Commissioner Moss stands alone against dam repairs


William R. Toler | Daily Journal Marian Savage, clerk to the board of commissioners, shakes hands with Chairman Kenneth Robinette and is flanked by the other commissioners after being recognized for 35 years of working for Richmond County. Savage will retire Aug. 1.

Moss

ROCKINGHAM — Plans to move forward on repairs to the Ledbetter Lake dam were passed by the Richmond County Board of Commissioners Tuesday — but not without opposition.

Commissioner Ben Moss voted against resolutions that would levy special assessments — also voted down by Commissioner Don Bryant — and an application for revenue bonds, as well as a bid tab for the project.

“I want to see water in the lake,” he said after the meeting. “I just want to make sure we do it in the fairest way possible.”

Moss said he just has too many questions about the project, especially in regard to Ledbetter Dam Management, LLC, the organization that owns the dam on the private lake.

“Nobody knows anything about this LLC,” he said, calling it “very secretive.”

“It’s going to drastically affect a select few,” Moss continued, saying the costs should be shared fairly.

He gave an example, saying that someone with 300 feet of undeveloped lakefront property would have to pay more than someone who might have a large house and dock on his or her property who would utilize the lake more.

The project, expected to take up to 10 months to complete, is estimated to cost around $2.7 million: $1.8 million for the actual work; with the remainder being legal fees and interest.

According to County Manager Rick Sago, the county will borrow the money based on the property owners being assessed to cover the annual debt cost. The LLC will be responsible for the construction contract.

Sago and board Chairman Kenneth Robinette equated the special assessment district to a fire district.

“The folks in the general public,” Robinette said, “it’s not going to affect their taxes.”

Documents show that those with waterfront property along the lake will be paying an annual assessment of $5.68 for each foot of shoreline. Most property owners would be paying between $500-$800 annually. However, there are some tabs that run into the thousands — up to $31,440.29.

“They’re going to use us as the enforcer to collect if it’s not paid,” Moss said, which is another issue he has with the project.

Fred Jenkins, who walked up to thank Moss for his questions during the meeting, agrees.

He said that those who would be paying the most money to repair the dam didn’t sign the petition.

According to a spreadsheet — listing property owners, their property values, taxes and shoreline footage — 83 percent have signed a revised petition. Additionally, owners of 16 parcels of property have not signed, seven have given no response and four are listed as “no decision.”

“I don’t want to see anybody on that lake lose their property,” Jenkins said. “That’s just not the Christian thing to do.”

Jenkins was one of about 25 county residents who filled the oft-empty benches in the commissioners’ chambers.

Commissioners Bryant and Herbie Long also questioned if there was an intent to generate power from the dam and who would benefit.

The first public hearing for the project is scheduled for the commissioners’ August meeting. A second public hearing will be held in September.

COUNTY CLERK RETIRES

At the beginning of the meeting, commissioners gave an official farewell to Marian S. Savage, the board’s clerk, who retires Aug. 1.

Savage said she had never been without a job since graduating from Appalachian State University.

She started working for the county in January of 1980, became a deputy clerk the following year and has been the clerk to the commissioners since 1988.

Taking the podium after Robinette read aloud a resolution recognizing her 35-year career with the county, Savage said, “I’ve probably written several hundred (resolutions) but I’ve never had my very own.”

She said after being recognized as the county’s longest-serving employee and being called “Ms. Marian” by co-workers, “You realize it’s probably time to go.”

“Maybe I’ll find something to do at home that I’ve neglected the past 35 years,” she said.

Commissioners also voted to:

• designate Commissioner Bryant as a voting delegate during the N.C. Association of County Commissioners’ annual conference in August;

• reappoint Tim Long as the county’s alternate member on the Rockingham Board of Adjustment and Appeals;

• appoint Rockingham City Councilwoman Anne Edwards to replace former Councilman Travis Billingsley as a member of the Richmond County Economic Development Corporation; and

• appoint Terry Lewis and Evans Sheppard as private-sector representatives and Lee Anne Sago as a community-based organization representative to the Lumber River Workforce Development Board.

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.

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