GARLAND — NC STEP provides support for the town of Garland, but the formation of a leadership group stirred a lot of emotions and confusion Tuesday evening.
During a special meeting, Brenda Cromartie, the local administrator for the North Carolina Small Towns Economic Prosperity Program (NC STEP), presented a list for an implementation team, to make major decisions.
The purpose of the program is to support financially distressed towns facing hardships because of the economy.
Mayor Winifred Murphy said the list presented by Cromartie was deceptive based on another list presented during a previous NC STEP meeting.
“If you go with this list, you’re going to divide the community,” Murphy admonished.
The mayor said she felt the decision regarding the list was preplanned.
One list presented had more than 10 people, but a list approved by commissioners was reduced to eight. Commissioner Carolyn Melvin voted against the list. Like Murphy, she believed the process was also deceptive.
Several NC STEP volunteers attended the meeting and sighed as discussion regarding the lists continued.
The selected team will be responsible for making decisions about the programs. Murphy and Melvin said this group would make important decisions, making everyone else “worker bees.”
Commissioners also approved a contract for NC STEP from the Department of Commerce. But Murphy said she does not want to sign the documents because of what occurred Tuesday and wants to maintain the goals of NC STEP to be inclusive of all community members. Murphy believes some members were left off the list because of their background and personal situations.
“It was disgraceful that they would reject a list that was representative of the whole community,” the mayor stressed.
The contract comes with a grant of $100,000, 5 percent of which will be used for administrative cost.
For Garland, Cromartie said the local NC STEP volunteers are working on a July Fourth celebration, Community Day in the fall and Christmas event.
Murphy believes the program is beneficial to the community and does not want to see it go away.
“It would be really sad because of the decisions of a few and not following the guidelines,” she said.
The Sampson Independent was unable to obtain an official statement from Cromartie about the issue by press time.