Former Republican Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson may have lost his seat in the November election last year, but that didn’t stop Branson from participating in the commissioners’ Thursday, Feb.18 meeting.
Nor did it stop him from being a thorn in the side of Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston – the same way Branson did when he was a county commissioner not long ago.
It’s no secret that the very conservative and very opinionated Branson didn’t want to give up his District 4 seat. After he lost in a narrow election to new Commissioner Mary Beth Murphy, Branson filed election protests that kept him in the seat until December 30.
Branson eventually gave up that fight and stepped down, but it was clear from the February 18 meeting that Branson is going to remain a loud voice in local politics.
At the entirely virtual meeting, former Commissioner Branson phoned in and shared his two cents with the board the same way any citizen can do when the board holds a public hearing.
“I will continue to watch the shenanigans that this current chairman has up his sleeve for Guilford County,” Branson cautioned. “Mr. Alston do the right thing and don’t try to be such a showboat. Wake up, Guilford County citizens – before it’s too late!”
Branson was speaking in opposition to a proposed $7 million incentives package the Board of Commissioners is likely to give High Point to help pay for the city’s downtown renovation effort and stadium.
When Branson was part of a Republican-majority Board of Commissioners, that previous board declined a similar request from High Point.
As a former commissioner, Branson knows the county has a lot of expensive ongoing projects in the works, so one question he asked was, “Where are we getting this $7 million?”
Branson said that, right now, many county businesses are struggling, people are out of work, and the county is facing shortfalls in several projects.
He also said that, three years ago, the commissioners found some inaccurate numbers and other problems with High Point’s proposal – and he pointed out that Alston only came onto the board “midstream” in that process. (Alston took his seat in the middle of a four-year term when former Guilford County Commissioner Ray Trapp stepped down from the District 8 seat.)
Branson also noted that the county is building a new behavioral health center, an animal shelter, and a sheriff’s headquarters. He added that the school facilities needed repairs.
“I’m curious how we are going to afford all this stuff,” Branson said.
He added that the State of North Carolina hasn’t come through with an expected $7 million grant that Guilford County has been counting on to help pay for the new Behavioral Health Center that’s opening up this spring.
“Public safety and public unrest are at an all-time high, and you are considering this,” Branson said, pointed out that the High Point Rockers baseball team hadn’t even been able to use the stadium in over a year.
Branson called the proposed $7 million gift to High Point “foolish,” and he added that the Greensboro Grasshoppers didn’t get county funds to build a stadium.
“Are you going to bail out all the small towns that are struggling, such as those with water issues in the Northwest?” Branson asked.
“Why Mr. Chairman and Mrs. Vice-chair, do you feel the need to single out one municipality? Could it be that you made promises to the prominent business community that has been so sore about previous boards [not] funding this project? [People] who supported many of your new puppet board members, and who do not know the real deal on economic development?”