By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe County Manager Lorenzo Carmon was the guest speaker at the Tarboro Rotary Club meeting Thursday at the Fountains at the Albemarle and provided Rotarians with updates on everything from the budget to the sewer system.
Carmon began on a lighthearted note, telling the Rotarians that although he’s a member of Rotary, he rarely has the opportunity to come to meetings.
“I always feel welcome,” he told the club.
Carmon briefly discussed the county budget.
“The county adopted their budget this year with no tax increase,” he said. “We had to cut the budget by $1.5 million from last year.”
He also explained the reason for the budget cuts.
“We don’t have any growth at all,” Carmon told the Rotarians. “We don’t sell a lot of building permits. We don’t have a lot of retail sales. We just kind of hold our own and maintain where we are.”
In his 12 years as county manager, Carmon said the county has eliminated 25 or 26 positions, through attrition, mainly retirement.
“It may take you a little bit longer to be served because you don’t have as many people providing those services, but we’re going to get it done,” he said.
On an optimistic note, Carmon talked about the positive impact that he believes the health and human services’ relocation to downtown Tarboro is having on downtown revitalization. The discussion was a response to Rotarian John Jenkins’ request for an update on the relocation.
“There’s a couple of businesses that have moved to the downtown since the human services building moved downtown,” Carmon said. “Studies have shown that people who work downtown spend $5,000 to $6,000 annually in the area where they work.”
Between 200 and 225 people work in the human services building.
While those jobs already existed, Carmon said the county is committed to creating new jobs in the area, as well.
“The county commissioners are working as hard as they possibly can to make economic development happen,” said the county manager. He pointed to Kingsboro Industrial Park as a possible source of future economic development.
“We’ve had ‘looks’ from a lot of different companies,” he said, noting that Kingsboro is the only industrial park in North Carolina with a CSX railroad certification.
Carmon also discussed tourism as a component of economic development. He mentioned the recent passage of a bill authorizing the county to levy a motel occupancy tax of up to 6 percent.
“That money has to be used to promote travel and tourism in the county,” Carmon said. He said the county has “a lot of things happening” that bring large numbers of visitors to the county, such as the Pinetops 300, but up until now, the county has not had a “coordinated effort” to promote tourism.
Infrastructure was another topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting.
“The county has continued to move forward with our water and sewer system,” Carmon said. “We’re in the process of finishing up District No. 4, which is the Speed area.”
The price tag for the water and sewer project is about $50 million, 70 percent of which comes from grant funding, according to Carmon.
“Having reliable drinking water is always a plus,” he said. Another benefit of the project that Carmon mentioned is the decrease in rural homeowners’ fire insurance costs because of the fire hydrants that are now located throughout the county.
Rotary Club President Billy Wooten ended the meeting by saying,
“We have challenges, but we can overcome them.” He said Thursday’s meeting allowed Rotary members the opportunity to openly ask questions and hear from a county official, which is always nice.