Griffin runs for county commissioner

Jan. 24, 2014 @ 09:13 AM

Ben Griffin, president of Ben Griffin Realtors Builders, has announced his candidacy for the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners.

Griffin, 63, served one term on the council from 2008 to 2012 but lost his bid for re-election.

He is making a call for more fiscal responsibility the centerpiece of his campaign. In a press release, he cited the reduction in the county's budget during his term, from $78 million to $66 million, and noted that in 2012 the county reduced the property tax rate by 3 cents.

“Having gone through that four years, I think the need is still there,” he said.

“I had a record there of lowering taxes and responsible spending, and I think that would be easily defended.”

Griffin points to one issue that he said illustrates the shortcomings of the current board members: the selection of a site for the new William Lenoir Middle School.

The Caldwell County School Board had considered buying the former Broyhill Furniture Industries headquarters on U.S. 321 in northern Lenoir. But last April, Exela Pharma Sciences bought the building to renovate it for the company's new headquarters.

Griffin blamed inaction and indecision by the Commissioners Mike LaBrose and Chris Barlowe, whose seats are up for election this year, for keeping Superintendent Steve Stone from further pursuing the purchase.

Stone said in an interview Thursday that the issue was never brought to the board of commissioners for formal action, but in informal discussions with members of the board of the commissioners, the possibility of bringing a new business to the Broyhill building to generate new jobs was the main concern delaying a decision on purchasing the Broyhill facility.

Griffin maintained that the commissioners should have taken the initiative because of the greater cost of building a new school rather than renovating. Preliminary drawings and estimates showed that retrofitting the former Broyhill headquarters into a middle school would have cost roughly $10 million, compared to the $14.5 million bid that was recently approved for construction of a new school adjacent to Hibriten High School.

“I think what the school thing showed was that when it comes to the big-dollar issues, they weren’t prepared to understand it,” Griffin said. “(I) don’t care how you dice it or slice it, they were not prepared.”