A company in Burke County is planning to expand and add more jobs, and it’s getting help from the state, county and Morganton to do it.
The Burke County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved on Tuesday night a local match for a state building reuse grant for “Project Umbrella.” Burke Development Inc., the economic development organization in the county, usually gives projects code names until an announcement is made.
Hope Hopkins with Burke Development told commissioners the company has been established for more than 30 years. With the expansion, the company would create 30 new jobs that will have wages at or above the average county wage and it will carry a percentage of employees’ health insurance, she said.
The $240,000 state Building Reuse Grant for the project requires a 5% match, with the county and the city of Morganton each paying $6,000.
Hopkins said an announcement is expected on the state grant on Dec. 9.
Confederate statue controversy
During the meeting, the Confederate soldier monument in downtown Morganton also was the topic of multiple speakers during the public comments portion.
For months now, people have spoken in favor of keeping the monument but an overwhelming majority have asked commissioners to move the monument or at least create an advisory board made up of both sides to discuss its future.
The commissioners have denied both requests.
That’s something that Caroline Avery reminded them of when she spoke to them again Tuesday.
“You said no to moving the monument,” Avery said. “So we asked you to name an advisory board of diverse opinions to discuss the Confederate monument, the monument and the importance of providing safe places for us to have honest dialogue. Again, you said no to naming that advisory board.”
She went on to say that people were perplexed that the commissioners wouldn’t create an advisory board to discuss the monument but did name an advisory board to look into the well-being of animals.
“But you will not name an advisory board to look into something that is deeply hurtful to many of your neighbors here,” Avery said.
She again asked the commissioners to create an advisory board.
Susan Butterworth also spoke to commissioners about the statue, thanking them for not taking it down.
“We have some strong history here in Burke County, and we can’t just fold out every time somebody comes up with a new idea,” she said. “We need to be proud of our history and know that we all lived our heritage is blood on that street over there for that statue and for our rights.”
Pastor George Logan told the board that the history behind the statue has been sanitized, and if people really understood the what really took place during 200 years of slavery, there would be a robust response to the removal of the statue.
He reminded them the Confederate monument represents the succession effort from the United States.
“And this force, this Confederate army, fought against this nation,” he said. “Why wouldn’t someone be appalled? Why would we keep a monument standing that showed a complete rebellion against this nation, of which we call ourselves patriots of.”
Logan asked them to allow themselves to feel and consider how they would feel if it were their people who had been enslaved for 200 years.
In other business, commissioners:
Approved a request from Olivia Black Byrd to rezone a 32.25-acre portion of a parcel of land totaling 54.25-acres to Residential Three from Industrial. The upper 22-acre portion of the property is already zoned R-3. The property is under contract and the plan is to build dwellings on the property, according to what commissioners were told at the meeting.
Approved an American Rescue Plan senior fiscal analyst position. The position would be time-limited and last as long as needed to finish plan projects, Finance Director Margaret Pierce said.
Made appointments to the Burke County Animal Advisory Board, with Gwen Hood named to Seat No. 1 to complete an unexpired term that ends July 31; Gwen Stephens to Seat No. 3 to complete an unexpired term that ends July 31; and Nancy Woolever to Seat No. 7 to complete an unexpired term that ends July 31.