02/11/05 — Meeting set for Feb. 17 on Eureka's town charter

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Meeting set for Feb. 17 on Eureka's town charter

By Turner Walston
Published in News on February 11, 2005 2:23 PM

In Greek, "Eureka" means "I found it!" But if some of the town's residents have their way, you won't be able to find Eureka at all.

Luther and Lillie Mozingo are among the little northern Wayne County town's residents who are seeking to have the town's charter dissolved. The petition will be given to state Rep. Louis Pate in hopes that he will introduce such a motion in the General Assembly. Legislative action is required to declare a municipality or to dissolve one.

The petitioners say their municipal taxes and sewer rates are not worth the benefits they are receiving.

According to the Mozingos, the town's sewer service rates have increased. The town's streets are in disrepair, they added.

"We're paying double taxes," says Luther Mozingo, referring to the county and town levies. "Where's that money going?"

Mrs. Mozingo said that more than 60 people have signed the petition.

There are 249 people living in Eureka.

Residents will hold a 'citizens meeting' at Eureka United Methodist Church at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17, to discuss the issue. Rep. Pate will speak.

Eureka Mayor Randy Bass said he plans to attend the meeting. He said he hopes people will "get all the facts, and find out what's going to happen." Bass pointed to the town's paved streets, renovated Town Hall and expanded cemetery as examples of how tax dollars are being used wisely.

"We're turning the corner," he said.

Eureka's current tax rate is 56 cents per $100 of property. In comparison, Pikeville's rate is 50 cents per $100 and Fremont's is 65 cents.

The Mozingos said they pay $60 a month for water and sewer.

The town Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting on Jan. 24 to talk about the petition. At that meeting, they voted to keep the town charter, and issued a list of services that the town offers its citizens. Among the benefits of being a legal municipality, they listed maintenance of the town's sewer line, street and sidewalk maintenance and curbside trash pick-up.

"Think about what you could be losing," Bass said.

But the Mozingos say they benefits aren't worth it.

Sewage rates have risen dramatically in recent years, they said.

"We moved here in 1974, and the water and sewage bills were nothing like they are now."

As for the trash pick-up, Mr. and Mrs. Mozingo say some residents are concerned about the flat rate.

"It doesn't matter whether you have two full bins or just a handful," Mrs. Mozingo says, "they still charge $12 a month."

The Mozingos are also unhappy with Eureka's many abandoned buildings and the town's unused water towers.

"The county would make them clean this stuff up," Mrs. Mozingo said.

Mr. Mozingo said he also is frustrated with the lack of involvement in town government.

"I was interviewed on the Channel 5 news last year because Eureka had such a low voter turnout," he says. "There's nobody interested enough to enforce the laws on the books."

Since 1993, there have been nine races for Eureka town government positions. According to the Wayne County Board of Elections, only nine candidates filed to run in thirteen years. On three occasions, no one filed to run, including for the 1997 mayoral race. All but one of the town's six current board members were write-in candidates. Only recently has the town had a full board of commissioners.

Randy Bass has served on the town board since 2002, and stepped in as mayor in late 2003. He said it is important for Eureka to maintain its legal identity.

"You've got to have somebody fighting for you in a little town," Bass says.

Lillie Mozingo took the opposite view.

"If they're not going to expand the town, what's the point?" she asked.