News & Opinion

Mecklenburg County Appoints Scarborough’s Replacement, Approves Pandemic Relief Funds

Meeting notes from March 15, 2022

Wilhelmenia Rembert
Mecklenburg County commissioners voted unanimously on March 15 to appoint Wilhelmenia Rembert to serve out the rest of Commissioner Ella Scarborough’s term.

What happened: Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners met for a regular meeting on Tuesday during which they authorized dispersal of the first round of American Rescue Plan Act funds and appointed Wilhelmenia Rembert to temporarily replace at-large Commissioner Ella Scarborough while she’s on medical leave. The board also heard from residents upset about the permits and fees associated with using public parks to host community events; allocated $12.5 million in state funds for Alliance Health to establish and operate an adult 24/7 Crisis and Assessment Center; and signed off on $15.6 million in reimbursed property taxes for the 7th and Tryon project.

What’s next: Commissioners will meet next Tuesday, March 22, for a budget public policy meeting.

Organizations receive American Rescue Plan funds

Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to disperse $59.4 million of pandemic relief funding from the federal government to more than two dozen organizations and nonprofits. The county can now negotiate contracts with the recommended funding partners, each of which are getting hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

This is just the first round of funding. Mecklenburg County received $215.7 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), which is meant to support communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. 

The money from the first round is being split into five categories: behavioral health and health equity; parks, environment and infrastructure; affordable housing and homelessness; workforce economic development; and childcare and early childhood development.

Among the organizations slated to receive a piece of the county’s ARPA funds are Roof Above ($1.3 million to maintain operations at the Lucille Giles Center men’s shelter); Camino Health Center ($2.5 million to support behavioral health programming that targets the Latino immigrant community); Loaves & Fishes ($3 million to expand operations) and The Summer Camp Fund ($791,000 to provide low-income children with summer camp scholarships).

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation is also getting $9.5 million to make improvements at Archdale Park, Druid Hills Park, LC Coleman Park and Monroe Road Park. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office will get $800,000 to put Wi-Fi in the detention center.

The majority of the commission was happy with the organizations chosen to receive the first round of pandemic relief funding.

“This is really going to make our community stronger and make these organizations stronger,” said Commissioner Pat Cotham.

“If I was in church right now I’d have to stand up to say, ‘Hallelujah!’ This is a great day,” said Commissioner Vilma Leake. Then she asked County Manager Dena Diorio to plan an ice cream party so they could celebrate.

But Commissioner Elaine Powell was upset MEDIC — Mecklenburg County’s paramedic agency — was passed over for the first round of pandemic relief funding and questioned why it was not included. According to WSOC, MEDIC is short 67 EMTs and paramedics and applied for ARPA funding “so it could offer retention bonuses and recruitment incentives.”

Deputy County Manager Michael Bryant explained to Powell that the county had determined an alternative funding source for MEDIC instead of ARPA but as of a few days ago, it’s no longer available based on updated data provided by MEDIC. Bryant said the county is still talking with MEDIC to determine a funding solution.

Board appoints Wilhelmenia Rembert

Mecklenburg County commissioners officially selected Wilhelmenia Rembert to temporarily fill the at-large commissioner seat left by Ella Scarborough, who is on medical leave. Rembert will be sworn in during a ceremony on March 22, when her term begins, and serve through Dec. 5.

Ella Scarborough, a longtime Black political leader in Charlotte, requested medical leave from the board in February, after having not actively participated in a meeting since October 2021. Her current condition is unclear aside from reports she is in hospice care due to “serious health and mobility issues.”

Rembert is a former at-large county commissioner, having served as vice chair from 2004 to 2006, and is a former member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education.

Rembert was up against three other candidates for the job: former state Rep. Beverly Earle; former CMS Board Chair Mary McCray; and Sam Spencer, who works as a spokesperson for Rep. Alma Adams and serves on Charlotte’s planning commission.

Commissioners interviewed the candidates at a special meeting on March 12 and Rembert was the highest-scoring applicant.

Leake, who served with Rembert on the CMS board, called Rembert a “strong educator and a strong-willed woman.”

“It’s wonderful to know the circle is round and it has rejointed us together again,” Leake said Tuesday. “I appreciate that and I value that ability to say to the public ‘I want to serve’ and in the process of saying that we make the decision as a people to determine that you would be here. So I feel good about sitting here making that recommendation.”

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