mendenhall School of Auctioneering in High Point. He received advanced training in business, development, management and sales training at Harley-Davidson University in Milwaukee.
All this specialized training in technical and business fields seems remote from the direction his life took in later years. He is a member of the Campbell University board of trustees and Campbell's Business Affairs Committee and also serves on the Presidential Board and the Divinity School board. He is a former member of the Central Carolina Community College Advisory Board.
Service on the land-use steering committee in the 1990s led to his appointment to the Moore County Planning Board, where he served eight years, four as chairman.
The next step was candidacy for the board of commissioners. In November he won his second term as a commissioner after fending off opposition from a Democratic candidate and in the face of criticism of his decisions about the jail and bonds.
As a commissioner, he has spearheaded work on revision of the animal control ordinance and now leads the county's highway improvement project.
His heart is at First Baptist Church of Aberdeen, where he is a deacon and past chairman of the board of deacons. He is a past chairman of the Sandhills Baptist Association Finance Committee.
Mrs. Melton is the former Dorothy Furr of West End, and they have a daughter, Cynthia Floyd, staff development coordinator at Kingswood Nursing Center, and a son, Darrold Melton, general manager of Sandhills Cycles. There are two grandchildren.
Melton's business experience began in Aberdeen as manager of the Belk store. He was active throughout the community - president of the Jaycees, a founder of the Aberdeen Rescue Squad, Scout-master and founder of Scout troops.
Much Budget Experience
Probably nothing makes his eyes light up more than his Harley-Davidson. He was the first H-D dealer to build a designer store, and now Melton admits he needs "to play catch-up."
Melton has met payrolls all his adult life and has also been involved in finance and budget matters, experience he says helped with decisions about the jail.
He is proud of his employees, most of whom have held no other job in their lifetimes.
"They're the ones that make me look good," he says.
Melton says most Harley owners are law-abiding, church-going sorts, 34 percent of whom are women. That includes his wife, Dot.
The Meltons live on Roseland Road in Aberdeen, but they like to spend leisure time at their hideaway on Lake Tillery in Montgomery County. He grew up on a farm and still enjoys farm work along with his real estate, motorcycle business and other interests.
An outing at Lake Tillery is likely to feature an exhilarating boat ride with their Australian cattle dog, Misty, who likes to Jet Ski.
Melton has the proof on his computer -- a photograph showing him on a motorboat along with Misty on the sparkling blue lake.
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