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State Commission Recommends De-Chartering Small Town Of East Laurinburg

East Laurinburg
Naomi Prioleau
East Laurinburg's current population is roughly 279 people. Its peak was 890 just before World War II. The town mayor blames the lack of employment for its current state.

The tiny town of East Laurinburg in Scotland County could lose its charter in the next two months.

Fewer than 300 people live in East Laurinburg. For the past few years, it's been in hot water with the Local Government Commission — which is staffed by the Department of State Treasurer — for failing to file required financial audits.

These missing audits and repeated failures to comply with other fiscal management requirements in state law could now cost the community its charter and its designation as a 'town.'

The commission is recommending that the North Carolina General Assembly repeal it, effective June 30.

If the municipal charter is repealed, town assets would be liquidated or transferred.

Officials with the commission say they don't take this decision lightly.

"This is not an action we like to take, but the LGC’s staff is not positioned to take the keys from locally elected officials and get into the business of running towns that are not financially viable,” State Treasurer Dale Folwell said. “We may have more of these going forward.”

Mayor Marshall Stevens poses with a large painting of one of the mills from decades ago. The textile industry built East Laurinburg in the last years of the 19th century. Since they stopped operating, the town is struggling to survive.
Naomi Prioleau
Mayor Marshall Stevens of East Laurinburg poses with a large painting of one of the mills from decades ago.

This is the first time the commission has made a recommendation like this against any local government.

East Laurinburg, sits on the South Carolina border and is in one of the poorest regions in the country.

The town's troubles are similar to many rural towns, throughout the South and Midwest ― lost manufacturing jobs and closed mills.

East Laurinburg was a textile town. Its population peaked at 890 people in 1940 and then continued to decline over the years.

"The mill, that was the livelihood of everybody,” Mayor Marshall Stevens Sr. said in a previous interview. “When they tore them down most of the people had to go other ways and get jobs and move."

The Local Government Commission has worked with East Laurinburg for nearly a decade to try to correct their problems.

Naomi P. Brown joined WUNC in January 2017.
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