05/16/05 — Water board thanked for help

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Water board thanked for help

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 16, 2005 1:45 PM

Goldsboro and Wayne County officials turned out this morning to thank a state board for its help in protecting Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund has given a $1.7 million grant to buy and protect undeveloped land near the base's runway. A second grant for nearly $6.5 million is pending final approval by the trustees this summer.

Those grants helped local officials show a commitment to keep development from getting too close to the base, which could have led the Department of Defense to recommend closure or realignment. Instead, Seymour Johnson is now slated to get additional personnel.

"It really was critical in our opinion," said Wayne Community College President Dr. Ed Wilson.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King and J.D. Evans, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, also greeted the trustees, who were meeting at the college.

King bragged that not only is the 4th Fighter Wing the best in the world but also Goldsboro has one of the best wastewater treatment facilities in the state. That is also due to money from the trust fund, he said.

Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said that the artificial wetlands, which opened two years ago, are reducing the nitrogen level of treated water by 50-60 percent before it's released back into the Neuse River.

The city has also been reusing water by using it to irrigate its golf course, among other properties, she said.

Negotiations are still ongoing with the landowners near the runways, said Carol Mayes, a consultant working with the Coastal Land Trust. That trust is administering the program for the city and county.

The first grant, for $1.7 million, targets 25 landowners with 31 tracts, she said. The land trust has made offers for options on 10 properties and is close to making three additional offers. The remaining properties will be prioritized and acquired as money becomes available, she said.

The second grant, for up to $6,472,149, was given preliminary approval by the trustees in February but cannot be made final until after the state's 2005-06 budget is completed this summer.

The Coastal Land Trust has prioritized 25 properties south of the runway and will be contacting landowners about their willingness to sell, she said.

Goldsboro lawyer Phil Baddour is a member of the fund's trustees and is generally credited with leading the effort to secure these grants.

Some trustees have been in town since Saturday when a paddling trip was held on the Neuse River at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park.

Then Sunday morning, the trustees toured Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and went on a refueling mission aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker. The group broke up into committee meetings Sunday afternoon, followed by a social hour at Baddour's home and dinner at Wilber's Barbecue.