Supervisors table civic center action — 3 of 5 concerned on authority, spending
County supervisors Monday had their first open discussion about amending bylaws and spending at the Lincoln Civic Center, and a 3-2 majority leaning toward reform took shape before the board tabled the issue for further study.
District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey initiated a discussion on the civic center near the end of the meeting, trying to get a man-by-man opinion on the center’s spending and authority to operate independently of supervisors, both of which he has openly sought to curtail in recent months. Falvey particularly wants to cut down on the approximately $229,000 annual funding allotments the board sends to the center, saying the money is needed for road and bridge repairs.
“We’ve spent around $1 million in the last four years at the civic center. Is that something we want to continue to do?” he asked the board. “Is that where we want to put that money? I’m only one voice and one vote, so I’m just asking.”
Falvey and District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown agree some provisions in the civic center commission’s bylaws need adjustment, and they gained a new ally in District 1 Supervisor and Board President Jerry Wilson, who threw out his opinion for the first time.
“People in the community think we’re just giving (the civic center commission) a rubber stamp,” Wilson said. “You don’t ever want to give anyone total control when you’re the governing body.”
District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson remained the civic center’s biggest supporter, and with District 2 Supervisor Bobby Watts abstaining from the discussion, he may be the only member of the board reluctant to force new rules on the commission.
“There’s a few things I saw in (the bylaws) we might negotiate, but that place is doing good and it helps a lot of people,” Williamson said.
Williamson’s appointee to the civic center commission is Ruth attorney Pat McCullough, who delivered a critical half-hour address to the board on May 21 in which he and the rest of the commission threatened to resign en masse over Falvey’s ill treatment of civic center manager Quinn Jordan. Jordan had earlier asked the board for assistance with a small road project at the civic center and Falvey shot down his request with a lecture on spending the commission felt was unwarranted.
Falvey has been transparent about his disapproval of funding the civic center — he voted “no” in a 4-1 board approval for the commission’s $145,500 “red iron” painting project earlier this year, and on Monday was the only supervisor to vote against an approximately $80,000 pay request from contractor Diamond Enterprise Inc., which has finished about half the job. The commission is repaying the $130,000 in bond money supervisors spent for the painting project.
Last November, Falvey was the only supervisor to oppose the $900,000 bond for replacing the jail roof, relocating the emergency management office and other projects.
During McCullough’s May 21 address, he and Jordan gave the board spreadsheets and other documents showing the civic center’s growth and financial success. One of those documents was a copy of the commission’s bylaws, which Falvey later said was “eye-opening.”
The document gives the commission authority to hire and fire, set salaries, control funding, waive public notice of commission meetings and to amend its own bylaws.
During Monday’s discussion, Brown seemed to be most concerned with hiring and salaries, while Wilson had reservations about the commission’s independence. Falvey, however, kept coming back to money.
“We’ve been funding them since 2006 — that’s 12 years — and we’re still giving them $225,000 per year,” he said. “The way we are with roads and bridges, we can’t afford to lose $225,000 a year. We cannot continue to give that amount of money to the civic center.”
The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors began funding the civic center in 2006 with a disbursement of $167,934. From 2008 to 2011, the figure was $202,328. The number increase slightly, to $202,928, from 2012 to 2015, and supervisors have given out $228,885 per year since 2016. In total, the county has sent close to $2.5 million to the civic center since 2006.
The commission has matched those funds with approximately $1 million in grants and donated funds over the years. The commission has spent nearly $1.2 million on 34 projects to improve the civic center and its accompanying facilities, including a riding arena and a baseball complex that draws big crowds during league play. Jordan said most of the county’s annual allotment for the civic center pays overhead costs.
“The commission is all volunteer, and they try to keep that thing in line out there. And they’ve done a great job,” Brown said. “But there’s some things in these bylaws we need to look at.”
Brown suggested the board table any action and give itself another few weeks to think on potential changes to the bylaws, and Williamson got the board to agree to wait until supervisors begin holding budget work sessions later this summer before making any decisions about the commission’s funding allotment.
Falvey stressed he did not want to close the civic center, but wants it to support itself. County administrator David Fields cautioned supervisors the civic center would never be a money-maker.
“Most rentals come in on the weekends, and there’s only 52 of those a year,” he said. “If you made it where it could pay for itself, nobody could afford to rent it. You have to look at it like running a park.”
The Lincoln Civic Center Commission will hold its next meeting Aug. 1 at 11:30 a.m. at the civic center.