01/27/05 — Eureka residents split on whether to unincorporate

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Eureka residents split on whether to unincorporate

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 27, 2005 1:59 PM

EUREKA -- Some residents of Eureka say they want to unincorporate the town.

A petition is circulating that asks State Rep. Louis Pate to introduce a bill in the General Assembly to dissolve the town charter. It cites disinterest in helping run the town, and it says there is no growth in business or population. The tax base is too small, it says, to bring in enough money to take care of town business.

A copy of the petition is hanging at Town Hall.

On Monday, the town board adopted a resolution supporting the charter and opposing the petition. The board has also drawn up a list of benefits residents will lose if the town charter is lost. The list is also hanging on a wall at Town Hall.

Mayor Randy Bass said town officials don't know how many signatures have been gathered, and the resolution hasn't been presented to the board. He said he learned about the petition from a neighbor.

Bass admitted that it is difficult to find people interested in helping run the town. The town has a full board now for the first time in four years. Most of the five members of the town board were write-in candidates.

Bass himself took a seat on the board as a write-in in 2002. At times, he said, there haven't been enough board members present at a meeting to conduct business.

Most of the people who are raising the petition have served on the board at one time or the other, Bass said.

Board member Myrtie Sauls worked for the town for 17 years as the town clerk and another 13 as a postal clerk. She has been on the board since December 2003.

The town, which was incorporated in 1901, could lose its post office and maybe its bank if the charter is dissolved, she said.

"BB&T doesn't stay in the country much,"Ms. Sauls said.

She said she first learned there was some unrest about paying taxes three months ago.

The town's tax rate is 56 cents on $100 worth of property. She said eight cents goes to the volunteer fire department. The town gets the rest.

The rate compares favorably with other municipal tax rates in Wayne County: Mount Olive's rate is 59 cents, Fremont's 65 cents and Seven Springs' 54 cents.

Eureka has a population of 241.

The town paid off its sewer debt in 2003 and is debt free, Ms. Sauls said. She said Eureka is one of the few towns in the state that isn't in debt of some kind and that the town offers the same services as Fremont and Mount Olive.

But the petitioners look at the town from a different perspective.

Lillie Mozingo, who has lived in Eureka for nearly 30 years, is helping push the petition. She said that small towns are in a difficult position. Like a small business, they find hard to keep up with changes in economic fortune.

"It's a losing battle," she said.

There are still a few businesses open in the town. Geddy's Restaurant is open Friday nights for a couple of hours. And Hooves, a service station, is still in operation.

But Eureka's only grocery store closed a year ago. The post office now shuts down for the day at noon. The town has a grill, but it closes at 2 p.m. The bank closes at 2 p.m. except on Friday afternoon.

"In the afternoon, it's like a ghost town," Ms. Mozingo said.

Ms. Mozingo said the town started to deteriorate when its elementary school closed. The children in the area now attend Northeast Elementary School.

"Nobody fought to keep the school," she said. "We didn't support what we had. That's the sad part. Little towns are bypassed. We're not the only little town like this. It's just sad."

She said she isn't sure how many people have signed the petition. Petitioners plan to meet with Rep. Pate next month.