01/04/06 — County should not 'buy' jobs, residents say

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County should not 'buy' jobs, residents say

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 4, 2006 1:50 PM

The only two speakers at public hearings on Wayne County's decision to provide land and money to new businesses in exchange for creating jobs argued that county leaders shouldn't be in the business of buying jobs.

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners held two public hearings Tuesday. The first was to receive comments on the proposed conveyance of two lots at ParkEast, the county's industrial park on U.S. 70 bypass, to the newly combined Committees of 100 so the lots can be offered to an industry willing to locate there. The incentive package also includes a promise by the county to give the industry $1.25 million if it creates as many as 250 jobs.

The second hearing was to receive comments on the county's plans to deed 20 acres at ParkEast to Andrew Corp., which has already agreed to build a facility there that will create 204 new jobs and relocate 232 from Smithfield. That incentive package includes $1.2 million in cash and three $30,000 state grants.

Willie Ray Starling of Mount Olive and Sandy Korschun of Walnut Creek spoke at the hearings.

Starling said the county has already sunk enough money into the industrial park. He noted there are two unoccupied shell buildings, which were constructed at taxpayers' expense, sitting empty at the park.

"We built those two shell buildings as incentives and contingency plans years ago and what has happened there?" Starling said. "My tax dollars are making interest payments on what? What we really need is someone in government in this county to concern themselves with where money is being wasted and how we can improve the business climate in this county."

He said companies play local governments against one another, seeking the best deal.

"When the bribe money is gone, so will they be," Starling said.

He said the commissioners should lower taxes. That would be more of an incentive for business growth, he added.

Korschun said county officials should focus more on improving the infrastructure and less on providing incentive packages as bait.

"If we can develop our highways and ports, then we can become an attractive state for distribution, industry and business," he said.

Commissioners said they will not come to a decision about either incentive package at least until their next meeting Jan. 17.

The commissioners also approved:

*Establishing new pay grades for the Sheriff's Office and Register of Deeds office. The new pay grades were recommended by County Manager Lee Smith to bring employees' salaries up to par with those in surrounding counties, he said. The pay grade increases the sheriff's minimum salary to $52,875. The maximum would be $82,466. The salary range for the registrar of deeds is from $45,675 to $71,239.

*Sending a letter to Gov. Michael Easley calling for a special session of the Legislature to give lawmakers a chance to delay counties' ordered change in voting machines. Current state law requires most of the state's counties to buy new voting machines and have them ready for early voting in the May primaries.

*The reappointment of Mount Olive Mayor B.R. Huggins to the Eastern Carolina RPO Transportation Advisory Committee. The two-year term will allow Huggins to continue to represent the interest of all the municipal governments in Wayne County.

*A petition that would include Hawkins Drive onto the state maintenance system. The road is an existing street of the Chris Manor subdivision in the Buck Swamp Township.