10/13/04 — 'Ideas and information' exchanged at county forum

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'Ideas and information' exchanged at county forum

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 13, 2004 2:00 PM

Around 80 people came to the Dillard Alumni Cultural Center Tuesday night to learn about city and county organizations.

The Advocates of Wayne County organized the forum and although turnout was light compared to what was hoped, most attendees agreed that it had been worthwhile.

"We have had a tremendous exchange of ideas and information," Mayor Al King said.

And Jimmie Ford, one of the advocates, added, "This has been good, but the next time will be better."

Some citizens said they would have wanted more time for questions. About 90 minutes was used for presentations and only 10-15 minutes was set aside for public comments and questions.

Future forums would be better balanced, Ford said.

Goldsboro City Councilman Chuck Allen started things off. He noted the city's concerns about the future of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, but added, "I believe we're in as good a shape as possible. We're all hearing good things."

The city and county recently received a $2.3 million grant to buy land around the base and preserve it as natural wetlands, he said.

Allen also showed an architect's rendering of the new City Hall. Construction should begin in January on the building, estimated to cost $4.5-$5 million.

The city will hire its new manager later this year and that person should start work by January, he said.

Steve Hicks of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber will begin work next year on "Wayne 2020: A Clear Vision for the Future." The project will try to capture the community's image of itself 15 years down the road, he said. It will not be another strategic plan.

Capt. Joe Allen talked about the Wayne County Sheriff's Office's staffing and overcrowding at the county jail.

Pete Gurley, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Education, introduced staff from the school system who primarily talked about differences in the ABC and "No Child Left Behind" accountability standards.

Michelle Blackwell, vice president of the Wayne County Economic Development Commission, talked about the commission's efforts to recruit and retain good-paying jobs.

The public remains confused about EDC's role in attracting retail businesses such as Home Depot, she added. Those businesses rely completely on their own formulas, which consider such things as population, for deciding where to site stores.

"If you want a Home Depot, go forth and multiply," she joked.

J.D. Evans, chairman of the Wayne County commissioners, talked about the board's efforts to complete a 10-year facilities plan, rezone land around the base, and extend sewer to the Georgia-Pacific plant in Dudley.

He noted that the county board has voted nearly unanimously since April. "We must be doing something right or everything wrong," he said.

N.C. Sen. John Kerr predicted better economic times in the future. "This county is sitting on a gold mine if we can ever get our problems sorted out," he said.

And Judge Jerry Braswell discussed the court system, including the overcrowding at the jail.

The event was also sponsored by Dillard Alumni and Friends Inc.