First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - E.B. Turner may be gone, but the money he accumulated for District 1 needs to stay right where it is, say residents who live there.
Turner left $42,222 in his discretionary fund when he retired from the county Board of Commissioners on Jan. 3. The county commissioners have the final say about what happens to the money and some have hinted that they would like to see the money divided among all eight commissioner districts. The board has put off any decision until someone is appointed to replace Turner.
Some residents say the matter should not be up for debate.
Frances Cummings, who would like to replace Turner on the board, said the money should remain in District 1.
“That's not even questionable,” Cummings said. “To go a step further, the constituents should have input in how the funding should be allocated.”
Angus Thompson, chairman of the district's Precinct 5 for the county Democratic Party, said there are a numerous needs in District 1 and they should take precedence. Thompson asked the County Democratic Party Chairman Lillie McKoy if it would be advisable for the party to send a resolution to the commissioners requesting that the money stay in the district. McKoy said she did not think it was proper for the party to make such a resolution.
“I think it would only be fair that it stay there,” Thompson said.
He added that he was not opposed to the district sharing a portion of the fund, but the decision should be left to whomever replaces Turner on the board. Former City Councilman Robert Shaw has been nominated by the county Democratic party to replace Turner.
Loistine DeFreece, who lives in the district, said there were several organizations in South Lumberton and throughout District 1 in dire need of that money.
“There are two schools, W.R. Knuckles and Lumberton Jr. High School, that I'm sure need the money,” said DeFreece, a school board member. “I could take $40,000 and spend it in a few minutes at those schools. It was allocated to District 1 and that's where it needs to be spent.”
Lumberton City Councilman John Cantey, who lives in the district, offered a different view. Cantey said people seem to forget that Turner had requested the money go back into the county's general fund.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” he said. “I personally think that any wish of Dr. Turner's should be honored due to the length of service and his work for District 1.”
Cantey said he also has concerns that District 1 residents may not even benefit from the money if the person appointed uses the money as political patronage to win the May primary.
“With the election coming up in May, that person could literally help everyone out and gain a lot of momentum in the race,” he said.
Cantey suggested the money be used to fund the purchase of Lumberton High School's band uniforms, which will cost more than $30,000.
Shaw, who lost his bid for reelection to Cantey in November, has been nominated by the county Democratic Party to replace Turner.
Shaw's name will go on the county commissioner, who have until March 4 to decided. If the commissioners fail to act, then Clerk of Court Renae Hunt has 10 days to make an appointment.
The board could consider the nomination when it meets on Tuesday.