“I’m going 30 minutes early so I can get a seat.”


My older friend, expecting a packed 1909 Historic Courthouse for Monday’s public hearing, declared his intention to beat the crowd so he could learn more about the Agricultural Event Center and the $58 million referendum to pay for it. He’s absorbed many facts but still has many questions — as apparently others in the community do, based on the volume of emails, comments and calls I’ve fielded.


Unsure if he supports the AEC (and that 3-cent tax rate increase), he nevertheless plans to keep an open mind.


Hopefully, everyone who attends will do as well.


At Monday’s meeting, those who wish to speak will have 4 minutes to state their cases, for or against; and ask questions about the facility (a 2,500-seat arena for animal shows; livestock warm-up and housing areas; an event center seating 1,400 for conventions and meetings; and offices for local agencies).


More poll results


Last week, I promised more results from our online poll.


As of Friday morning, 277 people had weighed in, with 67 percent saying they would support the referendum to fund the AEC and 33 percent voting they would not — the same percentage I reported last week..


While the poll is designed so only one vote may be cast from one site, don’t take the results as scientific — rather interpret them as another piece in the puzzle to gauge AEC support.


On the plus side for advocates, that total nears a C-T record for participation in polls, indicative of great interest on the subject, and by extension, a goodly turnout come November — that is, if the commissioners decide Monday to put the referendum on the ballot.


Bless your heart


On the negative side: The poll does not reflect the full spectrum of voters, many of them senior adults who may not have access to the internet (and therefore can’t vote in our poll), but are more likely to vote against anything that increases taxes on their fixed incomes.


A very robust 90-year-old reminded me of that.


Calling to say she wanted to add her vote to the poll, she was flustered when she learned it was strictly online.


“I don’t mess with them,” she told me, meaning computers, but she was very clear on how she felt about the AEC.


“No and no,” she said with conviction, then in the best “bless-their-hearts” voice that would melt butter to a pool of goo, she zinged: “They should spend that money on a mental health facility … and the commissioners should be the first ones in the door.”


Make your case


Maybe someone should check with the Randolph County Tax Department and see how much more property tax would be generated if the farmers in the county would be required to pay property tax on the full taxable value of their property, instead of the reduced rate they are allowed to pay. It may be surprising. If they had to pay based on full tax value like everyone else there may not be a need for a tax increase.


The farmers seem to be the ones that will get the most benefit from the project, so let them increase what they pay if they think this over-the-top facility is a true necessity for Randolph County.


This Do Ask speaks to a perception some may have that the AEC will only benefit farmers.


I’m not one to offer advice very often, but if I had a suggestion to county officials, it would be this: Explain to folks on a basic level why the AEC would be beneficial to everyone.


Dr. Robert Shackleford, who led a successful referendum for a 1/4-cent local sales tax to build/upgrade Randolph Community College facilities, is a master at doing that.


This was his answer to a woman who questioned, at a county commissioners’ meeting, why her taxes should be spent on RCC “because you got nothing to do with my life.”


“Ma’am,” replied the college president, “I know where you live, in the upper part of the county. I imagine you feel free to be down here tonight because an RCC-trained police officer is riding around protecting your neighborhood. If your house catches on fire while you’re here, an RCC-trained firefighter will go put it out. If somebody hits you out here on the street corner before you get home, an RCC-trained EMS worker will scrape you off the road and carry you over to the hospital where an RCC-trained nurse will take care of you.”


That gets it down to where people live. If supporters can make such a case for the AEC — how boosting the county’s largest industry and providing a civic center to bring visitors here could translate into more money/jobs throughout the general economy — then it could quell some of the opposition.


If not, Monday night could be a very long night.


* Annette Jordan is the editor of The Courier-Tribune. Contact: 626-6115 or ajordan@courier-tribune.com.