SF check divides Nash County Board

Amanda Clark, Graphic Staff Writer

Nash County Commissioners disagreed on Monday about where to appropriate over $1 million that was sent from Sanderson Farms for reimbursement of costs incurred while trying to bring a new plant to the county.

Lynn Hobbs, Finance Director, brought the item before commissioners on Monday during the regular board meeting. The item was presented as a budget amendment.

Commissioner Robbie Davis announced Sanderson Farms’ reimbursement at the county’s annual retreat. The money was intended to replenish funds the county and Carolinas Gateway Partnership (CGP) used for legal and consulting fees. Davis explained at the retreat that $140,000 will go to CGP and the remaining $860,000 will go to Nash County.

At the meeting on Monday, Hobbs requested commissioners approve allocation of the funds. Hobbs requested that $139,788 be appropriated to the Carolina Gateway Partnership with the remaining $860,602 balance transferred to Nash County’s Economic Development Fund.

Commissioner Lisa Barnes requested the allocation be tabled until next month, to give her time to do further research. Barnes said she had sent a request to the Gateway Partnership and wanted to get what she had requested before making a decision.

Commissioner Billy Morgan also questioned the allocation and said he never said where it said Carolina Gateway was supposed to get some of the money.

‘It does not mention anything about giving anybody other than Nash County this $139,000,” Morgan said. “There was nothing in the original letter about giving anything to the Carolina Gateway Partnership.”

Chairman Fred Belfield said though Sanderson only wrote one check, their intentions were to pay both the county and Carolina Gateway.

“Their expenses were submitted and they just wrote one check,” Belfield said.

“Legally we can only keep $860,602,” he added.

Commissioner Davis said Sanderson had contacted him and expressed an interest in reimbursing the county for costs incurred. Sanderson asked that expenses be calculated and Davis said he was told one check would be written.

“They said at that meeting that they only wanted to write one check,” Davis said. “They wrote the check based on the list we provided them.”

“(But) it’s Gateway’s money,” Davis added.

Barnes said she just found out about the check at the retreat and needed more time.

“I just want to be able to have access to all that information that was given to you during the whole process since that time, since November,” Barnes said. “We’ve been given two weeks or less to decide where to appropriate these funds.”

Commissioner Mary Wells said the only thing the county could decide on appropriating was the $860,000. The other money, Wells added, belongs to Gateway.

“The only money we could reappropriate is the money that came to Nash County,” she said.

“We need to get it in the right hands,” Davis added.

Commissioner Lou Richardson said she didn’t understand why more information was needed.

“I can’t understand why getting more information is going to change what is right for us to do,” Richardson said. “We have this money returned to us. They didn’t have to do it but they did.”

“I think we just need to do what they asked us to do,” Richardson added.

Barnes motion to delay appropriating the funds failed with a 3-4 vote. Barnes, Morgan and Commissioner Wayne Outlaw voted in favor of the delay while Commissioners Wells, Davis, Richardson and Chairman Morgan voted against it.

Commissioner Richardson made a motion to approve allocating $139,789 to the Carolina Gateway Partnership with the remaining $860,602 balance transferred to Nash County’s Economic Development Fund. The motion passed 4-3 with Belfield, Richardson, Wells and Davis voting in favor and Morgan, Barnes and Outlaw voting against.

Outlaw said he voted against the request as a courtesy to Barnes.

“I think it would have been just a courtesy to give a fellow board member her day to get the information she requested to allow her to make what she felt like was a more informed decision,” Outlaw said.

After the vote, Belfield said he hoped the board would put Sanderson Farms in the past.

“Let’s don’t talk about the past,” he said. “Let’s move on to the future.”

“(Sanderson Farms is) gone and we need to close this chapter and forget about Sanderson Farms and move on with economic development,” Belfield added. “They are not coming to Nash County. Period.”

“That chapter, as far as I’m concerned, that chapter is over with and concluded. Let’s move forward and don’t even bring up Sanderson Farms name anymore.”

Commissioners also appropriated another $55,000 in legal expenses for Sanderson Farms during their Monday morning meeting.

The additional money will bring the total to $870,000 the county has set aside for legal fees related to lawsuits involving Sanderson Farms. Finance Director Lynne Hobbs said to date, Nash County has already spent $862,169 of that.