LAURINBURG — For George Medlock, almost any question thrown his way will end with the simple answer — jobs.
The District 2 challenger said the key component to the many of the issues facing Laurinburg — be it crime, taxes or even the City Hall project— can be corrected by putting polices in place that help create a strong economy.
“For Laurinburg to grow, income must be earned and circulated among our working citizens,” Medlock said.”In short, Laurinburg needs jobs and not just corporate franchise, minimum-wage jobs, but decent-paying jobs with benefits.”
To do that Medlock, a former math teacher and Army veteran, said the council must do more to encourage local entrepreneurship.
“Franchises and fast-food chain restaurants have replaced local businesses downtown … leaving us with nothing but minimum-wage jobs,” he said. “We need to send a loud-and-clear message to corporate America that Laurinburg is for-hire, but Laurinburg is not for sale.”
Medlock, who has lived in the city for 32 years, suggested Laurinburg look to improve downtown alleys to allow for small retail spaces or recreation locations that are alley-facing. He would also like to see the city encourage and promote more events and festivals.
“This increases the density downtown and is a key factor in creating energy among shoppers and visitors.”
Medlock also believes Laurinburg should offer mentorships or internships to students so they can participate in public-private projects that them a positive connection to Laurinburg.
“It is hard to leave a place when that place has changed your life,” he said.
When asked about the prospect of lowering Laurinburg’s property tax rate, Medlock believes attracting businesses and jobs should take priority. The city’s tax rate is .40 cents per $100 of valuation.
“If you lower the rate, you will lose revenue. That’s how taxes work,” he said. “But if you build the job base and get people working with better wages, the rate will be fair.”
According to Medlock, the same logic applies to the new City Hall-police station project.
“If we had good-paying jobs in Laurinburg and people were working, no one would care about the situation with the City Hall,” he said. “That means the problem isn’t the City Hall. The problem is and has always been the lack of good-paying jobs.”
Medlock went on to say that the $9.1 million project breaks down to about $4 a month per person, “the price of a Starbucks coffee.”
But backing out of the project with a possible loan penalty as some have suggested, is a bad idea, according to Medlock.
“It will cost about $2 million …that’s $2 million for nothing,” he said. “The price of the City Hall project is too high, but the price for backing out is far more expensive. At least by moving forward … we will have a City Hall that is not on the verge of collapse. And if we back out of it, we will still have to turn-around later and do this all over again when the interest rate is higher.”
The candidate said he supports the project because it will give Laurinburg police a facility “that is not falling apart.”
“These heroic men and women go to work every day knowing that today could be the day that they don’t come home alive,” said Medlock, who now works as a prison guard. “If we say that we want to address crime in Laurinburg, then we should put our money where our mouth is and not just give lip service.”
What concerns Medlock is that work on the project is going to outside contractors.
“This city hall needs to be built by local contractors exclusively,” he said. “This will ensure that the money we spend on the City Hall will funnel into our economy.”
Medlock said if the current council and Mayor Matthew Block had reached some consensus on the project, it could have served as a stimulus package for local businesses and workers.
He said that is one of the many reasons that the uncivil discourse among council and some in the community needs to stop.
“We must work together as a community,” Medlock said “Let’s not look to the future of Laurinburg as if there is pending doom. Let’s look to the future of Laurinburg as an opportunity to make it a better place and know that we all made it happen.
“Laurinburg will not be destroyed by a handful of councilmen and a new City Hall any more than it will saved by a handful of councilman. Laurinburg will be saved with hard work by everyone. It is time to get to work as a team and make this city into something great.”
The race for District 2 also includes incumbent Drew Williamson and challengers Frank Evans and Brian Gainey.
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023