01/23/04 — Commissioners set 2004 goals

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Commissioners set 2004 goals

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on January 23, 2004 2:03 PM

Money's tight. Space is tighter.

The Wayne County commissioners pledged this week to find a way to help the county's huddled masses -- employees, school children, animals at the shelter -- without driving taxpayers into the poor house.

A 10-year plan for county building projects is one of the board's 2004 priorities. Others include the recruitment of more retail and commercial businesses and the elimination of unsightly and unsafe decrepit homes.

The commissioners met Wednesday to review county departments' needs. It didn't take long for a theme to emerge.

The senior citizens' center doesn't have parking and is hard for the elderly to reach. The animal shelter has been dangerously overcrowded. Social Services has stacked boxes of files in its hallways, blocking two-way traffic. The courts, the Sheriff's Office, the Clerk of Courts office all want more room.

Even though the county is opening the Jeffreys and Borden buildings, the space crunch in the courthouse and the office building is only expected to be eased, not eliminated.

Chairman Ken Gerrard thumped the list of needs on the table. "We're really in the real estate business," he said. "Our biggest responsibility is providing buildings."

But the commissioners want to do so without hitting up the taxpayers. The board has informally agreed to try to avoid a property tax increase this year, following two years when bills did rise.

The commissioners' building and grounds committee will meet in the next few weeks to begin work on a 10-year plan for housing county departments.

Some of the issues the committee will face include:

*The office building on Ash Street, the former county hospital, is around 100 years old. Is it worthwhile to renovate or expand the building, or should it be replaced?

*If the Health Department were to move from the office building, where would it go? Wayne Memorial Drive has developed into the hub of local medical services, County Manager Lee Smith said, but should Health be separate from other county services?

*Where will the new animal shelter be built? The county owns around 38 acres on Clingman Street, near the city of Goldsboro's garage, but some of that land is low-lying and wet.

*Does the senior center need more parking or does it need to move away from downtown Goldsboro? The county's senior population is expected to rise drastically and access to Services on Aging will be critical, Smith said.

*When will the county relocate additional departments to the Jeffreys Building?

*Does the county need to consider an office park?

All the county building needs must be balanced with the school system's own projects list. The commissioners expect to receive a newly reorganized list of the Board of Education's priorities by next month.

Other 2004 goals

The commissioners chose other goals for the year.

They want to work with the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission to attract more retail and commercial jobs, in addition to industrial ones. Larger stores would create jobs, but they would also help improve the area's quality of life, some suggested.

The board wants to crack down on vacant, dilapidated and unsafe houses and trailers.

State law does not allow counties to condemn property as easily as cities, Attorney Borden Parker said, but the commissioners could approve procedures and policies that would encourage landowners to clean up their properties.

Many people would be willing to tear down burned-out or ruined housing themselves and carry it to the landfill it they could dump the debris at no cost, Commissioner Arnold Flowers said.

County Manager Lee Smith suggested that the landfill could have a regular day when it would waive the tipping fee for these types of cleanups.

Another goal will be to cut the amount of recyclable materials entering the landfill. The solid waste committee will be discussing ways to get cardboard, aluminum and other products out of the waste stream.

The board also wants to get sewer service, one way or the other, to the Georgia-Pacific plant in Dudley. That could mean extending county lines there, or Mount Olive may run its service there.

The county may also decide to allow residential hookups to the county sewer line between Brogden and Seven Springs, which will go into service this spring.

And it will consider running pipes to Grantham School, the only county school without service.