County to Consider Land Sale to Bojangles
by John Lentz
A Bojangles' restaurant may be coming to Carthage, and Moore County Commissioner Tim Lea wants everyone to know about it. Not, however, for the reasons one might think.
While in closed session during Tuesday's regular board meeting, county commissioners agreed to authorize County Manager Cary McSwain to inform the Bojangles' corporation that the county had an interest in selling 1.3 acres, contingent upon a study that is currently under way.
But when the proposal was read in open session without naming the potential buyer or the location, Lea named three points that he said needed to be included in the wording.
"The sentence should read 'potential interest' rather than just the word 'interest' in the property, and the interested party should be identified as Bojangles'," Lea said.
"You said it was in Carriage Oaks, but the board should also let the precise location of the property be known, which is between Hardee's, the war memorial and DSS. I'd like to see those three things in the motion so there's no question about or need for clarification about what we're doing here."
Commissioner Nick Picerno questioned the time limitation stated for the completion of the space-needs allocation study. "The current motion says something about 30 days on the study. Does that tie us into 30 days? Let's strike that and say it is contingent upon completion of the report."
Lea asked that those four parts be included in the motion "since that was what was discussed in closed session."
Commissioner Jimmy Melton said that while he didn't have a problem with the alterations, he felt that adding the additional wording was "unnecessary."
"What the county manager has read pretty well states everything as it is," he said. "I think we can go with what the county manager said."
Picerno said he thought the word "potentially" had to be included, "because we're potentially looking at the sale. I like that piece of it, but the rest I can take or leave."
Commissioners' Chairman Larry Caddell asked Melton if he wanted to make a motion to retain the original language, which did not include the additional four parts. Melton did, but the motion didn't receive any support.
"Does anyone have another motion?" Caddell asked. Lea said he felt that "total clarification" was important. "Mr. Chairman, I would ask and move that the four points made become part of the motion and that we approve it."
Picerno seconded the motion containing the suggested changes, which was unanimously passed by the board. Lea explained his position after the meeting.
"Whenever the county is in the process of buying property, we can do that in closed session, but whenever we're in the process of selling the county taxpayers' assets, that is supposed to be done in open session," Lea said.
"In my opinion, this board violated the open meetings law by discussing the sale of a particular piece of property in closed session, against the advice of the county attorney. According to the open meeting law, this type of procedure has to be done in open session. It's done that way so that we have an opportunity to maximize the return on your assets and then put those monies in the general fund for future needs of the county, therefore hopefully keeping your tax rate low."
"Which is why we've asked for a competitive bid process," McSwain said.
County Attorney Misty Leland said she could not comment on whether or not the issue was discussed in closed session.
Lea also took issue with what he called the "desecration" of the war memorial should a fast food restaurant be placed nearby. "This is not about Bojangles'. This is about respect for the veterans whose names are on the monument and who died in the service of their country," Lea said. "I want the veterans of this county to know that there could potentially be trash from a fast food restaurant left around the area of the monument if this goes through. Is this the kind of image we want displayed?"
Melton and Caddell were unavailable for further comment at press time.
In other news, representatives and supporters of the Moore County school system appeared before the board to urge the county commissioners to approve the school board's budget request.
Four speakers addressed the commissioners, including school board Chairwoman Kathy Farren, who asked the board to pass the requested $95.8 million budget presented April 17. The county's share of the budget totals $25.5 million, the same that the schools received from the county for the current year.
"I believe that the county Board of Education and the county commissioners have a wonderful working relationship," Farren said. "We feel that we are great stewards of our money. We spend the state funds first, then the federal, and we spend the county money last in order to utilize that money to the best of our ability. We thank you for your trust in us, and we look forward to continuing an open working relationship with you."
Caddell responded by saying that "all of us" are products of the Moore County school system.
"We have always tried to support you and we understand the importance of education for our children," he said. "It has been a pleasure to work with the school board, and we look forward to more of the same as we move forward."
Picerno said he wanted to give supporters of the school budget some "reassurance" regarding the county board's decision.
"Personally, I don't see any plans at this point to cut the school budget request," he said. "I think the school system is on the right track, and I believe that (School Superintendent Aaron) Spence is a tremendous asset to Moore County. He is taking the system where it needs to go."
Picerno extended a challenge to the school board as a way to "enhance" the educational experience.
"There is a very inexpensive experiment that we might try, and I hope the board will (be interested). I would like to see us fund one third-grade classroom with iPads. It's about a $1,500 expenditure, and I have an idea where that money is going to come from, so it wouldn't increase our budget. I believe it could enhance learning tremendously."
The board also approved an agreement to continue the relationship between the Moore County Library and the Sandhills Regional Library System, a partnership which was first begun in 1962. Sandhills Regional Library System Director Carol Walters made the presentation.
"I was not there when the partnership began, and Moore, Richmond, Montgomery, Anson and Hoke counties joined hands for professional management, but I have been with the system for 30 years," Walters said. "In my family, we say that if it's not broken, then don't fix it."
The board unanimously passed the agreement to "continue providing extended and improved library service to all people in the areas named as we have for 50 years."
Other action included the adoption of a resolution in support of repairs for Camp Easter Road, an initiative that involves a request to the General Assembly by Sen. Harris Blake and Rep. Jamie Boles for $50,000 in assistance.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@ thepilot.com.
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