Industry incentives for a sweet potato packing operation, sheriff’s contracts with towns and the county’s upcoming budget will all be discussed at a special meeting of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners on Monday.
For the past several months, Sampson County officials have been working with representatives of Farm Fresh Produce Packing Inc., which is considering an expansion of its sweet potato packing operations, including converting a 20,000-square-foot building into packing facilities and constructing a curing barn at 6370 Keener Road.
Commissioners are expected to mull a resolution that would offer incentives to Farm Fresh Produce Packing over a five‐year period should Sampson be selected as the site for the project. In return, the company will commit to make certain capital investments in the county and maintain certain levels of employment.
On the table is a proposed performance-based incentive agreement that would offer more than $70,000 in grant-back tax incentives to the company, to be distributed in gradually descending amounts from $15,019 in year one to $13,525 in year five.
That would be in return for Farm Fresh Produce Packing’s estimated taxable investment of $3.7 million. Before grant-back incentives, estimated property tax revenues would total $266,613 in the first 10 years. Additionally, the project would bring 36 full-time jobs with an average salary of $21,608.
The board will convene at 5:30 p.m. Monday to hear presentations on potential roof restorations for the former Health Department building and the Veterans Office as well as water system challenges confronting the county. Matt West of Dewberry Engineering will provide an update on the county’s expanded water infrastructure as well as challenges for continued development of the system.
The proposed economic development project, as well as the Sampson County Sheriff’s interlocal agreements with Garland and Roseboro, will be topics of discussion at a separate meeting at 7 p.m. in the County Auditorium, as will the presentation of the proposed 2016-17 budget by county manager Ed Causey.
The board is expected to call for public hearings on the proposed budget and the economic development expenditures, to be held at the board’s next regular meeting on Monday, June 6.
The county board voted at its May 2 meeting to table action on the sheriff’s contracts until further discussion at Monday’s session, where it could make a decision.
Garland officials have raised concerns that an increase in its contract would leave little room to fund town programs and needed improvements. Both towns have received Sheriff’s coverage since their respective police departments folded nearly eight years ago. This is the first time a change to the contract has been proposed.
Causey said he was “sympathetic” to the needs of the towns, but budget constraints and cost of services drove the proposal. The county has been in an ongoing budgetary process in order to make the needed room to implement an employee pay plan over four years at an estimated cost of $3.7 million.
For Roseboro, the new proposed cost for its two full-time deputies, a master deputy and one sergeant is $240,533, up from the current $237,420 — an increase of $3,113. In Garland, the new proposed cost for its two full-time deputies is $112,799, up from the current cost of $87,144 — an increase of $25,655.
The towns’ new interlocal agreements for law enforcement services would go into effect July 1, 2016.
For Garland, the proposal would mean a roughly 30 percent increase for law enforcement coverage. The nearly $113,000 cost would make up one-quarter of the town’s General Fund alone.
“Garland already is poverty stricken, high in crime and we don’t have a school or anything for (children) to do,” Garland commissioner Judy Smith said at the May 2 meeting, imploring the county not to raise the cost to the town. “We really are having everybody pull into our budget to make their budgets work. If we don’t come together somehow and try to work out our problems as a county, we are going to have more crime and more problems. We just need help.”
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