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LUMBERTON — County commissioners approved Monday a $156,257,730 fiscal year 2020-21 spending plan that includes no increases in taxes or water fees.

The county took a conservative approach when crafting the budget because of uncertainty regarding the financial effects of COVID-19, County Manager Kellie Blue said.

The county will revisit sales tax revenue collections in August, she said. If collections are less than anticipated, county employees will have to wait until January to receive their cost-of-living-adjustment raises.

“We’d rather underestimate,” Blue said of revenue collections.

The county also kept financial contributions to other organizations close to current fiscal year levels.

However, commissioners approved adding to the FY 2020-21 spending plan contributions of $200 to the Philadelphus Group and $5,300 to the United Way of Robeson County.

Also included in the budget was $2 million for Emergency Medical Services to buy 10 ambulances to replace ones that have logged excessive mileage, Blue said.

Commissioner Roger Oxendine expressed concern over an increase from $30,000 to about $72,000 in projected part-time labor costs in the county’s Tax Department.

The increase reflects a revaluation, Blue said.

Other increases in the spending plan that is about $3.5 million more than the current fiscal year’s budget are a reflection of the cost of capital projects, such as replacing the boiler at the courthouse and repairing the roofs of other county buildings, she said.

In other business, commissioners adopted a new county noise ordinance that punishes “unreasonably loud” and “disturbing” noise as determined by a person or law enforcement officer present at the scene of the noise disturbance.

The previous ordinance incorporated the use of a machine to measure noise levels by decibels. If a noise reached a certain decibel level in a commercial or residential are, a citation could be written.

The new ordinance eliminates the use of the machine and will allow the county to “efficiently” enforce the ordinance, County Attorney Rob Davis said. Factors such as maintenance of the noise-measuring machines and lack of training needed for Robeson County sheriff’s deputies to properly operate the machines made enforcement of the old ordinance difficult.

Some exceptions to noises punishable in the ordinance are those made from regular operation of manufacturing facilities, law enforcement, fire or Emergency Medical Services, and construction operations for which building permits have been issued. Owners of cars, businesses and homes whose alarm systems do not continue sounding for more than 30 minutes also are protected. The penalty exception also covers instances of fire and break-in.

First-time offenders will be fined $50. The fine for a second offense is $150. After the second offense, violators must pay $500 for each violation.

The ordinance can be seen on the county’s website at www.co.robeson.nc.us.

Also on Monday, commissioners approved a five-year contract renewal with Med 1 Plus to administer nonemergency medical transportation. The ambulance service will pay the county $22,500 each quarter.

The contract gives the county control of all ambulance services within its borders, and allows the company to provide transportation to people who are not patients at Southeastern Regional Medical Center.

The commissioners voted unanimously Monday to reappoint Derick Coe chairman of the Robeson County Department of Social Services board.

In another budget matter, the commissioners convened as the Robeson County Housing Authority Board and approved a fiscal year 2020-2021 budget of $1,857,365 for the county’s public housing agency.

Also approved Monday was the transfer of $100,000 in state COVID-19 Recovery Act funds from the Robeson County Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 line item to Educational/Medical Supplies.

In the consent agenda approved Monday by the commissioners without discussion was a resolution that restates the county’s intention to partner with the state to establish a public park at the Lumber River State Park’s Wire Pasture site near Pembroke. After a failed attempt to negotiate the purchase of 8.1 acres of property needed to create the park, the county filed paperwork April 15 in the Superior Court of Robeson County to have the land condemned.

Once the land is acquired, the county will combine its tract with the state’s 90 acres and proceed with making $2.2 million in improvements to the site.

Commissioners also received a bid of $4,000 plus the cost of advertisement for the purchase of surplus real property on Pansy Drive, about 6 miles southeast of Maxton and 1 mile northeast of Jacobs and Cabinet Shop roads.

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