03/18/09 — Duplin board may back Faison in ETJ fight

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Duplin board may back Faison in ETJ fight

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 18, 2009 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County board of commissioners is considering helping the town of Faison fight a bill proposed in the General Assembly that would take the town's extraterritorial jurisdiction away and give it to Sampson County.

Commissioners decided Monday night during a regular meeting at the Calypso fire station to put off passing a resolution in support of the town and writing a letter to its legislative delegation, asking that they vote down the bill. The majority of the commissioners wanted to study the bill first and talk to the county attorney and Sampson County officials.

Commissioner David Fussell, who made the motion to defer the matter, said he wants to talk to Sampson officials first.

"I don't want to get into a spitting contest with the other board," he said.

"They didn't speak to us when they wanted to take (Faison's ETJ) back," said Commissioner Frances Parks, who wanted to act immediately.

Commissioner Zettie Williams seconded the motion.

The vote was 5-to-1, with Mrs. Parks dissenting.

The bill commissioners want to look over is House Bill 476, which was introduced by Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson. It would repeal a previous law passed in 1991 that gave the town of Faison authority to exercise the power of extraterritorial jurisdiction beyond one mile of the town's corporate limits.

Faison Mayor Elmer Flake told commissioners that the extended ETJ goes a half mile north and south of NC 403 and a half mile west on Interstate-40. Rather than the usual one mile, Faison's ETJ goes out three miles from town to the interstate.

Sampson officials agreed to giving up jurisdiction to that area in 1991 because they were not interested in the area, Flake said.

But now, the Sampson County government is interested because of a proposed $200 million Fibrowatt biomass-fired power plant that would go up at the N.C. 403 interchange. The new plant would be constructed less than three miles from Faison.

Sampson wants it.

Faison residents don't.

In 2002, the town extended the lines to 19 houses along Eldon Thornton Road, which lies inside Sampson County.

"We spent nearly $1 million to put down water lines and to tie that area into our sewer system. We could have spent that money in town on something that would have been worth more to us," Flake said.

The town doesn't want to lose the income from the utility fees, Flake said. Although Sampson can't take over ownership of the lines, the county can install lines along side the town's lines and take away those customers. And the Faison lines have not paid for themselves yet.

Flake said this morning the lines were installed because the N.C. 403 interchange will eventually be developed. Whoever has jurisdiction of that area controls whatever new customers come in first.

"I would not want to lay my money down to build a restaurant or hotel next door to Fibrowatt," he said. "We laid the lines in anticipation of the new customers."