By Richard Sullins |

Lee County Manager Dr. John Crumpton is expected to give the Board of Commissioners an update on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects locally – particularly its impact on essential county services – at tonight’s meeting, set for 6 p.m. at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.

Since the arrival of the Omicron variant just before the Christmas holidays, the availability of municipal services to carry out essential functions has taken a significant hit. At Crumpton’s last report on January 4, 27 county workers were either out sick with the virus or were at home because of potential exposure to it.

The county’s 10,000th case was recorded on December 22 and 1,511 more cases had reported to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services by January 10. As of Sunday, January 23, a total of 13,645 cases had been reported in Lee County since March of 2020.

The gist of all those numbers is that 2,134 cases of the COVID-19 virus were reported and confirmed within the county in the past 14 days, meaning the pandemic is spreading faster locally than at any time since the first case was confirmed nearly two years ago.

Equity Task Force report on agenda

The commissioners will also hear the findings Monday night of Sanford’s Equity Task Force, established by Sanford Mayor Chet Mann and the City Council in the fall of 2020 to identify community needs and recommend solutions it considered critical to the health and well being of the city. The group took just over a year to complete its findings and recommendations before initially reporting them to the City Council on November 9.

One of the Task Force’s recommendations sure to spark discussion is that of combining the county and city parks departments to provide more efficient services in parks that serve adolescents in high-density, low-income neighborhoods.

In a separate but related agenda item, the commissioners will hear a recommendation to create a Lee County Youth Council that would “foster the development of responsible leadership amongst youth through involvement in community affairs and in decision-making processes at all levels of government.”

Jocelyn Gomez, Abby Knecht, and Kinley Scott will appear before the board to speak on behalf of creating such a volunteer group.

CSX rezoning request to be heard

Also on the agenda will be the proposed rezoning of a vacant 244-acre tract in the rural portion of the northern part of the county, with frontage along the south side of Farrell Road, between Osgood Road and Lower Moncure Road. The property is currently owned by Bullard Trailer Sales Number 2 and is pending sale to CSX Transportation, who wishes to convert the tract into a railroad yard with a small office and parking area.

The land is currently zoned as Residential Agricultural, established in the county’s Plan SanLee to provide areas for low density single family uses and agricultural operations. CSX proposes to rezone the tract as Heavy Industrial, which is not permitted unless it clearly supports some agricultural use.

The county’s development staff report says the request “does not conform with the recommendation of the long-range plan designation of Countryside; however, it is a unique location given the access to two railroads and a public road, which may warrant a reasonable expectation that the property would be used for a commercial purpose.”