01/02/06 — Schools, waste on 2006 agenda

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Schools, waste on 2006 agenda

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 2, 2006 1:52 PM

During the four years Lee Smith has been employed as the Wayne County manager, he said one of the top priorities each year has been to find a solution to the school facilities plan.

The new year will be no exception.

"We need to be able to sit down at the table and work things out. We are going to have to agree to disagree sometimes and that's not bad because we have to understand what our responsibilities are," Smith said. "The commissioners' (responsibility) is funding and the schools' is to operate schools."

With the help of a third party consultant, Evergreen Solutions, Smith said he believes the groups should be able to work together to find possible savings and solutions to the problems facing the school system. And, he said, the commissioners are willing to cooperate for the students of Wayne County.

"The one common goal of the commissioners is to make sure education is better. I have yet to hear one commissioner say that they don't want to fund schools. They say they want to have a good school system," Smith said. "I think we all can agree on that one."

Although progress has been made on the issue in the past year, Smith said he is disappointed that a solution has not been reached.

"The thing I probably regret not getting done is bringing the school issue to a point where I feel we have steps we can accomplish, because we still don't have an agreement," he said.

Planning issues are another area that did not get the attention it needed in 2005, Smith said.

"I think a lot of that was because we were so involved in schools and a number of other things. We are taking some steps to get things done like nuisance mobile homes, abandoned stick-built homes, water and solid waste issues," he said.

As of Jan. 1, the county will be issuing letters to increase code enforcement and to control waste issues, Smith said. Between construction demolition and regular household waste, Wayne County disposes 525 tons daily.

Aside from cleaning the county of dilapidated mobile homes and abandoned homes, Smith said he would like to clean the landfill of unnecessary waste in 2006.

"We are looking at reducing or eliminating cardboard and paper at the landfill. We are also talking about the possibility of building a recycling center here where you could actually pull things out of the waste stream," Smith said. "Greenville's done a great job with that, and couldn't we do the same thing here?"

As more waste accumulates, the county is forced to continuously purchase 20-acre lots every five years at the landfill at a cost of $4-6 million, he said. To curb this growth, Smith suggested the county's solid waste departments and municipalities devise a purpose and plan for the future.

"If you move to a one-education aspect, I think you are going to be more successful. It is hard for someone from Keep Wayne County Beautiful to go out and teach recycling if I have seven different programs, seven different ways to do things. We've got to do a better job than that," Smith said. "There is a real cry for recycling and consistent recycling in Wayne County."

Another priority for the new year should be uniting as a county and a region to make U.S. 70 corridor improvements a reality, Smith said.

"If you look at any corridor that has been successful, it has been successful because it had one plan," he said. "And that's our model. We don't have a plan in Kinston or New Bern or Goldsboro or Havelock or Morehead City. They're all different. We have to have a formulation of what we want it to look like. I think that's forthcoming with this group."

However, Smith said it will not be an easy process. Near the end of January, the Highway 70 commission will have its first meeting of the year. Smith said commission members should discuss the planning efforts of the counties involved and begin the process of developing a land-use plan for the corridor.

"If you're not careful, you'll put an industry or housing development in the middle of your corridor, and that will stop the whole road," he said.

However, the county also will be working on its own land-use plan. Involving the communities and municipalities, the comprehensive land-use plan will incorporate zoning issues, land development, commercial development, water and sewage to provide a map for the future of the county, Smith said. The land-use plan should be completed by the end of 2006.

Slated for mid-2006 is the final steps in the unification of the Economic Development Commission, the Goldsboro Committee of 100 and the Mount Olive Committee of 100 into one entity.

Last month, the groups announced their intent to combine their efforts in pursuit of economic development for the region. In July, the county economic development staff will be leased to the new organization to assist in increasing the county's tax base and employment, Smith said.

That could mean much bigger economic news for the county in 2006.

"I think that says a lot to the Department of Commerce, the state of North Carolina and to industry," Smith said.

And as 2006 begins, Smith said he and other leaders do not want to be the only ones determining the county's future.

"I beg the public to get involved. Go to your commission meeting and go to your council meeting and get involved," Smith said. "Probably the most dangerous thing for a community is complacency, because then you have to guess. Community leaders are sitting there wondering what the people want. Tell the commissioners what you want. Tell the councilmen what you want. Go to meetings."