10/20/04 — Chairman wants board's progress to keep moving

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Chairman wants board's progress to keep moving

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 20, 2004 2:02 PM

A former chemistry teacher, J.D. Evans knows that stable solutions can become explosive if their components are altered.

The Wayne County commissioners have been united this year as they've approved their budget, restricted development around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and pressured the school board to raise tea-cher pay supplements.

Evans, the board chairman, likes to note that nearly every vote since April has been unanimous.

But the Nov. 2 elections will change the makeup of his board. At least one new member will be chosen and four could be. Republicans could also gain a majority on the board for the first time in recent history.

"I am concerned that we may be slowed up on progress," Evans said in an interview Tuesday. "Whoever comes on our board in December, I hope they'll come with the mindset that we need to move the county forward. They need to become a part of our vision."

Evans is assured of being a part of the board as he's unopposed this fall. John Bell, another Democrat, and Andy Anderson, a Republican, will also be back.

The other four seats are contested:

*In District 4, western and southwestern Wayne, Commissioner Efton Sager, a Republican, faces Mark Hood, a CP&L retiree and political newcomer.

*In District 5, eastern and southeastern Wayne, county GOP chairman Ed Wharton is running against Roland "Bud" Gray, the long-time chief of the New Hope Volunteer Fire Department who is making his first run for office.

*District 6, Walnut Creek and eastern Goldsboro, is a showdown between Commissioner Jack Best, a Democrat, and Roger Bedford, who has been active in the Republican Party as a precinct chairman.

*And the at-large seat race matches incumbent Atlas Price, a Democrat with 14 years experience, against real estate agent Hal Keck.

The county board faces some big decisions in 2005, including the proposed zoning and building rules around the base and an agreement with the school board on a multi-million-dollar school construction program.

That won't leave a lot of time for the rookies to get up to speed, Evans said. "It takes time to become an effective commissioner. You need to gain some insight and experience, and one of the worst things you can do is try to go too fast."

He added, with a laugh, "On the other hand, when the game starts, you're in it. You better be ready to hit the ground running."

Evans isn't afraid of differing views, he said. "I welcome conflicting opinions. Sometimes we need to have discussion before we can move to the next level.

"Seven-zero votes are good, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with six-one, five-two or four-three."

What's important, he said, is for everyone to put aside their personal agendas or even those of their districts and look at issues from a county perspective, he said.

The challenges will be great, he continued.

During 2005, the commissioners will continue to work on a 10-year master plan for county buildings.

In July, the board hired Davenport & Company LLC, a financial management firm, to study the county budget and make recommendations on how the county could pay for such things as schools, a new health building, and a replacement for the animal shelter without the need to raise property taxes.

The consultant's report is due back later this year. Afterward, the commissioners and school board are expected to reach an agreement on the school building program.

The commissioners also plan to make a decision soon on rezoning or adding new development rules to 26 square miles around Seymour Johnson and its flight lines.

Currently, new subdivisions and mobile home parks are prohibited in the high-noise areas, but the moratorium enacted last December and extended twice is set to expire in January.

The county board is also working to extend sewer service to the Georgia-Pacific plant in Dudley and Grantham School. New rules could allow vacant, abandoned homes to be town down. Recycling rules will be enforced and expanded.