First Posted: 1/15/2009
Wants answers on recognition effect
Scott Witten-Staff writer
FAIRMONT - Before the Lumbee tribe gains federal recognition, it might have to put down a small uprising in its own back yard.
The Fairmont Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to table a request by the tribe to support federal recognition until it has more information on how recognition would affect Fairmont and the county.
Town Manager Katrina Tatum said the Lumbee Tribal Council has asked municipalities in the county to pass resolutions to show Congress that there is widespread local support for recognition.
“Fairmont may be one of the last towns to approve the resolution, but we have a number of questions about what recognition will mean if approved,” Tatum said.
Tatum said town officials are concerned that if the Lumbee tribe becomes a sovereign nation, the town will no longer be able to collect taxes on property owned by the tribe, such as the Indian Housing Authority on Marion Stage Road.
Commissioner Charles Kemp said he was also disturbed by recent negative news articles about how the tribe is handling its housing program.
“I'm sure Sen. Dole and the others in Congress have read the same stories and they probably have access to a lot more information,” Kemp said. “If Congress is not going to support this, then the question of our support is moot.”
Commissioner Mary Bruce Grantham said she would need more information from the tribe before she could support the resolution. If approved, recognition could initially mean more than $60 million in federal assistance to the tribe.
“They can't handle the money the federal government is giving them now,” Grantham said. “They've got some major problems. I'm going to need to know more about this.”
No one from the Tribal Council attended Tuesday's meeting, but Mayor Nedward Gaddy and Tatum met with tribal leaders on Aug. 23 to discuss recognition.
“We haven't had any discussion with the full board on this,” Gaddy said. “I know some of us are scared we're going to make someone mad by talking about this, but we need to know how the town and the county are going to benefit from recognition if it happens.”
In other action, the board has asked Tatum to write a letter to Robert Fisher, the director of the Robeson County Public Library, asking the county to fix three computers in Fairmont's public library.
Fairmont resident Rusty Perry told the board that only two of the five computers in the library work. Perry said he approached the county commissioners about the problem, but they suggested that Fairmont appoint a committee to handle issues at the library.
“We got a real problem there,” Perry said. “If Bill Gates was good enough to give us five computers, the least we could do was keep them repaired.”
Commissioner J.J. McCree said the town would like to help, but said the library is under the county's jurisdiction.
“Why are they trying to pass the buck?” McCree said. “If they know there is a problem, they should fix it.”
In other business, the board announced:
Town offices will be closed Oct. 5 for computer conversion and training.
The Fairmont Farmers Festival Pageant will be held Oct. 9 and the festival itself a week later on Oct. 16.
The Town of Fairmont will host a meeting of the Robeson County Municipal Association Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Fire Hall. County Tax Administrator Robert Baird is the speaker.