The council, joined by newly seated member Travis Billingsley, invoked its legal right to go into closed session for approximately half an hour to discuss the matter before approving the $35,950 loan.
Following the approval, Fournier explained the company currently has six employees, “and by this time next year I hope to have nine or 10.
He said the money will be spent for equipment upgrades for the day-to-day operations of the business, which services industrial electronic equipment.
Included in the upgrades are a forklift, a delivery truck, a DC test monitor for repairs and hand-held testing devices.
“I would just like to thank you for this,” Fournier told the council. “This is a vote of confidence for small business in Rockingham.”
TriCom co-owner Kelly Medlin also attended the meeting, but didn’t address the council.
Rockingham Mayor Pro-Tem Bennett Deane pointed out one of the goals of the council is “to help stimulate small businesses,” explaining the loan will be made from grant funding rather than taxpayer money.
The money is supplied through an Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) Fund created more than 20 years ago by a federal grant for the city to use to make loans to area business.
During its history, more than $1.9 million have been loaned to local businesses and industries, City Manager Monty Crump said Thursday, and all that money has been repaid.
Before the closed session, Councilman Steve Morris also spoke to the importance of small business in the local economy while reporting on a seminar he attended as an appointed member of the Richmond County Industrial Team.
He explained the speaker at the seminar is a proponent of small, family-owned business rather than large corporations because of their larger rate of return of profits into the communities where they operate.
The Tuesday night city council meeting began with the swearing-in of those elected in last month’s election.
Mayor Gene McLaurin was administered the oath of office, “to protect and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” as well as those of the state of North Carolina, before Councilmen Morris, John Hutchinson and Billingsley did the same.
The city also reappointed several officials, as well as appointing new City Clerk Gwendolyn Swinney, to replace the retiring Clerk Johnsey Lunsford.
Lunsford thanked the council for the opportunity to be employed by the city for 30 years, and the community for their thoughts and prayers since her son was wounded in the Fort Hood attack on Nov. 5.
McLaurin then enlightened Swinney of the unofficial duties of the city she will inherit from Lunsford’s legacy - “being the Dr. Phil of the City of Rockingham.”
“Not often do you walk by her office and there aren’t one or two or three people in there to receive some type of counseling from Johnsey,” he said.
Lunsford agreed part of the duties of the clerk are to “be the hub of the city,” and keep track of happenings before they become a problem.
Following organizational appointments, the city held a public hearing on its updated Hazard Mitigation Plan.
The plan was unanimously approved by the council after no member of the public stepped forward to voice concern or raise questions.
“Most everything, we’re already doing,” City Planner John Massey told the council. “This plan more or less restates what we’ve been doing.”
The council was then introduced to newly hired Rockingham Housing Authority Director Angela McGill, as she, RHA Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Denise Sullivan and former Interim RHA Director and current consultant Jim McCaskill presented the council with an update of the agency’s activities.
First, Sullivan approached the podium and described a change of culture on the RHA board, which has seen two new appointments in the past six months.
“We have definitely become a questioning board,” Sullivan said. “... Our meetings are a lot lengthier and more involved, and lots of things that just kind of got passed over are now discussed.”
McGill then formally introduced herself, and told the council she is a product of public housing.
“I am not only operating as an administrator, but I’m also operating as resident,” she said.
McGill presented the council with a 10-page powerpoint presentation entitled “Pathway to Rebuilding the Rockingham Housing Authority.”
Among the areas she intends to rebuild were integrity, public relations, community partnership, partnership with the city, defining roles and responsibilities and agency restructuring, according to the second slide.
“My vision for the Rockingham Housing Authority is to take a small agency and begin to do big things,” McGill said.
The council also received a presentation from FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Outreach Coordinator Amy Hamilton Forester about the process to obtain designation as a “Fit Community” from the N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund.
“The designation deals with policy and environmental barriers,” Forester explained.
The council unanimously approved action to begin the application process, which means the city is eligible for grant funding from the state.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.