‘We feel betrayed’: Community reacts as North Carolina revokes East Laurinburg’s charter

State - Regional

EAST LAURINBURG, N.C. (WBTW) — North Carolina’s Local Government Commission revoked the charter of East Laurinburg this week, marking the first time it has used its power to dissolve a town. The commission will work to get the town’s essential services taken care of before it ceases to exist in June.

Mayor-elect Gail Chavis and other community members spent Friday decorating for a Christmas tree lighting that she hopes will pull the town together ahead of her fight to keep the charter.

“I’m trying to reach out to everyone that I possibly can to help us keep it,” Chavis said. “And I plan to do everything in my power.”

Chavis said she expects to travel to Raleigh multiple times to plead her case before the town is dissolved.

“I will fight until I can’t fight anymore,” Chavis said.

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell, the commission’s chair, said the decision is already final as the town’s finances are beyond repair.

“East Laurinburg hasn’t really presented an audit to the state treasurer’s office consistently for 10 years,” Folwell said. “The taxpayers of that community deserve to know that the money that they are paying is going for its intended purposes.”

He said one example of the town’s money mismanagement was when its former finance officer was caught embezzling more than $11,000 in October. He said dissolving the town will lower the living cost of many of its residents.

Scotland County Commissioner Darrel “BJ” Gibson said the county was already in charge of the town’s law enforcement and now plans to operate its street lights as well.

“That and whatever else is seen to be necessary, we are willing to do because we don’t want the citizens to go without any services,” Gibson said.

Even so, people like Pastor Richard Tyson of East Laurinburg Baptist Church are rallying behind Chavis.

“I grew up in East Laurinburg,” Tyson said. “We feel betrayed by Raleigh.”

“Just because a community loses its charter does not mean it loses its sense of identity,” Folwell argued.

Laurinburg City Councilwoman Mary Evans said she visited an East Laurinburg town meeting earlier this year to offer help and was turned down. Mayor Jim Willis said annexing the town is not in the cards in part because the roads would be too expensive to upgrade and maintain, but the city will continue to operate the community’s water and sewer systems.

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