05/17/05 — Duplin commissioners hear complaints

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Duplin commissioners hear complaints

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 17, 2005 1:45 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners took some heat Monday as county residents complained about a lack of some services, the cost of others and the possibility of higher taxes.

At one point during the commissioners' meeting, Chairman Reginald Wells had to ask those present to stop being "personal and derogatory."

As the deadline for approving a budget draws near, commissioners are juggling requests for more services with admonitions to stop raising taxes.

County Manager Fred Eldridge said he is still preparing a proposed budget for commissioners to consider. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held June 6 at 6 p.m. in the community room in the back of the Social Services Building. Prior to that, residents can view the proposed budget at the county Administration Building on Seminary Road.

On Monday, Rose Hill business owner Dennis Clark read a letter he and other business owners had drafted asking commissioners to not increase taxes for at least three years.

"Have you forgotten who put you into office?" Clark said. "If you are not intelligent enough to balance the budget, let us know."

Residents of Kenansville and Rose Hill want emergency medical services station in their towns. Wallace and Rose Hill want the savings passed from a new garbage contract passed on to them.

Rachel Holland chided commissioners for raising the level of emergency medical service from intermediate to paramedic.

"I don't know how you justify what you do or even why," she said. "These paramedic bills you can charge more for will end up being bad debts."

Eldridge said that if commissioners approve every department request it would require a significant amount of money from reserve accounts to make up the difference.

Commissioners also heard requests for emergency medical sites from Kenansville Town Board member Steven Williamson and Rose Hill Town Administrator Tom Drum. The board scheduled a work session for June 6 at 3 p.m. to discuss the possibilities.

Williamson read a resolution approved by his board asking commissioners to locate an EMS site in Kenansville. If the county can't add another site, the resolution calls for reorganizing the system to include a Kenansville site. Williamson said it is the largest emergency district in the county and has the largest population during normal working hours.

Wallace Town Manager Ken Kornatzer thanked commissioners for signing a long-term contract with Waste Industries and asked the board to pass along some of the saving realized from Sampson County tipping fees to his town. He said the savings to his town could be $28,000 a year.

Tom Drum told commissioners that Rose Hill also wants to benefit from the $6,500 that would be saved from the lowered tipping fees. He said if the county passed the savings on to Rose Hill it would go a long way toward providing housing to the paramedics who would be stationed there.

Duplin Emergency Services Director Curtis Brock said he had studied the issue of realigning the districts or hiring a private contractor for those towns. He said it would cost $250,000 for the county to add another site, and that it would cost the same amount of money to hire a private company to provide another station. If the county were to add a station, he recommended it be located in the Rose Hill and Magnolia area.

"Any of the six ambulances might take a call in Kenansville, because one is probably at the hospital at any time," Brock said. "I recommend we leave the six we have where they are, unless we go to new ones. I'll put one where ever you tell me to put it."

He said he analyzed the calls answered by the six stations over the past six months and found an average response time of seven and a half minutes for the county. The highest call volume came from traffic accidents. He said he feels the way it's working now benefits the county as a whole.

Commissioner Zettie Williams disagreed. She said N.C. 24 and I-40 are heavily traveled areas during the summer and on holidays, and special events at the new Duplin Commons will probably add more congestion.

"The others have sites close to where they live," Ms. Williams said. "Kenansville is more heavily populated. I feel we're sitting on a time bomb."