04/10/05 — County commissioners set priorities as budget process begins

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County commissioners set priorities as budget process begins

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 10, 2005 2:04 AM

Money for schools, plans for a new animal control shelter, zoning protection for local airports and sewer system improvements emerged Friday as high priorities for the county.

Wayne County Commissioners spent two hours reviewing priorities as part of the board's preparation for upcoming budget talks.

County Commissioners Jack Best and Efton Sager said that the schools facility plan was a top priority for funding, but are still unsure of the exact needs of the school system.

County Manager Lee Smith said he knew the commissioners were waiting for a consolidated plan from the school board, which he expected would be coming soon.

The commissioners and the school board will have a one-day budget retreat on April 28 to discuss school funding.

Another priority presented to the board was the need for a new animal control shelter.

Local veterinarian Dr. Stan Griffith, along with the Animal Control Advisory Board, told the commissioners in January that the county needed a new shelter for health and safety reasons.

Griffith said that the current shelter on Brick Street, which opened in 1956, was fine for decades, but it is now deficient in several ways.

The building is insect and rodent-infested, and is also in the flood plain.

Because it's in the floodplain, the shelter was damaged after hurricanes in 1996 and 1999.

A new shelter would be more hygienic, better ventilated, and could allow the staff to isolate sick or possibly rabid animals.

The animal control advisory committee asked the county commissioners to build a 10,000-square-foot shelter on Clingman Street in Goldsboro. The cost quoted by the committee for the new shelter could reach as much as $1.2 million.

The construction is proposed for a 38-acre tract of land that the county owns on Clingman Street, near the old Wayne Community College campus and the city of Goldsboro's garage. About three acres would be needed for the building and buffering.

Smith told commissioners that he is looking to see if there is any grant money available to begin the shelter project.

He said that the antenna for a new communications tower could also be put at the same site.

"The communications plan calls for a new tower and the best geographic center for the antennae would be that site," he explained.

If the county paired the two projects, it could cut costs, Smith said.

"One of the big costs associated with building the shelter is clearing the land," Smith said.

Best said he was in favor of a new animal control building, but would like to see it at another location and didn't want to spend $1 million on an animal control shelter.

"We need schools," Best said. "Children, not dogs first."

Commissioner Andy Anderson said that the Wayne County citizens had told commissioners they wanted another animal shelter, and he thought the county should at least begin working on the infrastructure needed for the building.

Anderson said that Clingman Street was a "nice piece of property" and he would like to have the shelter somewhere else, if the county could find another spot.

Smith said that he was "leaving no stone unturned" in trying to get the cost of the building down, but said that the county needed to start planning for a new shelter.

"The employees are not safe," Smith said."It's in the flood zone. We have to do something."

The county has addressed the issue of land use around Seymour Johnson Air Force base by putting a noise overlay zone in place. The next piece of the land use plan will be to protect land around the Goldsboro-Wayne and Mount Olive airports.

Smith said that the county's comprehensive land use plan, which is expected to be completed within the next 18 months, will include zoning requirements around the airport.

Anderson said that there was a lot of building going on all over the county, and recommended that interim measures be taken to make sure that the airports, as well as other areas were protected while waiting for the completion of the land use plan.

The county is also looking to improve existing sewer service in Dudley and to Grantham schools.

Wayne County is getting a $350,000 state grant to provide sewer service to the Georgia-Pacific plant in Dudley. That will mean extending existing county sewer lines from Brogden Middle School to the plant.

The plant has a self-contained system, but that it is outdated and that the plant could be vulnerable to environmental penalties if it failed.

Smith said that even with the grant, the county may have to spend close to $250,000 to get that project done.

"We're working on the final bid now," he said.

Smith said that some property owners also wanted the ability to connect to the Seven Springs sewer line, but agreements with Goldsboro prohibited individual connections.

"We're going to talk with Goldsboro, and see if we can work out some new agreements," Smith said.

Other county priorities listed were to continue working on the facilities plan; removal or demolition of abandoned houses or mobile homes; greater enforcement of recycling; creating a scorecard to track the progress of economic development efforts in the county and fine-tuning the county's long range financial plan.