The Fiscal Year 2019 state budget bill that passed both chambers of the North Carolina legislature last week includes well over $1 million set aside specifically to aid Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton.
Lincoln County state Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, and state Sen. David Curtis, a Denver Republican whose district includes Lincoln County, each met with county and city leaders to get an idea of some areas where additional funding from the state would make a difference.
The county, which passed its $103 million budget earlier this week, will receive $400,000 that will be put toward furnishing the new West Lincoln Library. Approximately $250,000 was set aside for the same cause in the current fiscal year’s state budget, but rising construction costs and some changes to the scope of the project within the past year left the county in search of additional funding.
"As I’ve said publicly on a few different occasions recently, construction costs are going up,” Lincoln County Manager Kelly Atkins said. “We’ve also decided within the past year to bump the square footage of the library up from 10,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet, so when you add in the increased construction costs due to the current state of the economy and some other factors, that’s the reason we needed these additional dollars. The money will go toward purchasing things like bookshelves, chairs, desks and other things that I like to call ‘soft costs.’ We’ll also be able to purchase some laptop computers and tablets for the public to use at the library, which we were planning to do eventually, but this money will help expedite that process.”
Similarly, the county will receive an additional $175,000 to help furnish its new senior center once the renovations to the building are complete. On top of that, the county will also be given the funding to purchase a 15-passenger van that will be used to transport Lincoln County seniors without the means to get to and from their medical appointments and other things of that nature.
“It’s great that we have two state legislators who are dedicated to representing the county they reside in,” Atkins said. “I sat down with both Rep. Jason Saine and Sen. David Curtis to discuss some areas of need in Lincoln County where they could be of assistance with these extra funds in the state budget. I gave them both a list of five or six projects that we could use some help with and then they narrowed that list down to the two items we’ve covered. This money will allow us to proceed with some tasks that were going to have to be put off and we thank our legislators for their work representing Lincoln County.”
While the state funding will help the county to expedite some relatively smaller aspects of two significant projects, the additional dollars will have a larger impact on the City of Lincolnton, which boasts a yet-to-be-approved budget of $27 million. In fact, according to City Manager Steve Zickefoose, the amount of money awarded to the city from the state over the past two years is equivalent to eight cents on the city tax rate.
“To be frank, this money allows us to make some improvements that I’m not sure would be possible without this funding from the state,” Zickefoose said. “WIthout this assistance, I don’t see how these projects would be funded in any sort of immediate time frame. We would probably be years away from making these projects possible without this assistance from the state.”
Like the county, the city will receive additional funding for a project that the state helped to fund in its current budget. This year, the city will receive an additional $325,000 to help fund additions to and the expansion of Betty Ross Park.
“The funding that we received last year was used to supplement a pretty big project at Betty Ross Park that included the construction of an access point along the South Fork River,” Zickefoose said. “The second phase of this project, which is what these additional funds will be put toward, includes the creation of two new flag football fields at the park, as well as the repositioning of one of the existing softball fields there and some additional parking near the shelter. This will expand the opportunities we can provide through our flag football program and and now we’ll be able to do that on fields that are actually designed for that specific purpose. This could also potentially allow us to host flag football tournaments and things of that nature as well.”
Finally, the city will receive an additional $203,000 that will be used to replace outdated self-contained breathing apparatus equipment being used at the Lincolnton Fire Department. The department had been looking into purchasing refurbished, OSHA compliant equipment for roughly $89,000, but will now be able to equip its firefighters with brand new SCBA equipment.
“This equipment is essential for the safety of the firefighters in the line of duty protecting the public in emergency situations,” Saine said. “I felt like it was a greater use of taxpayer dollars and safer for our firefighters to have new equipment.”