LRCOG News & Updates
Our Mission
"In its dedication to regional excellence, the Lumber River Council of Governments is
proactive in identifying local and regional needs and the resources to address
those needs in an effective and fair manner."
Upcoming
May 2, 2019- Ready Rating
9:00 am - 12:00 pm at the LRCOG Office

May 9, 2019- Regional Aging Advisory Committee (RAAC) Meeting
10:00 am at the LRCOG Office

May 14, 2019- Transportation Coordinating Committee (TCC) Meeting
10:30 am at the LRCOG Office

May 16, 2019- LRCOG Board Meeting
7:00 pm at the LRCOG Office

May 17, 2019- Complete Count Committee Training- 2020 Census
10:00 am - 12:00 pm at the LRCOG Office

May 22, 2019- Ethics Webinar for Newly Elected/Reelected Officials
8:00 am at the LRCOG Office

May 28, 2019- Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting
12:00 pm at the LRCOG Office

May 30, 2019- Academic Achievement Banquet- Workforce Development
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm at the LRCOG Office

June 5, 2019- Youth Coordinator's Meeting- Workforce Development
9:30 am at the LRCOG Office

June 10, 2019- Evaluation Committee Meeting- Workforce Development
9:00 am at the LRCOG Office

June 12, 2019- Youth Committee Meeting- Workforce Development
9:00 am at the LRCOG Office

June 13, 2019- NCWorks Career Center Meeting- Workforce Development
9:00 am at the LRCOG Office

June 20, 2019- LRCOG Board Meeting
6:30 pm at the LRCOG Office

June 25, 2019- Real World Event (WIOA Youth) - Workforce Development
9:00 am - 2:30 pm at Scotland County High School

June 27, 2019- LRWD Board Meeting
8:00 am at the LRCOG Office
Resources
The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting thousands of people across the country to assist with the 2020 Census count.
Anyone interested in Census jobs should apply online either by following the Jobs link from the NC Census site ( census.nc.gov ) or at 2020census.gov/jobs .

To view the pay rate per county click here.
Rural Policy Luncheons
PRESENTED BY THE NC RURAL CENTER
Join other rural advocates from across the state to learn how you
can have a direct impact on state policy this year!
For dates, locations and additional information follow the link below.
Getting to Know Your Government: The 2017 Census of Governments

The U.S. Census Bureau released the official count of state and local governments for the 2017 Census of Governments - Organization component.
Complete Count Committee Training

The Lumber River Council of Governments is partnering with the US Census to host a Complete Count Committee Training for the 2020 Census on Friday, May 17, 2019 from 10:00 am until 12:00 pm at the Lumber River Council of Governments’ office at 30 CJ Walker Road, Pembroke, NC.
 
For questions, additional information, or to RSVP for the event please contact Sonya Johnson at sonya.johnson@lrcog.org or 910-775-9757.
2020 Census New Construction Program

Registration for the 2020 Census New Construction Program is underway. The New Construction Program captures any residential or group quarters addresses created from August 2018 until March 2020 (i.e. addresses created since the end of the 2020 Census Local Update of Census Addresses program).

Governments are encouraged to register via the online registration form. 
 
The New Construction Program registration deadline is June 14, 2019.
 
Details about the New Construction Program including registration form and schedule are available through the 2020 Census New Construction Program website.
Census 2020 Participant Statistical Areas Program (PSAP)

In the event a 2010 Census Tract and/or Block Groups has experienced a population increase or decrease that will cause it to be outside of the minimum or maximum population thresholds for the 2020 Census, that Tract or Block Group must be modified (merged or divided). The Census Bureau has sent the LRCOG proposed changes for the 2020 Census boundaries to meet the required population thresholds. These proposed changes are being reviewed by staff and have been shared with jurisdictions where there are proposed changes. If you are interested in reviewing the proposed changes in your area, please contact Janet Robertson at 910-775-9749 or jfr@lrcog.org before May 10, 2019.
'Investors Are Hesitant': Rural America Might Miss Out on
'Opportunity Zones'
Tax breaks likely aren't enough to lure investors to low-income communities in rural areas. There are ways they can become more attractive.

The federal government released new guidelines for the nation’s more than 8,700 "opportunity zone" communities trying to attract venture capital investment and boost their struggling economies.

Rural areas account for 40 percent of the designated opportunity zones, which offer private companies and investors tax breaks in exchange for investing in certain low-income communities. But some warn that even with the tax incentives, many rural areas still likely won't benefit unless state and local governments intervene to make the investment less risky.
Services Spotlight
COMMUNITY & ECONOMIC SERVICES
NC Disaster Recovery Roundtable

A North Carolina Disaster Recovery Roundtable event was held at the Lumber River Council of Governments (LRCOG) on April 9 th with more than one hundred and twenty leaders from across NC in attendance. This was the first event of its kind to be held in North Carolina and was convened by the LRCOG in partnership with Triangle J Council of Governments, Eastern Carolina Council of Governments, the National Association of Counties, the International City Managers Association, North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, and the University of North Carolina School of Governments. 

The purpose of this event was to present the attendees with an opportunity to learn about the recovery process and rebuilding after a disaster. The event provided a target discussion on the cost of recovery and financial concerns of disaster recovery. The day included sessions presented by well-respected leaders within the field of disaster recovery including Gavin Smith, PhD, of NC State University, Norma Houston, of UNC School of Government, Mary Glasscock, of NC Division of Emergency Management, and Jim Prosser, former Executive Director of Centralina Council of Governments.

The day concluded with a resource fair for attendees to speak with representatives from various disaster recovery organizations about long-term disaster planning and recovery. Resource fair participants included the NC Department of Emergency Management/NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency, Economic Development Administration Disaster Recovery Coordinators, Economic Development Administration (EDA) Grants and Technical Assistance, Golden LEAF Foundation, International Economic Development Council, University of North Carolina - NC Growth, NC Department of Commerce, NC Broadband Infrastructure Office, NC Rural Center & Thread Capital, and the US Department of Agriculture.

Based upon the tremendous response to the event it is clear that this is an extremely relevant issue to not only the Lumber River region, but North Carolina as a whole. The LRCOG is therefore looking for additional opportunities to provide additional training to our members and region on this key area of need.
Individuals who were unable to attend the event may view the webinar from the event at the following:
Water and Sewer Late Fees- How Much is Enough?
by Jean Klein
Many of you that I have worked with on updating water and sewer ordinances have asked questions about late fees: Should we charge them? How should they be calculated? How much is enough?

My purpose here is to share what has been found as “Best Practices” and suggest that as you evaluate your fee schedule for the coming fiscal year budget, to make sure you have a late fee set and that it is adequate to do the job.

What is the purpose of a late fee? Simply put, the purpose is to provide enough incentive to pay “on time” for the person contemplating paying a water/sewer bill late.  That said, we all know from our life experiences that people sometimes have good reason to pay a bill late including things like illnesses. These folks are typically making a late payment once in a while. Yet, for some folks, paying the water/sewer bill late is more of a habit. It is this group for which the late fee needs to be a disincentive to pay late.

Why is paying the water and sewer bill on time important to local governments? Because water and sewer is a service unlike cable or phone where the customer is paying in advance for the right to use the service. Your water and sewer customers are paying for something after they have used it . Sometimes, with late fees that can be 30-45-60 days after they have consumed the water and sent wastewater to your plant to be treated. In this case, the local government carries that cost of operations – labor costs, chemicals, electricity to name a few – for that time until the bill is paid.
 
Important to note here is that this total figure of how much a local government utility is carrying in unpaid water and sewer bills is actually a figure that the State Treasurer’s Office calculates from the AFIR (Annual Financial Information Report) sent in annually. Each year, by October 31 st , local governments must submit information on their water and sewer operation which includes “Days Sales in Receivables”. Staff at the State Treasurer’s Office also calculates comparison figures for the State average and the average for various sized local governments. This is a key ratio in evaluating the financial strength of local governments with water and wastewater systems in North Carolina.
  
Most local governments in our region have historically set their late fees at a low level. $10-$15 is quite common. But, if the you have a significant group of late payers that hang on from month-to-month, maybe that $10-$15 is not enough.

Below are some suggestions for analyzing whether your late fee is sufficient… or not.

1.       Make yourself an Excel sheet that includes all of the late payers for the last twelve months. That may seem like a lot of months, but you need twelve in order to see if there are any variations in late payers by season.
2.      Highlight the customers that have been late payers for all twelve months in one color. If the number of late payers that have paid late consistently is more than one third (1/3) of the total number of late payers, then you likely need to adjust your late fee upwards.
3.      Look at the 12-month list again. If half or more of those on the list have paid late six or more times in that 12 month period, this is another signal that the late fees are insufficient to do the job.

Determining how much is enough to provide a disincentive to pay late is your choice. If you charge a “flat rate” of some amount - $10, $15, $20 – you might want to think about increasing that. This is particularly true for the late fees of on the low side ($10-$15).  Another way to look at late fees is to charge a percentage of the bill. This takes a bit more math calculation, but most billing software out there today can accommodate this method.
 
On a national level, a 2017 survey by LogicsSolutions founder Gary Sanders shows that 70 percent of the 115 survey participants with a late fee use the “percentage of bill method” (see Suggested Reading). In a “percentage of the outstanding bill” method, the local government applies a percentage to the amount of the bill as the penalty for later payment. Now, this works successfully as a disincentive to late payment when the bill is hefty to begin with. In the LogicsSolutions survey, a ten percent (10%) penalty was the most common amount in a range from 1% to 20%.
 
But what about the systems where the late payers are mostly minimum bill customers? In this case, a “percentage of bill” method might not be the one to use. Let’s say your monthly minimum bill is $25.00 and the current late fee is $10.00 making the total of what is owed $35.00. That $10.00 is 29% of the $35.00 and already above what the average nationally appears to be.

In the situation where the majority of late payers are also minimum bill customers, increasing a flat fee may provide the better incentive to pay on time.

The goal here is to find an amount that is enough to encourage your customers to pay their water and sewer bills on time. You may need to adjust that from year to year as the number of late payers changes.

And, while you are looking at the late fee and whether it needs to be adjusted, you may also want to look at your reconnect fees to make sure that they are set at a level which also provides enough incentive to pay on time. If reconnect fees are low and are “easy” to pay, then they are not doing their job either!

SUGGESTED READING

Authority of a City or Town to fix and enforce rates- Read It!

Help from the UNC School of Government’s Environmental Finance Center on communicating changes in water and sewer rates- Read It!

To generate a report for your local government’s water and sewer fund from the AFIR data, refer to the North Carolina Municipal and County Financial Information on the NC State Treasurer’s website - View Report

Nationwide survey of water and sewer fees including late fees - View Survey Results
IT’S COUNTING TIME AGAIN…………….. 2020 CENSUS
By Jan Maynor
Can you believe it’s been almost ten years since we had the last great Census Count? April 2020 is fast approaching and local governments need to prepare now to ensure we have the most accurate count possible. Carolina Demography has already predicted that the five counties in the Lumber River Council of Governments’ region will be among the “hard to count” counties in North Carolina. There are several reasons for such a designation, including confidentiality concerns, distrust of government, misunderstanding of who should be counted in the census , unstable living arrangements, and language barriers. An additional obstacle for our region will be the large number of displaced residents due to storm damage from recent hurricanes. Perhaps the primary challenge for the area will be the lack of internet access, as the U.S Census Bureau will rely on self-response via the internet as the primary form of data collection for the 2020 Census.
 
Census data is used for the allocation of $675 billion a year from large, census-guided federal programs. North Carolina receives about $16 billion annually in federal funding from these programs. A single missed person represents the loss of approximately $16,000 in funding for North Carolina over a ten-year period. (This is based on a per capita number of $1,623.00 provided by Counting for Dollars ). Most programs administered through the LRCOG are awarded through formulas including census populations.
An important tool for helping raise our return rates may be the establishment of Complete Count Committees. These committees are appointed by the highest elected official of the jurisdiction. Members are a cross section of the community that are willing and able to serve until the census count is completed. Their goals are to increase the self-response rate for households responding online, by phone, or mail and to design and implement a census awareness campaign targeted to the community.
 
The Lumber River Council of Governments is coordinating with North Carolina Complete Count Committee to train our local communities in establishing and operating local complete count committees. If you are interested, please contact the LRCOG office.





AREA AGENCY ON AGING
Volunteer Appreciation Dinner
The Area Agency on Aging held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner on Thursday, April 11 th , at Porter Plaza in Pembroke. Over 100 volunteers from our region's five (5) counties came to enjoy dinner and entertainment before being recognized for their valuable work in service to the Lumber River COG. Within the past year, these volunteers have built 35 wheelchair ramps, served over 48,000 meals to home-bound and congregate meal clients, logged over 192 miles and 48 hours visiting long-term care facilities, led support groups for caregivers, promoted health and wellness activities for older adults, and advocated for aging services at the local, state, and national level. Their time and dedication has been invaluable to the aging staff as well as the older adults in the region.
Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads our nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. The 2019 theme, Connect, Create, Contribute , encourages older adults and their communities to:
  • Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.
  • Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.
Senior Nutrition Program

Would you like to deliver meals to home bound seniors?

Call Floyd Locklear at (910) 618-5533 or floyd.locklear@lrcog.org to sign up to deliver meals to home bound seniors in the Laurinburg, Lumberton, Maxton, or Pembroke areas.



WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
Spotlight on Success
Bladen Community College

Alexis Young

Alexis Young, enrolled into the WIOA Youth program as an In-School Youth in July 2017. Her goal was to get assistance obtaining her high school diploma.  She was also enrolled in the Occupational School program with Bladen County Schools system and received additional services through Vocational Rehabilitation in Elizabethtown NC. Alexis participated in numerous leadership activities that enhanced her self-esteem and development as a young lady. Alexis participated in several pre-employment workshops. She gained skills to assist her with a work experience placement at Food Lion in Elizabethtown NC, as a Quality Assurance Assistant. Upon successfully completing the work experience placement, she was offered a permanent position with Food Lion.

Alexis has overcome many challenges and barriers, while working to earn her high school diploma. Alexis reached a great milestone when she earned her high school diploma from East Bladen High School in June 2018. After obtaining her high school diploma, Alexis wanted to pursue Post-Secondary training in the medical field.  She wanted to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. Faced with the challenge to improve her test scores, she was referred to Bladen Community College and Career Readiness Program. Alexis worked hard to improve her TABE scores, which allowed her to enroll into the Certified Nursing Assistant I Program in January 2019. She successfully completed her training goal in March of 2019.
NCWorks Career Center- Robeson County
Impact Story

"My Disability Does Not Define Me"
Courage, perseverance, tenacity and determination are just a few of the character traits of such a profound young man of many talents, dreams and visions. Mr. Dustin Chavis, a 2018 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology is indeed not your ordinary graduate nor does he fit the status quo of what society has deemed to be indicative of a person with a disability. Mr. Chavis was born with Cerebral Palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair most of his life. Cerebral Palsy  ( CP ) is a group of disorders that affect muscle movement and coordination. His life has not been an easy one. However, he has turned his challenges and obstacles into opportunities.

NCWorks Career Center-Robeson County was afforded the grand opportunity to have Mr. Chavis as an intern which began on January 9, 2019. Dustin’s infectious smile and amicable personality warmed the hearts of staff and customers throughout the center. He has gained very in-depth knowledge and insight of the Career Center Experience and life, as we know it, as a Career Counselor. During Dustin’s tenure, he has indeed become an intricate part of the office and admired by everyone in whom he has come in contact. Dustin has truly been an inspiration to us all and his optimistic perspective on life, in general, is one to be admired. According to Dustin, “I will not let my disability define who I am; I do not question God for he has a reason for everything he does.” He had a choice; to let his disability define him for the rest of his life, or to fight. Dustin has entered the ring swinging and has encountered many opponents and oppositions. However, he has successfully delivered many knockouts and remains victorious. He found a deeper purpose in life, and realized his disability didn’t have to stop him from achieving greatness. He found meaning in his struggle, and that’s what gave him the power to push forward through unimaginable pain. Where many would have given up, thrown in the towel or capitulated, Dustin remained vigilant in fulfilling purpose and living his destiny. Many lives have been changed, inspired, reformed and rehabilitated as a result of Dustin’s impeccable personality. He has always desired to be treated as any other staff member in the center. Receiving preferential treatment is not his forte.  Dustin has consistently demonstrated superior professionalism, integrity and high moral standards. He has impeccable customer service and interpersonal skills in which he does not meet a stranger. He demonstrates a palpable rapport with his internal customers as well as the external customers. He is the epitome of the consummate workforce professional with an attention to detail that surpasses many professionals in the workforce. With his incredible sense of humor, Dustin works to ensure that everyone around him is having a good day; laughter is indeed good for the soul. One can always hear his laughter permeating the atmosphere. He has an innate ability to be a natural leader and he is unapologetically destined for greatness. “He has been an absolute joy to work with and has indeed made a major, lasting impact on my life as well. I have never met such a true inspiration, “says Harold Smith, Mentor/Supervisor. Nothing gives a person inner wholeness and peace like a distinct understanding of where they are going. His future plans are to attend medical school and become a Psychiatrist to continue to change lives and be that catalyst to make a difference.
Dustin Chavis with Mentor/Supervisor Harold Smith
He is unequivocally gifted and would indeed be an asset to any person, group organization or community, just as he has been to NCWorks Career Center-Robeson County.



“The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”               
~ Steve Jobs


Finish Line Grant
Success Story
Lumber River Council of Governments
Workforce Development Board
awarded Enhancement Planning Grant
On January 10, 2019, the Lumber River Council of Governments Workforce Development Board (LRCOGWDB) was awarded $30,000.00 in enhancement planning grant funds. These funds will be used for expenses incurred during the planning phase of completing the enhancement grant application for expanding re-entry programs within the region with the LRCOGWBD as the lead. The three components established for successful completion of this planning grant are:

(1)  Examine the impact of the South East Regional Local Re-entry Council on employment.
(2)  Examine the feasibility of the LRCOGWDB serving as a Re-entry Committee for Bladen and Richmond counties.
(3)  Examine the feasibility of establishing a region wide re-entry program with the goal of improving the reintegration of former offenders, reducing criminal justice costs, and increasing public safety.

Ongoing meetings are being scheduled and discussions have taken place with partners that are involved in re-entry programs within the region in order to identify “gaps” in current resources and to determine areas of employment opportunities best suited for re-entry individuals.  
UPDATES
Lumber River Council of Governments Workforce Development Board Hurricane Florence Disaster Relief Employment Grant

The Lumber River COG’s Workforce Development division continues to operate a disaster relief employment program for Bladen, Hoke, Richmond, Robeson & Scotland counties. This program provides temporary employees to public and private non-profit employers within communities impacted by Hurricane Florence. Under the employment grant, jobs must be associated with the disaster recovery effort in order to qualify for assistance through the program. Individuals placed under a work experience contract may work up to twelve (12) months or 2080 hours whichever is achieved first.
 
To date, 324 participants have been placed at various agencies within Bladen, Hoke, Richmond, Robeson & Scotland counties. Of the 324 participants, fifty (50) were directly affected by the hurricane. The remaining participants were long-term unemployed. We are excited to share that thirteen (13) participants have entered into unsubsidized employment. Positions range from administrative positions to public utility and maintenance positions.

Lumber River Council of Governments Workforce Development Board
Finish Line Grant

The Lumber River COG’s Workforce Development division continues to provide Finish Line Grant assistance to assist community college students who face unforeseen financial emergencies complete their training. The program helps students pay for course materials, housing, medical needs, dependent care, or other financial emergencies that students may face through no fault of their own. The Lumber River Council of Governments Workforce Development Board has established a collaborative process to serve students enrolled at Bladen Community College, Richmond Community College, Robeson Community College and Sandhills Community College. The maximum grant amount per student is $1,000.00.

As of March 31, 2019, Lumber River has provided Finish Line Grant assistance to forty-two (42) community college students with unforeseen financial emergencies that may have prohibited their chance at completing their program of study. Students seeking assistance may contact the Financial Aid office at their local community college to apply.
CONTACT US

Lumber River Council of Governments | Phone: 910-618-5533 | Fax: 910-521-7556