The Bladen County Commissioners, at their Monday meeting, allocated more than $283,000 to Bladen Community College for capital improvements.
Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson introduced the proposal after stating that he and Commissioner Dr. Delilah Blanks had met a number of times with college officials in an effort to address pressing capital improvement needs of the school.
Peterson and Blanks had been appointed last year to a committee made up of members of the Board of Commissioners and the college's Board of Trustees. The express purpose of the committee, as stated when the two boards agreed to form it, was to allow the boards to work together to find solutions for funding issues facing the school.
Peterson pointed out that the college had presented a prioritized list of capital needs totaling $591,601 on August 1 and that committee members had met on September 28 to discuss the needs. He said that six of the 14 items on the list were considered by the college to be the most pressing.
The cost of these six items was $278,350. He added that an additional $5,000 was needed for engineering and design work on another item on the list, bringing the total as agreed to by the committee, to $283,350.
The six items included on the list were as follows:
* Wiring for welding shop at a cost of $26,000;
* Wiring for the Cosmetology Department at a cost of $9,250;
* Repair of sidewalks and parking lots at a cost of $66,000;
* Re-roofing of Building #1 at a cost of $62,000;
* Replacement or modernization of the security/fire/smoke systems at a cost of $98,400; and
* Exterior painting of the welding and electrical shops as well as Buildings 1, 2, 8, 17 and the auditorium at a cost of $16,700.
Commissioner Chairman Greg Taylor commented, "We have gone for many, many years without making capital improvements to the community college...and it shows."
Blanks made a motion that the commissioners grant the funds to accomplish these six listed needs. Peterson seconded the motion.
When Commissioner Chairman Greg Taylor called for discussion on the issue, Commissioner Lewis Tatum offered a substitute motion. In making the substitute motion, Tatum said he understood the needs of the college but could not support giving the whole amount without considering the needs of the all of the departments in the county first.
He made a motion that the college be granted $100,000 with the understanding that the other needs be considered after a review of the needs of the other departments in the county.
Commissioner Billy Ray Pait seconded the substitute motion, stating that he agreed with Tatum's assessment. He also asked County Manager Greg Martin what the county's fund balance would be if the commissioners funded the full amount recommended by the joint committee.
Martin replied that it would be 14.88 percent.
Commissioner W. D. Neill also said he believed Lewis' proposal would be a better alternative.
"I don't want to see us in the mess we were in when I was chairman (of the commissioners) and the Governor cut funding in the middle of the year (in 2001)," said Neill.
Peterson commented that the college had not been given capital funding to address pressing safety and upkeep needs in the three years he had been on the board. Taylor added that capital improvements had not been funded since he came on the board almost a decade ago.
Blanks pointed out that BCC gets second to the lowest level of local funding of the 58 colleges in the state's community college system. Commissioner Larry Smith said that the college had had little local capital improvement funding since it was first constructed in the 1970s.
The board then voted on the substitute motion, which failed by a 5 - 4 margin. Commissioners Taylor, Larry Smith, Jimmy Smith, Blanks and Peterson voted against the substitute motion.
The board then considered the original motion made by Blanks. It passed by a margin of 7 - 2, with commissioners Pait and Tatum opposing.
Following the vote, Commissioner Margaret Lewis Moore commented that she supports capital funding for the college but that she thought it best to assess the financial situation thoroughly before allocating the full amount recommended in the request.