03/25/07 — Water lines, EMS lead discussion in Duplin

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Water lines, EMS lead discussion in Duplin

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 25, 2007 2:11 AM

GREENEVERS -- This past week's Duplin County Board of Commissioners meeting was full of disputes.

Once the board heard from several residents and businessmen who don't like the county's regulation of water line construction, the tone of the meeting changed as commissioners heard several items of good news as well.

They were pleased to learn that the county Emergency Medical Services Department is on track to make up the approximately $225,000 salary shortfall it had earlier this year.

The problem, EMS director Brian Pearce said, was that when the department received its 2006-07 budget -- before he and county manager Mike Aldridge were hired -- nobody took into account sick and holiday time and the fact that EMS employees work 48-hour weeks, not 40.

Fortunately, he continued, by improving its collection practices and thanks to some good fortune lowering the shortfall to about $200,000, the department is on track to cover payroll without dipping into the county's fund balance.

"This should come very close to fixing the majority of the problem," Pearce said. "And we've got it right for next year."

In addition, the commissioners committed themselves to paying $325,000 for the extension of water lines to the proposed Carolina East Home Care and Hospice facility at the Kenansville Bypass on N.C. 24.

County Economic Development Commission Director Woody Brinson said he expects the county to be able to pay for much of the project through grant funds, but if for some reason the project doesn't take off, the only cost to the county will be $18,400 for the design of the system.

The town of Kenansville is expected to be responsible for running sewer lines to the project -- a cost of nearly $1.4 million. That, too, is expected to be paid for largely through grant funds.

This firm commitment of water, Brinson added, should be enough for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow Carolina East to begin work at the site.

"We need to get started," he said.