TEASER Moore County Seal

First Bank has freed Moore County from five remaining annual $15,000 payments on an incentive offered the bank in 2013 to relocate its corporate headquarters to Southern Pines.

The county has already paid the bank’s holding company $75,000. County officials plan to allocate the remaining $75,000 for an expansion project at Hillcrest Park in Carthage, with First Bank’s full support.

The Hillcrest project includes the construction of 26,500-square-foot recreation center, a splash pad and other improvements. The splash pad is scheduled to open July 10.

“We’re so appreciative of First Bank’s generosity,” County Commissioners Chairman Frank Quis said during the board’s meeting Tuesday morning.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the deal.

A previous board voted in March 2013 to approve a $150,000 incentive for First Bancorp to move its corporate headquarters from Troy to the former Hobbs Upchurch building on Broad Street at Massachusetts Avenue. It was to be paid in 10 annual installments of $15,000.

County Manager Wayne Vest broached the idea with First Bank about allowing the county to divert that money to the Hillcrest Park project.

“As we started talking about the parks and recreation project, I was looking at some ways to generate some revenue for that project,” Vest told the commissioners. “I reached out to Hugh Bingham (First Bank senior vice president). I just had this idea or notion that I pitched to Hugh … We had a number of discussions with Hugh and others at First Bank. Lo and behold they agreed to forgo the remaining five years.

“It has been a great set of discussions we’ve had. It’s a great partnership we’ve had with First Bank. They are our primary banking service for the county. Hugh has been great to work with. I think they are very favorable of our parks and recreation project.”

Vest noted that First Bank is providing the financing for the $30 million McDeeds Creek Elementary School on Camp Easter Road.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of this, particularly when we started talking about opportunities at Hillcrest, and help the children and others in the community,” Bingham said from the audience when asked if he wanted to speak. “We’ve been blessed to be part of the community and be able to support a lot of things. This is an important thing for us. We are glad to be partners with you on it.”

Commissioner Catherine Graham said that in this age of big banks, it is good to see First Bank do something like this.

“I just want to recognize First Bank as caring for the people in Moore County and the children,” she said. “So I do think it is quite unusual to see this in banking in today’s society. As we all know, our banks have become bigger. Just a special word of appreciation and thanks.”

Commission Otis Ritter also complimented Vest.

“He’s a great salesman don’t you think,” Ritter said.

Quis added, “Maybe a good arm twister too.”

Commissioner Louis Gregory agreed that it was a “great” idea to reach out to First Bank. He thanked the bank for its “willingness in being able to assist us and being able to help our community.”

“We’re just blessed to have First Bank in our community,” Gregory said.

In other business:

* Commissioners unanimously approved increasing the amount of the county’s contract with a company that grinds up limbs and leaves brought to the landfill by $46,000, bringing the total to $196,000 for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Public Works Director Randy Gould said the county took in more leaf and limb debris than anticipated, mainly because of damage from two hurricanes last fall — Florence in September, which was the most destructive, and Michael in October.

“We had much greater expense than we had in our budget,” Gould told the commissioners. “Hopefully this is not a recurring item but is a one-time thing.”

The original amount of the contract with Simmons and Simmons was $150,000.

The county normally takes in about 14,000 tons of leaf and limb debris a year, but this year it increased to 18,000 tons, according to a memo to the commissioners from Chad Beane, solid waste and recycling division manager.

Beane said state law prohibits putting that debris in a landfill. He said the contractor grinds it up and it is hauled off site to be “composted properly.”

* Commissioners extended a grant for three more years to help local farmers pay for completing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification.

The county provided a $20,000 grant to Partners in Progress — its public-private economic development organization — last June to reimburse farmers.

Melanie Thompson, assistant economic developer for Partners, told the commissioners that so far only $1,905 has been disbursed to help three farmers. The grant was to expire June 30.

She said several other farmers in Moore and surrounding counties are pursuing certification but will be unable to complete it by the deadline.

Thompson also said Sandhills AGInnovation, Sandhills Farm to Table Co-operative and Sandhills Farmers Co-operative are partnering to apply for a Local Food Promotion Program implementation grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to market and brand all three organizations to better promote locally and regionally produced agriculture products.

She said the remaining portion of the GAP grant could be used as matching funds for that initiative.

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

(3) comments

Jim Davis

“willingness in being able to assist us and being able to help our community.†What a feckless comment...lets be clear, the bank is not loaning money out of community interest or the greater good. What a really simple column with zero thought or analysis....

Kent Misegades

“We’re so appreciative of First Bank’s generosity,†Generosity ? Such incentives are corporate welfare, a bribe to an already profitable company, made without taxpayer approval. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. What makes these comments more concerning - it appears that the bank will reap far greater rewards by loaning money to the county for all its wildly expensive projects.

Jim Davis

How generous...this deal was a scam on the tax payers of Moore County from the beginning...

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