As the state continues to debate the future of casinos in select areas of North Carolina, Halifax County commissioners on a 3-2 vote Monday night shot down a resolution that would have thrown support to the city of Roanoke Rapids in its efforts to have the Carolina Crossroads Entertainment be considered as one of those sites.
Commissioners Carolyn Johnson, John Smith and Sammy Webb voted against the resolution, which had been endorsed by Roanoke Rapids City Council last week.
Webb was the first to indicate his hesitation with the proposal, particularly the impact on local law enforcement which he said were undermanned in both the city police department and the sheriff’s office.
Roanoke Rapids attorney Bill White, who is representing a group of investors who he said are being courted with a proposal for a large hotel with a casino in it, told Webb, “I would anticipate that part of their jobs would be their own security force because you’re going to have to do it and they’ll be out there. They’d be crazy not to do it. You know they’re going to have to have security officers in and around. You know they’re going to have to have security people in the parking lots or parking decks … I would venture to say — and I have not been part of any of this — it’s going to be more of an asset to the local law enforcement because they’re going to complement each other — they’re going to be there to assist them.”
Johnson wanted to know about the consensus in Roanoke Rapids when a public hearing was held between the city council and planning board, to which White replied only one planning board opposed the land use amendment under consideration without voicing a comment. “There was nothing said against it other than one lady who asked me if this would reduce our taxes or increase our taxes.”
Commissioner Linda Brewer, who ultimately made the motion to approve the resolution on a second by Chairman Vernon Bryant, said the discussions have centered around the potential economic benefit to both the city and the county. “We don’t have any industry at this point and time to replace what we have lost in wages and benefits.”
Brewer said she wasn't a gambler. “I think at some time we have to look out of the box … We don’t even know if we’re going to get it. But if we get it at least it would bring us income and jobs to the county.”
Smith said, “I understand it would be quite an economic boost to the county, but in good faith I cannot support it.”
He said there are people who can’t afford to gamble but still do. “Being out there on the ground with them I see a lot of what’s going on.”
Bryant, who voted with Brewer to approve the resolution, said, “If it even gets approved tonight, that will only put us up for consideration — that’s the only thing it’ll do. It’s not automatic that anything is going to happen because this thing is a moving target … It’s not guaranteed.”
Bryant said both the city and the Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District passed resolutions supporting Carolina Crossroads. “If we pass one (a resolution) there’s no guarantee it’s coming but the thing about it is we probably won’t be in the game if we don’t.”
He said if the board didn’t approve the resolution he couldn’t say if it would completely kick Roanoke Rapids out of contention. “But the General Assembly members … really want to hear what the county commissioners have to say about this. Do we really have to do this as a county? No, because it’s Roanoke Rapids really kind of driving this thing, but the General Assembly, they want a lot of time to know how the county commissioners feel about things coming to their county. If we don’t approve the resolution it won’t put us in the driver's seat to be considered at all.”
White said state lawmakers are insistent that the municipalities and the county are together in support. “They don’t want a small community voting to do it and the rest of the county not be in favor.”