LUMBERTON — Lynn Locklear is unhappy with the way the county government operates — and he is asking other residents who feel the same way to show up Monday at the Board of Commissioners meeting in a sign of protest.
“A lot of people are voicing frustration,” said Locklear, who is a member of a group called Citizens for Integrity in Government. “But their response is always that they can’t bring about change. They say that Robeson County has always been that way. It’s hard to get people to engage in the political scene, even when it’s obvious that things are not working.”
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the county administration building on North Elm Street.
Locklear contends that change can be brought about in how government reacts to the needs of county residents if people get involved. In a letter to the editor of The Robesonian last month, Locklear called on those in Robeson County wanting fiscal reform and accountability in government to attend Monday’s meeting. He is also upset with a decision by the county to allow a sand-mining operation in the Philadelphus community.
“Citizens, you have the power to bring about fiscal reform,” Locklear wrote in the letter. “Are you satisfied with the commissioners’ performance? Are you satisfied with the performance, delivery, and quality of county services and programs?”
In the same letter, Locklear wrote that in November he had called on Commissioner Raymond Cummings, in whose District 4 he resides, to lead in fiscal reform following a study comparing salary and benefits Robeson County commissioners receive with benefits received by commissioners in surrounding counties. The Robesonian last year ran a series of stories and editorials on the commissioners’ pay and stipends, the fourth highest in the state when combined; their $320,000 a year discretionary funds; and their benefits, including retirement and health insurance, which are better than that provided county employees. The commissioners ditched a deferred compensation plan when the public became aware they had adopted a plan that allowed them to continue to draw salary after they left office.
“Citizens, Mr. Cummings’ strategy, with the other commissioners supporting, is to ignore the issue and hope it goes away,” Locklear wrote. “Hope is not a viable course of action.”
Locklear said he doesn’t know how many county residents will attend the meeting, but that he plans to challenge the commissioners to defend their position on all of their benefits, including health, retirement, salaries, travel and discretionary funds.
Locklear expects to speak during the public comment part of the meeting, and he’s not happy that policy forbids the commissioners from answering his concerns. He also hopes the commissioners will allow those wishing to speak more than the usual three minutes some leeway.
“We want to raise issues of concern in a public forum and have the issues addressed in a public forum,” Locklear said. “If they can defend their positions on the issues, that’s fine.”
County Manager Ricky Harris said the room would accommodate about 80 people, and if there is an overflow crowd he will have staff bring in portable chairs to the extent that is possible.
Included in other business, the commissioners on Monday will:
— Hold a public hearing on Project 77, a company that is planning to make a $5 million investment in the county for equipment and machinery. The company plans to create 77 jobs that will pay an average of $12.30 an hour.
— Consider approval of a proposal for risk management consulting retainer services.
— Consider a resolution honoring fallen firefighter Samuel “Sam” Butler Jr.
— Consider approval of miscellaneous vehicles to be sold as surplus.
— Consider charging 25 cents per page when the public asks for copies of documents that are public record. The policy would not apply to requests to the Register of Deeds Office or other offices for which the state may govern the cost.