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ONLY ON 3: County Commission chair says military service justifies Gravely spending

READ MORE: ONLY ON 3: County Commission chair says military service justifies Gravely spending

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Together, the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County paid $50,000 to help fund the USS Gravely Commissioning. But city and county leaders say their slim budgets might not be able to support other groups looking for a boost.

Facing big budget deficits, council members and commissioners say it is very unlikely they can fund every non profit in town that wants money.

"This is a tough budget year," Wilmington City Councilman Ronald Sparks said. "The revenues are down and we need to take a serious look at all programs."

As groups around the county look for funding help, county commissioners and city council members have some tough decisions. Earlier this year the city denied the Cameron Art Museum's $100,000 request. The museum is trying again for the money by asking for $50,000 each from the city and county.

"Eighty-five percent of our budget is mandated by the state in terms of how we are going to spend those dollars," New Hanover County Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield said. "Them having that request right now is just poor timing."

Giving extra thought to who receives money from the city and county in such tough economic times seems justified.

Having received more than half a million dollars from the city and county the last few years the Cameron Art Museum says it deserves continued public support. The staff says the money would go toward supporting the community through art education. It's money it seems unlikely to get this time around.

But what about justifying the $50,000 of tax payers money for the Gravely? Sparks says the Gravely commissioning was a very lucrative investment; one the city couldn't pass up.

"That event brings a lot of exposure to Wilmington and brings in additional tourism after the event. Folks who came here, over 7,000 people came through for the Gravely," Spark said.

Barfield made a similar argument about return on investment. But just bringing up the Gravely seemed to Barfield on the defensive.

"Have you ever served your country?" Barfield asked a reporter who questioned him about the Gravely money. "You would need to serve your country to be able to answer that question. Myself, Bobby Greer, Bill Caster, Jason Thompson, we've all served our country, whether it be the Marine Corps or the Coast Guard or the Army or the Navy."

City Council will look at some of these funding request as a budget work session later this week.

As for Barfield's contention that you must serve your country to understand funding the Gravely, it's the subject of tonight's edition of THE RANT.

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