City Hall: Defend it or defund it

We get it.

People do not want the city of Laurinburg to build an $11 million municipal building.

The public — in groups both big and small — have voiced opposition to razing the current the police station and council chambers along with the nearby W. Charles Barrett Building to replace them with a single facility to house all city departments.

Most recently, members of the Laurinburg City Council were given petitions along with a thick document of comments detailing why people are opposed.

The citizen comments which go on for more than 100 pages are overwhelming against any new construction. Residents accuse city leaders of being “wasteful,” “extravagant” “ridiculous,” “unethical,” and “just silly.”

“This is such a bad idea,” one citizen said of the project, “but what do you expect out of the people making the decisions?”

Citizens that address the city council in person are even less kind. Many of them sound like the fictional television anchor in the movie “Network” who says: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

If you ask council members, they will say part of the acrimony against a new city hall is being ginned up by Mayor Matthew Block.

That may be true considering that Block is on record calling his fellow board members “out to lunch” or “spewing nonsense” or “plotting some new trickery.”

But regardless of how unproductive that kind of name calling may be, the mayor knows how to use social media and his column in this newspaper to push a pretty convincing argument that the project is bad and council is even worse for suggesting it.

He has also tapped into the resentment that our representative government no longer represents us. There were too many instances in the Citizen Comments document where people talked about the city hall project benefiting officials and not residents.

Why do they need such a nice building?” Clara Lowery said.

“I feel like a new, costly city hall is only in the best interest of those on council,” said Macie Nor.

“Why not build something that everyone can use and enjoy?” asked Jennifer Ward.

We wish there was a full-throated explanation from council about why such a facility is needed. Is the current building unsafe? Are employees so crowded together that they can’t do their jobs effectively? Will state inspectors shut the place down if something is not done?

Council has yet to give a clear and concise defense of how the city and its residents would benefit from the expenditure. Instead, we get vague justifications while the process forges ahead in fits and starts spending taxpayer money as it goes along.

As a result of that silence people erroneously blame the city for high county taxes or rail against property taxes even when they rent rather own homes in the city. And no one counters that many of the alternate suggestions for money that might be spent on new city hall would be against the law for a municipality to undertake like fixing roads, improving education or creating nice restaurants.

We do not think that the people who volunteer their time and energy to serve on city council are in it to build a monument to themselves. But there is a sense — right or wrong — that is the case.

There is an even stronger sense that something needs to be done to improve Laurinburg. And a new city hall ain’t it.

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