A history center that focuses on telling stories about the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on North Carolina could be on shaky ground if Fayetteville and Cumberland County decide not to support the project, said the head of a board overseeing plans for the center.
Mac Healy, chairman of the board of the NC Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, spoke to the city council about the project during its business meeting Tuesday. The meeting was streamed on the city’s YouTube channel.
The council does not take binding votes during working sessions, but decided not to put the issue on the agenda for Monday’s regular council meeting. A request for consensus on whether to put it on the agenda failed when the vote was 5-5.
Councilor Brenda McNair, who was one of five votes against putting the issue on the agenda, said in a text message statement Wednesday that she intended to vote in support of the center. She said she plans to contact the city attorney and city manager on Thursday to find out how to have the article reconsidered.
“I regret any confusion this causes, but I want my support clearly stated,” McNair said.
Mayor Mitch Colvin said in a text message that it appears it will take a three-quarters vote of council members to reintroduce the issue.
“So we won’t know for sure if it will happen on Monday,” he said.
A three-quarters vote would require eight supporters because there are nine council members and Colvin also has one vote.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Derrick Thompson asked Healy what would happen to a $60 million state appropriation if the city and county did not support the project financially.
Healy said the state General Assembly should decide whether to continue providing the funding. He said he spoke to state lawmakers about the issue.
“I can only tell you what they told me,” he said. “They took the good faith of the city and the county and…that’s what made them the $60 million. They said they would be very upset if we backed out of our word.
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The County Council and Board of Commissioners each voted several years ago to provide $7.5 million to the center, subject to state funding. Both supporting resolutions expired before the General Assembly decided to provide funding.
Healy answered another question from Thompson about whether the project would lose state funding.
“I think the project would lose $60 million,” Healy said.
Discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting centered on whether to provide $6.5 million to the project because the city contributed ownership of the project.
County commissioners are expected to discuss the center during their agenda session on Thursday. They don’t make formal decisions during sessions, but commissioners could then indicate whether they support funding for the center with a vote scheduled for a regular September 19 meeting.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Healy said that if the city and county don’t support the center, the state may decide to withdraw its funding plans for the project. The state could also decide not to operate the center, he said.
“It’s a very precarious position for the city, the county and the whole community,” he said.
Much of the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting focused on assurances from state officials and center supporters that the installation would feature true stories about the Civil War and Reconstruction.
The $80 million center is expected to focus on education and be part of North Carolina’s state museum system. It would replace the Cape Fear Museum on Arsenal Avenue near downtown Fayetteville.
Healy said a study done about 10 years ago estimated the center would have an annual economic impact of $18 million to $20 million.
Three Civil War-era homes that make up the center’s Historic Village have been completed, but a 60,000-square-foot facility is set to be the center’s centerpiece.
Editor Steve DeVane can be reached at [email protected]