NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Last week officials said they are going to close the county's human relations department as part of budget cuts.
The department was established decades ago to help residents with discrimination complaints regarding racism, sexual harassment or their sexual orientation.
"I'm afraid the concerns in our community will not be heard. In regards to racism, in regards to redistricting," said Tannis Nelson who sits on the human relations commission. "This is a forum for all of that."
Nelson says the department brings a diverse group of people together, and shutting it down will also shut down community dialogue.
"We have members of the NAACP, members of league of women voters, ministers - they all come together," said Nelson.
According to county officials, beginning in July, people who have a complaint will be given a 1-800 number to report complaints to federal offices in Raleigh or Charlotte.
Wilmington City Council member Ronald Sparks is not fond of that plan.
"When we have it local issues can be dealt with quickly and resolved quickly, and keeps it from escalating from something it's not," said Sparks.
Sparks and others fear closing the local human relations office will lead to potential problems for residents who feel they've been treated unfairly.
The department will close June 30. Five people work in the department: two are retiring, two were laid off, and the director will be relocated to the human resources department.
©2009 WECT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.