County Delays Action on Veteran's Memorial
By JOHN LENTZ
What began as a progressive step toward resolving a controversy between the county commissioners and a veterans' group has hit another obstacle.
At issue is an ongoing discussion regarding a war memorial in Carthage that concerned veterans believe may be compromised by a possible Bojangles' restaurant adjacent. Veterans call the area "sacred ground" and are seeking assurance from county officials that the restaurant will not be located close to the memorial.
County board members say nothing has been decided and that veterans' protests are "premature."
In a presentation to commissioners this past Tuesday night, Moore County Veterans Memorial Committee Chairman Raymond Doby had group member Ruby Hendrick read a statement he had written praising the progress made at the county board's previous meeting. At that meeting earlier this month, commissioners agreed to form a joint committee of veterans and county commissioners to study the issue.
"We were very encouraged by the remarks of the commissioners at the Aug. 7, 2012, meeting," Doby wrote. "It is our understanding that ... the county and Moore County Veterans Memorial Inc. be joint owners of the parcel (to protect the area from development and that) the county will maintain the insurance, maintenance, and upkeep of the property."
Doby further named six veterans to form the veterans' part of the committee.
Commissioner Tim Lea, who has urged the county to honor the veterans' wishes, proposed accepting the information from Doby's letter as presented. That motion passed unanimously.
Lea then asked County Attorney Misty Leland to "draw up the legal documents for joint ownership" for the committee to consider at an upcoming meeting. Commissioner Nick Picerno seconded the motion.
But just prior to the vote, Commissioners' Chairman Larry Caddell asked his fellow board members to "clear something up."
"I thought the point of the committee was to meet and go over this data," he said. "I thought they were going to figure this out."
Picerno told Caddell that the two issues were unrelated.
"This doesn't have anything to do with the committee," Picerno said. "My understanding is that this is just to set up the legality of ownership of the property."
Lea agreed with Picerno.
"This is just to outline information that the committee can use at their meeting," Lea said. "It's not legally binding, but is just a document to get some of the preliminary work out of the way."
The motion to create the document stalled after a 2-2 vote, with Lea and Picerno for and Caddell and Commissioner Jimmy Melton against the motion. Commissioner Craig Kennedy was absent. As a result, the issue is postponed until next month.
Caddell later proposed naming Melton and Picerno as representatives for the county on the committee, with Melton and Doby serving as co-chairs.
He named five of the six members listed in Doby's presentation to represent the veterans, omitting Moore County-based Vietnam Veterans Chapter 966 President Chuck Spelman. The former U.S. Army major has criticized publicly Caddell and the board's handling of the Bojangles' issue.
Lea then suggested that Caddell include Spelman "since that was the request of the memorial committee," but no other commissioner backed him. Commissioners then ap-proved Caddell's original proposal 3-1, with Lea dissenting.
After the meeting a "totally disgusted" Spelman said the board had exceeded its rights in connection with a committee formed by a private organization.
"Mr. Caddell had no right to take me off that roster," he said. "He has a personal grudge against me for some remarks I made at an earlier meeting, but he had also previously said he had no problem with me being on the joint committee. I will be at those meetings."
At an earlier commissioners' meeting, Spelman suggested that a county official had been in contact with Bojangles' representatives in reference to a sale of the county-owned land adjacent to the memorial. Caddell took the accusations personally, denied them at the meeting, and had statements entered into the record on Tuesday from individuals associated with Bojangles' to back up his claim of no wrongdoing.
One such statement came in a letter to County Manager Cary McSwain from David Atkins, a broker representing Bojangles'.
"Mr. Larry Caddell ... has had no direct conversations with me nor have I met with him regarding any discussions involving Bojangles' interest in purchasing property in Moore County," Atkins wrote. "Furthermore, I do not know and have not personally met Mr. Larry Caddell."
Atkins added that he has not "spoken to or communicated with any Moore County elected official regarding this matter."
Caddell said that while there was "no vendetta" against Spelman, he and other board members agreed that they wanted a committee filled with "reasonable people" to "sit down and work out" the memorial issue.
"When I was in the military, no one ever called you out in public," Caddell said. "It's not just about me, but if he had called any of the other board members a liar I would have done the same thing. We wanted a committee free of volatile people who can quickly come to a resolution on this matter."
'Out of Hand'
Melton praised individuals associated with the memorial, including the Doby family.
"The memorial issue has completely gotten out of hand, and has affected some fine people," Melton said. "I don't know of any finer people than the Dobys. I supported this memorial financially and will do everything in my power to protect (the memorial), one of the most precious things the county has done."
Melton then made a motion to include additional county personnel in the committee, including County Manager Cary McSwain, a representative from the attorney's office and others. The motion passed 3-1 with Lea opposing.
Lea took exception to the inclusion of county employee John Benton, who would serve as a voting member.
"I have no issue with Mr. Benton being involved, and Benton served in the United States Marine Corps as did I, but as a county employee he should serve in an ex-officio capacity and not as a voting member," said Lea.
In other action, the board approved a resolution and project budget ordinance on the extension of Moore County Airport's runway 5.
Airport representative Steven Borden addressed the board.
"The airport is in the initial phases of the runway 5 extension, the approach lighting system upgrade and the associated taxiway extension," Borden said. "In order for those projects to proceed ... we are asking for the county match to the total FAA grant of $329,000."
The county funds are to be taken from the general fund balance.
"These funds will be reimbursed to the county's general fund balance in accordance ... with the occupancy tax to fund this particular project," Picerno said. The motion passed 3-1 with Lea dissenting.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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