Robeson County School Board member wants answers on slow recovery

Robeson County School Board members held their monthly meeting Tuesday, and some are getting impatient with the recovery from last year's storms.

LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – Robeson County School Board members held their monthly meeting Tuesday, and some are getting impatient with the recovery from last year’s storms.

When Hurricane Matthew blew through last October, it brought a lot of change in Robeson County. Months later, several buildings–West Lumberton and Knuckles Elementary Schools, the district’s main office and transportation offices among them–remain closed, critically damaged or even unusable after the floods.

“You can talk yourself to death if you want to,” said District 8 board member Dwayne Smith. “But we’ve got things that we need to do.”

Smith said he’s tired of filling out paperwork and wants to see some results.

“We’re without a central office,” Smith explained. “We’ve got schools that were pretty much destroyed October the 8th, and look where we are right now. We’re not doing nothing but talking.”

In addition to the two schools that desperately need help to recover, the district office was a big item on the agenda. The original office was flooded for weeks after the storm, and because it lies in a flood plain, it likely will not be rebuilt on its original land. The board voted Tuesday to send what it called a “letter of interest” to the county board of commissioners, indicating they wish to be at the front of the line to purchase land downtown as the site for the new district office.

“It’ll be a favorable place,” Smith said. “We don’t have to do any building. You don’t have to spend any money.”

It was the transportation office that really tested Smith’s patience, as he struggled to understand the amount of paperwork flowing between the board and the multiple state and federal agencies.

“Send in paperwork here, send in paperwork there,” Smith sighs. “I’m tired of talking about sending in paperwork.”

Smith had one plea for the groups who is supposed to help get the projects off the ground.

“They need to get to Robeson County and they need to be at our next board meeting and I need some answers,” Smith demanded. “You need to get down here so we can get the problems solved or at least get things rolling.”

No decision was made as far as rebuilding West Lumberton or Knuckles Elementary until the board can gather more information. The board meets again April 11 at Lumberton City Hall.