A frequent public speaker at Lincoln County commission meetings, Robert Avery is now making a bid for a spot on the board of commissioners. A retired homebuilder, Avery is one of eight Republicans who filed to run for one of three open commissioner seats.
Avery is of the opinion that the election for county commissioners should be run by districts, similar to how the members of the Lincoln County Board of Education are elected.
“Each area has their needs,” he said. “As of now, a lot of times, these needs are overlooked, and these citizens never get anything done in their area. That’s the main reason I’m running.”
Listing the qualifications that makes him the best candidate for this position, Avery said that he’s been following the commissioner’s meetings for years now and knows what issues there are. In addition, he’s been around business for a “good many years.”
“I see what the business needs are in this county and what progress needs to be done for business and to create jobs,” he said. “Every area in this county needs to be looked at. Like down east, it’s the roads, they have a traffic problem down there.”
With each proposal for a new development in Denver, residential or commercial, the board is bombarded with concerns over traffic. Understanding the roadblock that is NCDOT, Avery suggests that a lot of people from Denver go to the next district meeting that is held by NCDOT to make sure that the projects in Lincoln County are listed on the “PIP” (Piedmont Improvement Program).
“I’d make sure that our road problems are put on that PIP,” he said. “If you’re not on that PIP, they put you on the back burner. It’s hard to get on it though. Each county has their planners and a lot of planners have certain things that they’re going to look at and there’s only so much money they get out of Lincoln County. How ever they spend that money in that district, you want to make sure it’s spent on safety issues, especially in that (eastern Lincoln County) area. There’s really nothing else you can do.”
With several high-dollar projects on the horizon, including a new courthouse and the expansion of the county jail, a capital reserve fund has been established for the excess tax revenues created by last year's property revaluation. The plan is for those revenues to be used to offset a portion of those multi-million-dollar projects, thus reducing the amount the county would need to borrow.
“These funds were set aside years ago to try to offset these projects,” Avery said. “Now the courthouse, where it’s located there’s no parking, and the building is in bad shape. The state could require them to build a courthouse now and the county would have no voice in it. They are going to use the excess money, but they’re going to have to borrow a lot of money – probably in the range of $30 or $40 million. I’m in favor of them using the money in the capital reserve fund to pay for the new courthouse and the money they’re going to use is left over from the reserve fund which is maxed out at this time. Interest is in their favor now.”
Adding that if he was on the county commissioners, he’d have to look at all the financial data before making a decision. Avery is not in favor of raising the tax rate and believes that it’s going to be tough for the county to build that courthouse without a tax increase.
“That issue’s going to be answered in the next few months because the project’s going to be contracted out this summer,” he said.
Other issues that Avery feels are important include looking after the rural areas of the county, especially as they pertain to water lines.
“Water lines are critical,” he said. “Some people are drinking water that’s got all kinds of minerals in it. The water supply is really bad out here (Crouse-area) because of all the farms, some people have sulfur, and some have iron in their water. If it rains a lot, the water gets bad. That could be a health issue now. The county’s not doing inspections on wells which is a great concern. It’s going to affect homeowner’s insurance in the future.”
The Republican primary is scheduled for March 3, after which the top three who receive the most votes will square off against Democrat Autumn Watson the Nov. 3 general election.