When Giants Fall

Yesterday, there was supposed to be a special called meeting but for some reason, there wasn't enough aldermen present to have a quorum so the meeting was canceled. I don't know what caused the sudden lack of concern. Was it the WHLT 22 News truck parked outside? I always arrive early for the meetings to witness the meeting before the meeting. Usually, when I arrive, the city clerk and Jay McGraw, are posted in their perspective spots but this time the board room was empty. I knew Mayor Winston was in the building because his truck was outside. About 10 minutes after arriving, I heard McGraw enter tbe building. Instead of entering the board room, he went into the clerk's office. Moments later, Tommy Dukes arrived and he went into the clerk's office. The reporter was setting up her camera and shortly afterwards, the parade of city officials came into the board room, Ben Winston, Merlene, Tommy and Jay. Also in the entourage was Audrey Langston, another semi - permanent fixture at city hall. She gathered some papers and was handing them out to the board members that were present while Jay passed out agendas to the citizens. Also present was grant writer, Gary Hickman. Shortly after the board members took their seats, Winston's cellphone started to ring. From the things he said, it seemed like he was talking to Kent Crider. Moments later, Winston said we'll give them a few more minutes so we can start the meeting. Immediately after making that statement, Winston's phone started ringing again. After he got off the phone, he announced that there wasn't going to be a meeting and cancelled the meeting due to a lack of a quorum.

I wondered if the board was reluctant to have their meeting because of the news crew presence. Where was Cora Rogers? Just the other week, she was begging to be included in tne trips to Jackson but she can't attend a meeting in Lumberton. I was also a little miffed that Quincy Rogers wasn't present until I later discovered that the second call to the mayor was from Quincy, informing tne mayor that he was on his way but as soon as Winston got off the phone, he dismissed tne meeting. Interesting. People lingered around and there was a failed attempt to get Winston to give the news crew an interview. The citizens that were present were there to show support for the police department. The others left and WHLT was trying to get an interview with Chief Cowart about the lack of police officers since rumors were circulating that there's no money to pay part time police officers. While in the corrider, some citizens were talking with Jay McGraw since he was in such a jovial mood. Somehow, the question about the sewer grant came up; inadvertently or not, Jay allegedly said that he and Ben had received a check for $400,000 to pay the matching fund portion of tne Army Corp of Engineers grant. If memory serves me correctly, the matching portion is $250,000. If you're like me, you're wondering when did they get approval to secure a loan on the behalf of the City of Lumberton. I don't recall it ever being mentioned at any meetings. But they never mentioned Richard Rose at any of the meeting but somehow he ended up with access to all of our files and was paid $1,600 to prepare the 2015 budget. So, where's the money? There's no such thing as private public money. Where did the loan come from, was it from private investors, and how are they going to repay this loan? But on the bright side, if they received a $400,000 loan, that leaves $150,000 in the budget that could be used to pay for a full police crew, vests, a couple of cars, allow the court clerk to work 40/week and give a much needed pay raise. I don't know where they're hiding the money but if they received that much money, it's going to show up in the budget. Maybe that's why citizens have to go through more obstacles than Indiana Jones just to get a copy of a published budget.

Another interesting fact was the agenda item to vote on a resolution for matching monies for the Small Municipality and Limited Population Grant Program. Again, they're saying tney don't have money to pay for part time police officers, so where are they getting money for another matching fund grant? Apparently there's some merit to what McGraw was saying. Another reason this agenda item caught my eye was the fact that I remembered that this was tne same grant Mayor Miriam Holder tried to secure. One of the requirements was to get citizens to submit letters showing there was a need for this grant. The board decided the grant was most needed in Ward 4 and Danny Davis had devised a plan of action that would minimize the damage to the streets. Well, here comes Ben Winston, discouraging the residents of Ward 4 and more specifically, the members of Sweet Beulah Baptist Church, where he was serving as pastor, from submitting letters to help secure this grant. Now that he's mayor, it seems like he's all for the grant now. I don't know what's going on but I think Jay allowed a secret to slip out. I find it interesting that Winston has been looking for ways to secure $250,000 to pay the required matching portion of a grant and according to his right hand man, they were able to get a loan for $150,000 more than was needed but Winston refused to give an on camera interview. Why keep something of that magnitude secret? You allegedly have money for grants and enough to pay for police but for some reason, this money is supposed to be a secret. All I can do is think of a line from a gospel song, "the enemy created walls but remember giants, they do fall ." What's done in the dark, will come to light. Watch God work!

Comments

  1. I've seen that woman in the office a lot. She sits up there for hours and sometimes come to have lunch with the clerks. I guess they're too busy gossiping and reading your blog to give access to the public to view public records and budgets.

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  2. I've been reading old posts and it seems that you respect those that have integrity and call out those that don't. I think it's a disservice to your readers when you don't point out Quincy Roger's continued tardiness to meetings. If he's not interested in being on time then he should stop running for office. He's very knowledgeable of the duties of board members but it's time to get off CP time and be on time. I guess if tardiness is my only complaint about a board member then I must be petty.

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  3. I was waiting for your blog yesterday because I was wondering if you were going to mention the joke the board members, clerk and mayor thought was so funny but you didn't comment on it. I know you heard Jay when he was joking around asking citizens can we get someone to play the city attorney for the meeting he then went on to say you don't have to do anything but sit there and nod every now and then and everyone on the podium and in the audience laughed. I find it strange that they know he's a joke but the city is the punch line. I said all that to say, maybe you should start recording the pre meeting antics as well.

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  4. I find it odd that Ben is running against Warren Byrd. Without Warren Lumberton would be in worse shape. He came to the aide of the library, the park and the fire department. Ben's level of stupidity never ceases to amaze me. I was also wondering if you're going to share your plans to save the museum in a blog post because you had some wonderful ideas. Don't take a back seat just because the LEDC wants to get all the credit. Share the plans and maybe Ben will select you as citizen of the month. Just kidding.

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