Stanly commissioners favor county-led control of stay-at-home order

ALBEMARLE –– The Stanly County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed (7-0) a motion Monday night to send a letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper advocating for allowing local boards to handle stay-at-home orders. 

The motion was enacted following the board’s discussion about the potential reopening of local businesses that have been forced to close due to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Chairman Matthew Swain, who is one of six Stanly residents who have recovered from the coronavirus, told the board that he didn’t trust the governor to pull out of his stay-at-home mandate –– Executive Order 121 –– because of a lack of timeframe provided as well as conflicting strategies.  

“Even in his own press conference the other day, he [Cooper] said ‘We need to make a plan,’ which means he doesn’t even have one to get us out of this,” Swain said. “Two days before he did this executive order, every county commissioner in the state was invited to a teleconference where the governor stated, ‘I don’t think we should do a stay-at-home order.” 

Swain took issue with two paragraphs in the governor’s executive order that indicated that county commissioners in N.C. had “failed to act.” 

“He threw us under the bus right there, after he told us not to do it. That’s my problem with it,” Swain said. “We are closer to the people of Stanly County. I do happen to trust most business owners in Stanly County to use common sense.” 

Commissioner Zachary Almond commented on the status of churches within the county, questioning how much longer the stay-at-home order would impact their finances.  

“If people aren’t at church, they aren’t tithing,” Almond said. “Some of our small, older churches just pass around the plate on Sunday and don’t have online giving. I talked to one pastor who told me that they’re $10,000 below budget for the month – they can’t keep operating like that.” 

Commissioner Bill Lawhon shared his opinion that Stanly County has correctly enacted social distancing due to the county’s latest statistics: only three deaths and 21 cases out of 62,000 citizens. “We need to urge the governor, whether we get the responsibility or not in making the decision, to reopen all businesses,” Lawhon said. 

Commissioner Tommy Jordan brought up his concern that reopening local businesses in Stanly County would flood the local market if Mecklenburg and Cabarrus County were to remain closed. Jordan added that while he wants to open up businesses as soon as possible, his opinion is that “opening the whole state at once is a good idea.” 

Vice-Chairman Ashley Morgan made the motion to send a letter to the governor and local representatives, a move which was seconded by Commissioner Mike Barbee before it was unanimously passed by the board.  

“The request is that we reopen North Carolina and if they’re not willing to, that they give counties that option and power to do so by May 31,” Morgan stated.