ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County is in line to receive more than $32 million in appropriations with the passage of the state budget.
The budget was signed Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper after passing both chambers of the General Assembly.
State Rep. Ben Moss, R-Richmond, requested and was able to secure much of the local funding before the budget left the house earlier in the session. Sen. Tom McInnis, who recently switched his residency to Moore County, also added a few items.
“I’m proud of our work to deliver this strong, conservative budget for our community and The Sandhills region,” Moss said in a press release issued Wednesday. “The investment we’re making into these critical local projects, along with our fiscal restraint and tax cuts, will prove fruitful for decades to come. These resources will support our veterans, first responders, and every single family throughout our region.”
All six of Richmond County’s municipalities are getting state-funded grants to the tune of $1.12 million.
Rockingham and Hamlet will receive $300,000 and $250,000, respectively, for downtown repairs and renovations, according to the Joint Conference Committee Report.
Monty Crump, Rockingham city manager, said Moss made the request to help with the Food King redevelopment project.
“Earlier in the year, he met with me and John Massey onsite to review the project and subsequently had the funds inserted to the State Budget,” Crump told the RO on Thursday. “The city is very grateful for Representative Moss’ help in securing this funding to continue with downtown revitalization.”
The city is currently in the midst of a streetscape enhancement on East Washington Street, in front of the former grocery store, which stretches from the corner with Randolph Street to in front of Bold Moves Dance Studio.
Last month, Massey, the assistant city manager, presented to the council a concept that shows a space for a restaurant on the end near the parking lot, with space for an outdoor patio, as well as two other storefronts on the west side of the building.
The City Council approved the $60,000 purchase of the property in February of 2018.
Ellerbe was originally slated to receive $150,000 for water and sewer improvements. However, the report outlining municipal money showed the town will get $500,000 for demolition projects.
Dobbins Heights will get $50,000 for the Community Center, and Norman and Hoffman will each receive $10,000 each.
The county government will also be given a $750,000 grant for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
Millstone 4-H Camp outside of Ellerbe will receive $350,000 of a $1.7 million allocation to the state’s 4-H centers and camps to “offset revenue loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The budget allocates a total of $100,000 to the county’s 10 volunteer fire and rescue departments, with each receiving a $10,000 grant for equipment.
In addition to the $7.5 million appropriated for capital improvement projects at Richmond Community College, the budget also includes $1.5 million for the construction of a truck-driver training course as well as $1.5 million for the college’s automotive program.
The largest allocation of funds for Richmond County is $10.7 million for “Raise the Age” renovations at the Richmond Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
Jerry Higgins, a communications officer with the N.C. Department of Public Safety, previously told the RO the funding would be used to renovate the former Richmond Juvenile Detention Center to house youth who fall under Raise the Age legislation. Those aged 16 and 17 are no longer automatically charged as adults.
Richmond Juvenile Detention was one of four such centers closed in 2013. The Samarkand Youth Development Center had closed two years prior.
Higgins said the facility closure was “to deal with declining juvenile detention numbers and move resources to other areas.”
While the funding won’t come as cash, District Attorney Reece Saunders will be getting more manpower.
The budget provides for two additional assistant district attorneys to help prosecute trials in the three-county judicial district, bringing the complement from nine to 11.
An earlier version of the budget only included one additional ADA.
“I’m absolutely elated to have more help,” Saunders told the RO on Friday. “People in this district deserve it — and I need it.”
Saunders said there are more than 50 pending homicide cases in the district.
Scotland County was added to the judicial district — which comprised Richmond and Anson counties — on Jan. 1. That doubled the workload, as Scotland had more pending homicide cases than Richmond and Anson combined, according to Saunders.
Saunders said McInnis and Scotland County Rep. Garland Pierce were instrumental in getting the additions.
Also Included in the budget is $40 million in appropriations for three of North Carolina’s storied raceways — Rockingham Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway — “for water and sewer and related infrastructure projects” for service to the tracks.
When Gov. Roy Cooper announced his proposed budget in May, there was $10 million allocated to each of the three venues. An earlier version of the budget proposed a total of $45 million.
However, state legislators tweaked the budget — again —leaving the Rock $9 million, and dropping the allocations to $13 million for Charlotte and $18 million for North Wilkesboro — both of which are owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. SMI also owned Rockngham from 2004-2007.
Although the total was $1 million less than anticipated, Vice President of Operations Justin Jones told the RO that the speedway crew is grateful for any help to bring the Rock back to its former glory.
The funding will actually go directly to the counties that the speedways call home.
Richmond County Finance Director Cary Garner told the RO earlier this week that the funds would have to be used in accordance with state and federal guidelines.
In addition to the water and sewer extension, Garner said the funds could also be used for a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 1 connecting the speedway to Rockingham Dragway.
The bridge was included in the governor’s 2019 budget proposal, which would have provided $8 million for infrastructure improvements.
The funding was a topic of discussion Tuesday on Sirius XM Speedway on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, hosted by Dave Moody.
Throughout the afternoon and evening show, Moody continuously expressed his support of the budget item, saying it was about time motorsports received attention from the state considering how much the industry contributes to the economy each year and “virtually every single team” and team employee living — and paying taxes — in North Carolina.
Most of the callers also supported the measure.
Moody said that although water and sewer may not be “glamorous projects,” they are still needed.
He also said that, regardless of how much funding the track receives, the only way to make it work is for the fans to show up.
“Lip service ain’t gonna cut it,” Moody said.
This year, Rockingham Speedway has held more than 15 motorsports events, including nine put on by MB Drift, which has its final event of the season Nov. 20.
Jones said that many of the organizers that came to the track this year will be returning in 2022, including Motorsport 4the Masses, Seat Time Racing School, the National Auto Sport Sport Association and Monster Truckz.