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Cumberland commissioners to hear request to fund Civil War history center

Advocates for the center plan to appear before the Board of Commissioners in August to ask for $7.5 million previously committed.


Advocates of the N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center plan to appear before the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners in August to ask for the $7.5 million the county previously agreed to provide for the project. 

Mac Healy, chairman of the board of directors for the history center foundation, updated the commissioners about the project during their June 9 agenda session. 

Board Chairman Glenn Adams and commissioners Toni Stewart, Jeannette Council, Charles Evans and Jimmy Keefe attended the meeting. Commissioners Larry Lancaster and Michael Boose were absent.

The history center on June 2 held its final groundbreaking ceremony at the Arsenal Avenue site. The group has raised most of the money for the history center through private donations and state funding. Once the history center is complete, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will take over the center. 

Organizers announced at the June 2 groundbreaking that they have proposed a new name for the center: the North Carolina Civil War, Emancipation & Reconstruction History Center. The state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will have the final say over the name, Healy said. 

Keefe was the only commissioner to attend the groundbreaking ceremony. Dr. Spencer Crew, emeritus director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., spoke at the ceremony. 

"I learned more about slavery (during Crew's speech) than I have in 12 years of public education," Keefe said.

"Now, I'm more of a supporter (of the center) than ever," he said. 

Evans earlier questioned Healy about the validity of his statement that the state would assume ownership and operations of the center after completion. Evans asked Healy if there were any signed agreements regarding the state taking over the facility. He also asked if this item would come back to the board. 

County Manager Amy Cannon said the item would come back to the board in August for a revote on whether the county will provide its agreed-upon share of local funding. 

The Board of Commissioners originally agreed to a $7.5 million request, but with stipulations — among them was to get the city of Fayetteville to participate in the funding. The city, according to Healy, also agreed to provide $7.5 million without any stipulations. 

"You asked us to raise $30 million, and we raised $60 million," Healy told the commissioners. 

"We've done all you asked us to do. We're not here to ask for more money," he said. 

Healy told commissioners that the original estimate for the facility was about $65 million, but those cost estimates have risen to about $80 million. He also promised the committee will not authorize going above the latest estimate. 

In other business, the commissioners agreed to consider a proposal from its American Rescue Plan Committee to use some of its money for employee retention incentives. The commissioners are expected to discuss the proposal at their June 20 regular meeting.

Cannon throughout her budget presentations told commissioners that employees were leaving and those remaining were becoming overworked due to shortages. 

The board also adopted a resolution asking the city of Fayetteville to waive its voluntary annexation requirement to construct a sanitary sewer project in the Shaw Heights area. The board previously approved the use of ARP funding for this project. 

The commissioners voted to place the following item on the consent agenda for the June 20 board meeting: 

  • Report on the annexation of Spring Lake to the Cumberland County Recreation Service District. The board will hold a hearing at the June 20 meeting for public comment on extending the county Recreation Service District to include Spring Lake. 

Commissioners also heard several other presentations. 

Charlotte Robinson, director of the TJ Robinson Life Center, provided an overview of the facility off Golf View Road in Hope Mills. The facility is a multi-sport and fitness center offering a variety of programs. One of the programs is a juvenile diversion program that helps young people with anger management, conflict resolution and other life skills that help them avoid confrontation with law enforcement. 

Robinson asked the commissioners to help fund monthly operations costs of about $5,500, and she asked the commissioners to reduce her tax bill on the facility. 

Also, county Health Director Jennifer Green presented the county's health rankings for 2022. 

Keefe asked for the report. Green said the report compares Cumberland County to statewide averages in 30 health factors, such as smoking, obesity, violent crime and sexually transmitted diseases. Cumberland County ranks slightly above state averages in all four categories. 

Keefe noted that Cumberland County is among the most urbanized counties with the lowest percentiles in health rankings. Keefe asked if results may be skewed because they do not consider the large number of Cumberland County residents using Womack Army Medical Center for their health needs.

Jason Brady covers Cumberland County government for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at jbrady@cityviewnc.com.

Cumberland County, Board of Commissioners, N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, funding, retention incentives, health rankings