01/16/09 — Duplin boards meet

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Duplin boards meet

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 16, 2009 1:46 PM

ROSE HILL -- Smoke from a battle over school funding in Duplin County seems to be clearing as both the county Board of Commissioners and Board of Education met Thursday morning to discuss a wish list for possible federal help to stimulate the local economy.

Relations between the two bodies have been strained since the summer, when the school board sued the county over what its members called inadequate funding. The two boards have not met since mediation failed and the case went to court -- where the schools won.

Members of both boards met for breakfast Thursday at the Rose Hill Restaurant -- and began work on a wish list for federal economic stimulus money expected to start trickling down to the counties across the nation after President-elect Barack Abama takes office.

County Commissioner Harold Rainier of Beulaville told the gathering that he heard doors are starting to open for education and infrastructure.

"But if we don't have a plan, it will slow down our progress," he warned members of both boards.

It is going to take both boards working together and understanding each other's responsibilities, Board of Education Chairman Emily Manning said.

Commissioner Reginald Wells of Teachey said officials on both sides must overcome personal differences in order to help the county's residents.

"In relationships there are differences, but you work them out. I just want to work through it," Wells said. "Some money is coming to the state and subsequently to the counties, and they are looking for shovel-ready projects. ... We're going to have to do something differently. If we do the same as always, nothing is going to get done."

Commissioner Zettie Williams of Kenansville urged the group to work hard and fast to come up with a package.

The boards agreed on a meeting date for their next joint session to identify common ground for which to request the funds.

The meeting will be held on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at a location to be announced.

Commissioner Raynor said it is not what an individual does for the county that will make a difference, but what the boards do together.

"So, let's put individual feelings aside and concentrate on the big picture," he said.

Board of Education Member Jennings Outlaw of Mount Olive said he is looking forward to the progress he is sure the boards are going to make.

"I hope we continue these meetings," he said. "And I hope we don't ever go this long a time without meeting."