LAURINBURG — For those struggling to raise a family on one income, Brian Gainey has been there — done that.
A candidate for District 2 on City Council, Gainey said he has a unique understanding of what most Laurinburg residents are dealing with.
“I can relate to each citizen wanting a reduction in our taxes and utility rates,” said the Richmond County native, who moved to Laurinburg in 1996. “As a single parent and single-income household, I can relate to the need for stable utility rates and making sure it’s affordable to live in Laurinburg.”
He added that his 23 years as a postal worker also gives him a special perspective on what is going on in the community. A former candidate for the board of education, Gainey came in fourth in a six-person race, losing to the third place winner by about 38 votes.
“I already have an established relationship with the community,” Gainey said. “I am in touch with many citizens on a daily basis and I see many of their concerns and issues first hand. Whether it be potholes, dirt streets within the city limits or litter to name just a few, I see it every day.”
Based on that vantage point, Gainey said the city can do better than the recent 3.21 percent reduction in the electricity utility rate. He said he would like to see the city reduce the rate by 5 percent.
“There seems to be a considerable balance that could offset any unforeseen emergency,” Gainey said “From what I could gather, the increases were way more that the decreases .. we seem to be basically dealing with a 14 percent increase from a few years back, that increased and decreased from that point, basically leaving it at 14 percent.”
Gainey said he would also like to see a drop in the city’s taxes rate, but would have to investigate how it would impact city services.
“I think Laurinburg’s current tax rate is fairly in line with surrounding areas,” he said. “The county tax rate seems to be the rate that needs the most attention.”
If elected, Gainey said he would push council to work with commissioners to reduce the county tax rate.
“I realize the county operates separate from the city, but we should strive to reach common goals together, as we each affect the other.”
Gainey said he is opposed to building a new City Hall as it is currently planed by the city.
“I feel the rate for the construction is very questionable, as it seems to be almost triple what it should be,” he said. “I am not opposed to a more affordable option, which would include using empty buildings already owned by the city or negotiating a more affordable alternative structure if needed.”
Gainey expressed concern about any penalties on the facility’s $9.1 million loan if a new council decides return the money.
“It becomes a slippery slope and I would not want to waste taxpayer dollars on penalties,” he said.” Negotiating for a smaller structure and using some of the buildings currently owed by the city would hopefully make us of the funds we would lose to penalty fees, while only spending a fraction of the loan money.”
Gainey said making Laurinburg attractive for residents, businesses and visitors is “a must for us to move forward.”
“I hope we can offer great incentives in the form of tax breaks, land discounts and other start-up assistance as needed,” he said. “I think competitive utility rates and taxes, cleaner streets and a continued effort to revitalize the image of the city, as a whole, will continue to help attract new residents. I feel that all major entry points to the city need to be kept extremely clean and maintained.
He added that the establishment of St. Andrews football, along with events like Laurinburg After 5, the John Cotton Blue festival, The Highland Games and the Kuumba Festival are great ways to increased traffic to Laurinburg .
“If we can give them a reason to stay in town and spend some time and money here, our city wins, ” he said.
But to accomplish those things, Laurinburg needs to be unified.
“There are many problems that plague our city — crime, litter, dirt streets, potholes and infrastructure issues — but the biggest concern for me right now is the lack of unity among our citizens,” Gainey said. “There is too much discord, as our citizens are divided and fractured over issues that seem out of our control. I will strive to make unity a goal for our city. The best way to do this is to make sure that if I am elected, that I continue to listen to each and every citizen and take each concern into consideration as I make my decisions. Our citizens need a voice and I hope it will be me.”
Also seeking the District 2 seat are incumbent Drew Williamson and challengers Frank Evans and George Medlock.
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023