Cabarrus budget cuts; Fiscal responsibility or vindictive? - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Cabarrus budget cuts; Fiscal responsibility or vindictive?

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CABARRUS COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

A series of budget cuts passed in Cabarrus County have now resulted in seven full-time and four part-time jobs lost and several services, including parks, a wellness center, and the Economic Development Commission all defunded. 

And while the commissioners who approved the cuts say they were necessary, many in the community are angry.

One of those cuts is visible in downtown Concord at the Farmer's Market.

Doug Crawford is one of the farmers at the Lomax Incubator Farm on Atando Road.  Some of what is grown there was on sale at the Farmer's Market, including tomatoes and squash, but the biggest product is supposed to be new farmers.

"The farm is a 30 plus acre farm of USDA certified organic farm that grows farmers…the whole objective, the mission of that farm is to expand the number of farmers in Cabarrus County," Crawford told WBTV.

But commissioners voted to defund the farm, and as of Tuesday the power was cut with crops still in the field. 

"Yesterday they locked the doors on the office, they turned off all the electricity, except for the water," Crawford added. "We, the farmers on the farm, have until August 31, then they will lock the doors completely, any crops in the ground will go to waste."

"We never had a voice at the table.  They never asked us what is the impact of shutting down the farm operation in the middle of the season when you've invested all of your time and labor into the activity."

"These decisions have been made rapidly without adequate background research and I think it has the potential to be very damaging to our citizens and to our reputation," County Commissioner Steve Morris told WBTV.

Morris was on the minority side of the budget cut vote.  He says that private individuals have volunteered to make donations to keep the Lomax Farm in operation, but that has yet to be accepted by commissioners.

 To Morris, the worst cut was the defunding of the Economic Development Corporation.

"I think it's important to send the message out that Cabarrus County is open for business," Morris added. "The county commission has completely defunded the Economic Development Corporations which is exactly the opposite of what our citizens told us they wanted to do."

So why were the cuts made? 

Commissioner Jason Oesterreich did not respond to our request for an interview, but on his web site he lists every cut and his reason for it.

The farm?  He says why should the county pay $400,000 for 7 people to learn how to farm. 

The EDC? He says it's too closely tied to the Chamber of Commerce and there's the potential for misuse of funds.

Many, especially those most effected by the cuts don't buy the commission's argument.

"In the 11th hour, at the last minute when no recourse was available, they made this motion and they voted in 3-2," Crawford added.

The Cabarrus County Commission will meet again and take public comment on July 21, many are expecting a large turnout of residents upset about the cuts.

"At this point in time I have not given up hope that some of the commissioners that approved some of these actions will understand the full implications of the decisions they've made and perhaps reconsider," Morris added.

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