Right2Vote Rally Focuses on Detention Center
People with opinions about the proposed detention center were urged Tuesday to express their views to their county commissioners.
The occasion was a gathering dubbed the Right2Vote rally, arranged by John Marcum and held in the assembly room of the Pinehurst Village Hall. More than 60 people attended.
Marcum and his supporters expressed a variety of concerns on the subject but most of the people speaking said the county should put the $50 million bond issue to a vote of the people. The Moore County Board of Commissioners has voted 3-2 to issue limited obligation bonds, which do not require a vote. Of that amount, $10 million is designated for utility capital improvements in Pinehurst, the remaining $40 million for the public safety-detention center.
Not everyone attending the rally agreed with the views of Marcum and his followers, and some people adopted a neutral stand.
“We elect people to study issues and come up with solutions,” said Bob Levy, chairman of the Moore County Republican Party.
Levy, who took no position on the issue pro or con, was asked to address the gathering, as were Democratic Party Chairman Jim Heim and representatives of the Moore Tea Citizens.
“We have five Republicans on the board. They differ. That’s good. In our party there is room for difference of opinion,” the GOP chairman said.
It was Levy who first urged everyone to e-mail, write or call the commissioners to share their opinions about the controversial detention center, planned for a site in downtown Carthage. He also urged everyone to respect the commissioners, whether they agreed with their views or not, and said the county “is blessed with five great commissioners.”
Dee Park, leader of the Moore Tea Citizens, also expressed no opinion on the issue and reported that the local tea party group has not taken a position on the detention center or the method of paying for it. She said that the Moore Tea Citizens were named in the newspaper advertisement without the group’s permission.
“We feel very strongly that if you have an opinion, you should go directly to your commissioners. This is a county where we are still free to express our opinions,” she said.
Park said that her group concentrates their energy on state and national fiscal matters. She was joined by John Rowerdink, a fellow tea partier.
Admitting that his party represents little more than 20 percent of the vote now, Heim thanked everyone for their civic pride in attending the meeting “when you could be doing so many other things.”
Heim expressed concern that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and asked why Moore County needs such an expansion of its jail. He questioned whether the town of Carthage has the infrastructure needed to accommodate such a large facility.
The Democrats’ leader also had questions about the two commissioners with association with Southern Software, the firm that donated the software needed for the sheriff’s department about three years ago.
“If it’s really an asset for the county, I would support it,” Heim said of the project.
Paul Dunn, another supporter of the Tuesday rally, said he has visited the jail and has seen for himself the need for enlargement. However, he called the plan “outrageous” and called it poor planning to “superimpose this thing in the middle of Carthage.”
Dunn said the project needs more study.
Marcum presided for the rally, which was opened with a power point presentation reviewing the background of the project, beginning with the purchase of 21 acres in downtown Carthage in 2007. The county paid $1.5 million for the land, six acres of which are wetlands and unavailable for development. The land was appraised for $667,000 on the tax books and at $950,000 to $1.2 million by a private appraisal firm.
Assisting Marcum with the presentation were Libby Moodie of Carthage and Doug Middaugh of Pinehurst.
They reviewed the county’s financial condition and reported that the county can legally borrow about $224 million and presently has bonded obligations of about $120 million.
Marcum said that through the years the county commissioners have “done a pretty good job” of holding the property tax rate at about the same level. Although 79 of the 100 counties have higher rates, he said that Moore County has the highest tax levy per capita among surrounding counties and also the highest property values. For that reason, Marcum said, Moore County is more vulnerable to economic change.
Marcum expressed concern that construction of the huge building would mean higher property taxes in the future. He said the people should be given the opportunity to vote on such a huge debt.
The rally leader did commend the county staff for cooperating with his research and providing data requested.
Some members of the Pinehurst Village Council attended the meeting but did not speak.
None of the county commissioners attended, but William Garner, a Democratic candidate for the seat held by Commissioner Jimmy Melton, was present and did address the gathering. Garner said the people should be allowed to vote.
The floor was opened for anyone in the audience to address the gathering, and several took advantage of the opportunity. Their comments ranged from concern about the cost to issues relating to the safety of Carthage residents.
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