12/08/04 — Aw, come on: Currituck County is being short-changed

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Aw, come on: Currituck County is being short-changed

Through efforts of Sen. Marc Basnight of Manteo and Rep. Bill Owens of Elizabeth City, the General Assembly approved a measure transferring Currituck County airport land to the county for $1.

The 330 acres was a World War II landing strip but is owned by the state.

Currituck has spent millions improving the airport property and recently extended the runway. The county wants to create an industrial park there and already has two companies ready to locate there. Among them is Blackwater USA, which provides security for U.S. workers in Iraq.

Recently representatives of the governor’s office went to Currituck and transferred 205 acres of the property to the county. That represented the land on which the airport’s runway and facilities are located, plus enough to accommodate the two plants.

County officials, along with Basnight and Owens, were shocked. They thought the law provided for Currituck to get the entire 330 acres.

The governor’s office, however, says it interprets the law as providing the county only with the land under the airport itself and for the two industries. If the county wants the other 125 acres, it can have it for $1 million, officials have been informed.

Basnight and Owens scoff at the governor’s position. They insist the law was intended to provide all of the property so Currituck could use it to promote more industry in an area badly in need of jobs.

Gov. Mike Easley has not indicated why he opposes the property transfer other than that he is following the technicalities of the measure passed by the General Assembly, which he signed into law.

And that could be sufficient reason. Certainly the governor, a former attorney general and now being mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 2008, would not want to be accused of going against his interpretation of the law.

Perhaps the law needs to be revised — expanded to eliminate any room for misinterpretation.

Surely Easley and the General Assembly, which have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and tax incentives to lure new industries into the state, do not want to make the citizens of Currituck County cough up $1 million for the opportunity to promote more job opportunities for their people.

Published in Editorials on December 8, 2004 11:09 AM