Jordan, Hill spar over library

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, June 20, 2012

GATESVILLE – It was no big secret during the prelude leading up to the approval of building a new Gates County Public Library that Henry Jordan an opponent of that venture.

However, Jordan, who serves as the Vice Chairman of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, said despite his earlier opposition, the time is now to put the county’s best foot forward on the project.

His comments were prompted by Thomas Hill, a Republican who will face Jordan in November’s General Election.

Hill used the Citizen’s Comments portion of the June 6 Commissioners’ meeting agenda to not only call for a halt to the library construction process, but to ask Jordan to meet him face-to-face in a political debate.

“It would be one thing, speaking of the money going into it, if the library was created for commerce, but it doesn’t create any revenue,” Hill said. “It would be one thing if the people had voted on it, but they didn’t. It puts us further down in the debt.”

Hill suggested to the commissioner to “halt the project to let cooler heads prevail; to take a second look at this.”

“I believe it would be in the county’s best interests to have a slower procedure done on this,” he said. “Perhaps even an idea of having the county (citizens) vote on this. We have a November election coming up; why can’t we let the county (citizens) vote on this rather than the commissioners. This is the people’s money, not the commissioners’ money.”

He then used the opportunity to challenge Jordan to a debate, “over the said project as well as other issues dealing with Gates County.”

Hill said he was not looking to conduct a political forum, but rather an actual debate, with no pre-prepared questions or answers.

“We can certainly put this library, the debt and other issues in Gates County to rest,” Hill said.

Commissioner Jack Owens spoke up to inform his board colleagues that he felt the Citizen’s Comments portion of the meeting is not the place to challenge a commissioner or, “put them on the spot.”

“These issues we deal with involves the people’s money; this is a very public issue. I’m asking Commissioner Jordan to better define the issues,” Hill stated.

Jordan responded.

“First of all, the library is something that’s already happened,” he said. “The board has voted on the library; the funds have been borrowed; the ground has been broken. It was a majority vote.”

Jordan continued, “This (library construction) is not going to be stopped. It has been passed; it’s going to be done. So to debate on the merits of whether or not we should have built a library is water under the bridge, so to speak. To keep bringing it up stirs up the public. The process we went through was the correct process, it was the democratic process. I don’t think an issue like this should be used to stir the emotions of the public.”

“I feel that $1.5 million (the cost of the new library) is certainly something worth debating,” Hill responded.

Commission Chairman Graham Twine interjected at this point to have Hill and Jordan contact each other outside the commissioners meeting and set up a debate if they chose to proceed with that idea.

Later in the meeting, Jordan used his portion of the agenda’s Commissioners’ Comments to add to his earlier comments.

“The record speaks for itself; I initially voted against going forward with the library,” he said. “The majority of the commissioners voted to go forward. In doing so I’ve felt that since this is something we will go forward on because the democratic process was followed, let’s make the best out of it; let’s get the best deals.

“We’ve gone through that process,” he added. “We’ve selected a contractor. There would be a lot of ramifications to try to reverse this process. When you’re under contract and then decide not to go forward, you’ve still got to pay those people. There’s a lot of expense that’s already gone into this project.”

Jordan said he completely understood the differences of opinion on the library issue, but there was no need to become disagreeable.

“There are a lot of things that we’ve done in the county that everyone may not have agreed with, but going forward we have to make the best of out of it,” he noted. “That’s now what I want to see with the new library, I want to see it be the best it can be. I don’t see anything that can reverse this process and I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time of trying to stir up public emotions and look for avenues to stop it because we’d be wasting taxpayer’s money. This issue should be looked at on its merits, not on the emotional thoughts involved with it.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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