08/29/07 — Wayne Commissioners' town hall meeting not well attended

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Wayne Commissioners' town hall meeting not well attended

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 29, 2007 1:45 PM

Disappointed by another low turnout Tuesday evening, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners pledged to keep trying.

Holding the second of six town hall style meetings, this time at Goldsboro High School, county officials once again made up the vast majority of the crowd as less than a half-dozen residents came to voice their concerns and hear from the commissioners.

"We were hoping people would have questions and concerns about what's happening in Wayne County so we get in tune with everybody and let them know what's going on," commission Chairman John Bell said.

With advertisements in the paper, on the radio, on the county's Web site and on flyers distributed throughout the community, county Manager Lee Smith obviously hoped for more people, but the apparent lack of interest didn't stop him from addressing the concerns that were brought up.

Among those, once again, were questions about financing for school capital projects.

As before, Smith explained that there are several options being examined -- pay-as-you-go for smaller projects and then either certificates of participation or general obligation bonds for the rest.

"We're looking at COPS. We're looking at bonds. The question is what's affordable," he said.

And that's the process they are in now, he continued -- working with the school system to nail down construction and operating costs, and trying to determine how much of the latter would come under the county's umbrella of responsibility.

Smith also said he's hoping to work with the school system to find a way to regulate growth in its local budget -- similar to how all county departments' operating expenses are held to 2.5 percent growth each year.

"Late September we should be able to come back (to the commissioners) with something," he said. "This is not concrete. Will it change? Yes. But you have to know what to expect."

He also said that the county is interested in working with the schools in other ways -- helping to address both test scores and dropout rates, although he acknowledged that those issues ultimately fall under the school board's umbrella of responsibility.

"We're going to depend on the school board, but we want to partner with our schools. We want to see better students. That's the bottom line," Smith said.

Other issues brought up Tuesday night included the solid waste legislation passed by the General Assembly this session and the effects of the proposed nutrient runoff fee increase.

On the former, Smith explained that county staff is working to determine how the new regulations will affect the expansion of the Durham Lake Road site, but that tipping fees are expected to go up at least $2 next year because of the state's actions.

In regard to the latter, the fee increase was delayed, but Smith said they're still concerned about its possible impact on economic development -- especially since the rules affect only the Neuse and the Tar-Pamlico river basins. He also mentioned that there are some concerns about the scientific quality of the state's study.

"We want to protect the river, but there has to be some balance," he said.

But the fact that only a handful of people even showed up, was a matter of concern in itself for at least one city resident.

"I came because I live across the street and I'm interested in Wayne County," said Henry Jinnette of Goldsboro. "I don't have any problems. I just think it's important to come to meetings like this.

"I'm disappointed there weren't more people than there were, because every citizen in the county needs to brush up on county information at least once a year."

And, added commissioner Atlas Price, it's hard for people to have a voice unless they come say something.

"I don't know," he said. "People complain, but I don't know. I know people can't do everything, but it does concern me. It's like voting. If you don't vote, you can't complain."

More town hall meetings are scheduled for Thursday, at Southern Wayne High School, Sept. 4 at Eastern Wayne High School, Sept. 6 at Spring Creek High School and Sept. 25 at Charles B. Aycock High School. All are scheduled to run from 6 to 8 p.m.