Wayne’s needs: Current project might be opportunity for action
A series of conferences is under way to create a vision for Wayne County. All of the county’s governing boards are asked to participate, and most of them are doing so.
It is a good thing for the boards to gather together — even if only occasionally. This initiative started six months ago, and there have been just two meetings for the people on the boards to discuss their mutual concerns and ideas.
We might be better served if the nature of this venture were altered and meetings were scheduled more regularly to add momentum. Instead of creating a vision for the county, which essentially has already been done, perhaps it should be focused on implementing needs that have been identified.
These needs surfaced in a year-long series of discussions in 1997. They were based on research and discussion by members of a 20-member Strategic Planning Committee along with members of the elected boards. Carolina Power & Light Co., now Progress Energy, provided a consultant to lead the project. The 20 citizen members of the committee represented a cross-section of the community, and their finished project was accepted with enthusiasm.
The plan was printed in booklet form with 12 priorities identified.
In the years since, many of these needs have been addressed to varying degrees, despite the distraction caused by the flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
The top priority was schools. The Board of County Commissioners has since adopted its plan to increase school funding by 5 percent a year, and it has established scholarships for college students who are willing to teach in Wayne County after graduation.
Work also has been done on other priorities listed in the report: Water service, sewer service, protection of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, transportation and others.
Still, the needs that were highlighted in the Strategic Plan seven years ago are mostly the ones that exist now. For example, those participating in the project that is under way have again pointed to schools as the county’s most pressing issue.
It was suggested here this week that Wayne County’s Big Three governing boards — the commissioners, the Board of Education and the Goldsboro City Council — should have some face-to-face talks about the public schools. It might be well if this were done as a part of the current vision project. That way, participation could be broader.
This project has also identified economic development as one of its top three priorities. In the 1997 study, that was Number Two.
Some of the issues might change in ranking because of progress that has been made, or they might still rank about the same. Updating the priorities, if necessary, would seem to be a fairly simple matter. Much more important is getting everyone together on what needs to be done about them.
There has been some controversy about issues like the schools, but the vision conferences are being led by a neutral party, Associate Professor Phillip Boyle of the University of North Carolina School of Government. This might be a good opportunity to broaden participation in the decision-making, seek consensus, and draft a plan of action.
Published in Editorials on April 19, 2004 10:55 AM