02/08/06 — Work continues on new plan for county

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Work continues on new plan for county

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on February 8, 2006 1:46 PM

A task force assigned to help chart Wayne County's future has begun sifting through hundreds of ideas presented at a public meeting last month.

The Wayne County's Comprehensive Plan Task Force met Tuesday at the county Chamber of Commerce to look through the suggestions and make their own.

Public input is crucial to the success of any planning venture, said the consultant advising the group.

Glenn Harbeck told task force members that no ideas can move forward without widespread support.

"The purpose was to get a pulse of what was out there, what's on their minds and what's important to them. Rather than us decide as committee what needs to be on the plan, we gave the citizens a chance to tell us what the important issues are," Harbeck said.

More than 60 people attended last month's public meeting, listing issues they believe should be addressed by county leaders. They included improving education and transportation, developing a county-wide sewer system, attracting business investment and jobs, preserving farmland, protecting Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, building a civic center for public events and finding ways to keep property taxes to a minimum.

The same issues surfaced Tuesday.

Task force members said the four-laning of U.S. 117 could prove to be more important for Wayne's future than the planned construction of a new U.S. 70 bypass.

"Highway 70 will just help Raleigh get to the beach faster," Berky Perkins said.

"It (U.S. 117) will tie into Wilmington and the ports. With a push down there, all that business and prospects would come up to us," Kevin Whitley said.

If the state develops its ports, Wayne could become a distribution center for products entering the state from overseas, he said, noting the railroad lines that cross the county. That could translate into more jobs, he said.

Harbeck cautioned task force members to be realistic in their planning. Talk about big industry sounds good, he said, but the fact is there are fewer big companies looking for new sites, he said.

"The people are asking for more jobs, but the bigger companies and blue collar industries are not around anymore like they used to be. It's not where the jobs of the future are," he said.

Task force member Blair Tyndall agreed.

"People are looking for home runs and it's not going to happen. But we do need singles and doubles," Tyndall said.

Another issue the group agreed upon is the need for an increased sales tax to take financial pressure off property owners.

"The sales tax hits everybody. Everybody would pay a percentage to help the county," Whitley said.

Task force member Joe Daughtery said no one likes paying taxes, especially property taxes, but that residents who want increased services have to realize that they must be paid for. The county does not need to go into debt, he said.

"We need to be realistic. We have to have a tax base to get the things we want. But if we don't have the money, we have to live with what we've got," Daughtery said.

Harbeck said development of a county-wide sewer system would likely be too expensive. Existing systems would have to be expanded incrementally, he said.

"If you want centralized sewage, you have to go to the city. That's just the truth of it," Harbeck said.

During the next month, Harbeck said he will work on developing vision statements for some of the issues presented to the task force. Until then, he asked the public and task force members to continue thinking of ways to improve the future of the county.

"When you give me your insight and local knowledge, it helps put things in perspective and makes things happen," he said.