Will Fayetteville get a new North Carolina state-operated North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center? That’s a good question. Basic logic would dictate it’s a no-brainer for a community like ours that is working hard to attract business and industry to Cumberland County. As the General Assembly readies itself to approve $46 million for the Civil War Center, the appropriation hinges on Cumberland County and the city of Fayetteville both supporting the project with financial commitments of $7.5 million each. At this moment, both have tentatively committed their support. Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin is waffling, though, stating that more public input is needed and suggesting there may be more pressing needs to address as Fayetteville rallies to shake its Tier 1 status.
Education and awareness are essential for peace and tranquility. The proposed Civil War Education Center offers both. For those in the city who think the $7.5 million in tax dollars could be spent on more pressing needs, we ask: What can be more important than education and awareness to future generations? Where is the vision? More importantly, where is the logic?
This is an $80 million-plus state-funded project for which the city and county would both invest $7.5 million. That’s a 0.094% buy-in after the museum foundation has raised over $10 million in donations and $15 million in pledges. Using community support and donations to evaluate and monitor this mandate, I’d say the Fayetteville community is pretty much in favor of the project. So why the hesitation on the part of the city at this late date? Personal political maneuvering? Mind games? Who knows? However, if it’s a game, it’s a gamble with stakes so high that a loss here would be so devastating that the consequences to the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community would be felt for decades.
Need proof? Look east of Fayetteville about 5 miles, where millions of vehicles travel both north and south along Interstate 95 each day, avoiding our community. The interstate was predicted to be an economic boom for Cumberland County in the late 70s and early 80s, promising decades of growth and prosperity. Nearly four decades later, only one of the 11 Cumberland County exits have been developed — exit 49. A bad decision made in the 70s has stifled, and continues to stifle, the progress and development of this community. Why? Because of political self-interest and a lack of vision. We can convene all the public hearings we want. The location of Interstate 95 was the topic of several such public hearings. Public hearings do not substitute for intelligence, logic or leadership. And, in the case of championing the History Center here is a project that would pay big dividends to the Fayetteville community indefinitely.
By the numbers: 1. The Museum is a state-funded operation. In other words, once it’s built, the state maintains it. There is no cost to local residents.
2. The Museum will create hundreds of new jobs.
3. It will have a $20 million annual economic impact on the community.
4. It will attract 100,000+ visitors annually to our community.
5. It will make Fayetteville a statewide destination point.
In closing, I know both our Fayetteville city councilmen and women and our Board of County Commissioners have a sincere and heartfelt passion for doing what is in the best interest of local residents. Escaping the grasp of our Tier 1 designation can only be obtained with honest, objective leadership and vision. We don’t need another Interstate 95 fiasco that has netted us zero over the past four decades. We need to partner with the state of North Carolina, this time, in building a highway to prosperity that leads directly to Fayetteville and Cumberland County. The N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center is that master plan.